There are thousands of opportunities to contribute to the lives of others by volunteering in India. But like anything there are pitfalls and doing some research will save you time, money and disappointment…

Photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/turningpoint/2365502/

Volunteering in India can change lives. By providing your time and effort for free you could help raise some of the world’s poorest people out of poverty. On top of that the experience of helping others will enrich and change your own life and the way you look at the world. So where to start?

Photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/us7thfleet/6936327850/

Photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/us7thfleet/6936327850/

The first quandary those wanting to volunteer abroad are faced with is whether to go through an agency or to try to deal direct with the charity they wish to benefit. The canny volunteer will quickly realise that some organisations are more scrupulous than others. If you find yourself being asked to pay thousands of pounds for the privilege of giving your time for free then it might be time to look for an alternative route into volunteering. The benefit of going through a company is the additional support you get while there including potentially training and orientation.

Dealing direct with charities is one way to bypass the money men. But always do your research. Read their website, see if you can contact people who have dealt with them before and try to speak directly to someone involved with the charity before you commit. Also try to match you skills with what the charity you’re looking to benefit needs. It’s no use going over there to build a school if you break out in a sweat at the thought of physical activity. Make the most of the skills you already have.

If you are short on cash but big on charitable ambition then why not check out WWOOF India where you can till the land using organic methods and help local people build sustainable food sources. Or if getting your hands dirty isn’t your thing then check out the Salaam Baalak Trust who welcome volunteers from a wide range of backgrounds including those with education, healthcare and creative skills. They also don’t specify a minimum commitment so you can start small and build up your involvement.

No matter which option you choose you’ll need to set a realistic budget for your time in India including expenses, accommodation costs and airfares. It’s also a good idea to spend some time if you can afford it either at the beginning or the end of your volunteering activities exploring the country. Don’t miss out on the enormous diversity India offers the intrepid traveller. There are great accommodation options in Banjara Hills in Hyderabad if you are looking for a slice of super slick metropolitan India. Don’t forget there’s more to India than just Mumbai and Deli, head east and base yourself in in a modern hotel in Ghaziabad and see how the locals live in the second fastest growing city in the world. The joy of India is its ability to be a thousand different things to every single person who visits. There is great poverty there but this is also one of the world’s fastest growing economies and one of the world’s most ancient cultures. Get the most out of your trip by studying the history of the region you are visiting and of course try to learn some of the local language – even one or two polite phrases will go a long way to making local people trust you and welcome your help.

Sources

http://goindia.about.com/od/volunteering/tp/10-Inexpensive-India-Volunteer-Opportunities.htm

http://goindia.about.com/od/volunteering/a/volunteerindia.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banjara_Hills

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghaziabad,_Uttar_Pradesh

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