Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Volunteering in India: How to get started

If you are thinking of volunteering abroad then one of the most important things to remember is that it takes a lot of time and energy, and it won’t be easy. With this in mind though, you should also be aware that, if you end up doing it, it will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.

When planning your trip, it’s essential to have a clear idea of your expectations and to consider whether you wish to look for something that is relevant to your intended career or current field of expertise as this can make your volunteering experience particularly satisfying. For example, if you enjoy working with children then it’s worth seeking out a program that is specifically concerned with education.

The magic of India Among the many beautiful places in the world that are attractive when it comes to travel and volunteering, India is one of the most exotic destinations for people interested in social change and development work. It’s no surprise that a lot of people from other countries seek to get involved by volunteering in India. If this sounds appealing to you, there are a few things you need to think about when setting up your volunteering plans.

Here is a brief guide of what to consider and what to do before you make any definite decisions…

Get organized
In many ways, going with an organization is a big help when volunteering abroad: people who are already working in India and familiar with how things operate can assist newcomers with many aspects of life there. These include opportunities that may be strange to a new traveler such as the best places to go for particular experiences (for example, nursing, construction work or teaching), who the most welcoming host families are and the most comfortable shared volunteer accommodation.

Choosing the right organization is important, and there are a number of free online databases that can help you identify the kind of organization that might work best for you. Many of these are focused on specific skills, employment sectors or political interests. For example, FairMail offers opportunities to photographers; the East West Foundation of India deals with children’s rights, community development, education and childcare; and, Prime Trust works to increase the empowerment of women.

What you will need Requirements for working with a specific organization vary; however, most will expect you to have some experience or a degree of expertise in your chosen area of interest. For instance, if you would like to experience a medical internship but have no medical background then your role will be mostly that of an observer. People with a medical background, on the other hand, are likely to have more contact with patients and may be given certain medical tasks to undertake.

Official requirements Your requisite travel documents will include a volunteer visa, which is actually an employment visa, usually granted for one year, though they can be extended. Applicants for a regular employment visa must be earning a minimum of $25,000, though exceptions are now made for volunteers as well as a number of other specialist employees.

Get there With all the admin sorted, it just remains for you to pack the appropriate gear and get out there. Now is the time to think about the journey there and back, your transport methods and how to coordinate the adventure. On balance, direct flights are the most realistic solution – see for further information (for example, from JFK – New York City to BOM – Mumbai).

Once in India you have a number of different choices when it comes to how to get about and where to stay. Timetables for buses and trains between major cities, such as Mumbai and Delhi, can be accessed online using mobile technology. When it comes to accommodation, host families are great for getting to know local people and finding out about lifestyles and customs in the neighborhood. Shared accommodation with other volunteers means you can learn about others’ experiences, share your own and evaluate what motivates people from all corners of the world to volunteer.

Finally, you need to make the most of contemporary technology to make sure that your finances stay in order. If you check out online resources, you’ll discover that India is renowned for being one of the cheapest places to visit; for example, taxi prices in Delhi are among the cheapest in the world and public transportations are also very inexpensive. However, Delhi and Mumbai are more expensive than, say, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand.

Make the most of the information available and enjoy every bit of your volunteering opportunity in India.

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