A Guide To Volunteering Abroad in India
For centuries, the Indian subcontinent has attracted travellers from around the world by the immense complexity and cultural depth which it promises. Long the home of great civilizations and mighty sultanates, today’s India is still a powerful nation, yet in a state of flux. Beset by both tremendous promise and nagging challenges of poverty and development, the country continues to find its footing in the 21st century global landscape. To volunteer abroad in India is to help impactful development efforts take shape, while in turn experiencing life in one of the world’s largest, deepest, and most diverse nations.
With over 1.2 billion citizens, India is more populous than any other single continent on earth, save Asia where it resides. The country is sheltered by the Himalayas to the north and the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean, and Bay of Bengal to the west, south, and east respectively. India also shares land borders with Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Bangladesh.
With some 22 million people living in its metropolitan area, the capital city of Delhi is the first choice of many for where to volunteer abroad in India. Delhi is a landlocked city straddling the banks of the Yamuna river in the northwestern regions of the country. To the southwest on the coast of the Arabian Sea lays Mumbai, India’s largest city and commercial capital, and an equally promising destination where to find volunteer projects in India.
Harboring over 50 cities with a population of at least 1 million people (and a large demographic continuing to reside in the rural areas as well), you won’t suffer from lack of options while deciding where to volunteer abroad in India. Other locations beyond India’s two premier cities where your might look to volunteer in India include Chennai, Calcutta, Bangalore, and Hyderabad.
While India has taken important and effective strides to combatting poverty over the past few decades, it still remains an endemic problem across the country, as roughly a quarter of the population continues to reside below the international poverty line. Most volunteer programs in India will be oriented towards alleviating the harshest side-effects of poverty for India’s poorest citizens, while also providing valuable social services they otherwise may not have access to.
Some of the most popular fields within this spectrum by which to volunteer abroad in India include medicine, education, and childcare. You might be placed at a health clinic, local school, or orphanage, for example, helping provide care and relief for those who could not otherwise afford it. Within a more activist line of work, many international aspirants also choose to volunteer abroad in India within fields such as human rights, grassroots campaigns, and women’s empowerment.
The potential fields by which to volunteer abroad in India are vast, as are the locations and types of projects therein; what else would you expect from a diverse nation of 1.2 billion people? Some volunteer programs in India last as short as just a couple of weeks, while others can last up to or over a whole year.
While you will typically not be paid for your services as a volunteer abroad in India, the country remains one of the most affordable destinations in the world for international travellers. Further, many volunteer abroad programs in India will help compensate you by other means such as providing housing, meals, and transportation. If the affordability of your program fees remains a concern, then be sure to check out our fundraising page to start a campaign today!
You might have the option to select from a variety of different accommodations while you volunteer abroad in India. Homestays are a particularly popular form of housing for international volunteers, which can provide you the unique opportunity to immerse yourself within Indian family life. Group housing or independent apartments are also popular setups while volunteering abroad in India. Keep in mind that living standards vary significantly between urban and rural India, as well.
You will usually need to obtain a visa in order to volunteer abroad in India, a process which your international program or local project will typically help guide you through. Whether you will need a tourist or employment visa depends on your home country, the intended length of your stay, and what line of work you will be volunteering in; you can check out our for more specific visa information as it applies to you.
Truth. Whatever you think you know India prior to volunteering abroad, drop it. Throughout the entire duration of your program the country will never cease to surprise you in heartwarming, heartbreaking, and sometimes outright confusing ways.
Impact. With such a massive population to compete with, there are millions of citizens in India that continue to go overlooked or unprovided for; as a volunteer abroad, you can help aid the outreach.
Perspective. Travelling to volunteer abroad in India will instill in you a valuable global perspective, as you will often be working among the nation’s poorest citizens. Especially if you have not travelled outside of the developed world, it will be a powerfully eye-opening experience.
If you are considering embarking on a volunteer abroad program in India, then stop considering, and do it. It is an experience that will change your life, and the lives of those whom you work to help support.
Volunteer in India with ELI and get ready for a life-changing experience!
ELI Volunteers served with delicious Dosas (a pancake made from rice and black lentils) during lunch at Kanchipuram.
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