Ahead of Independence Day, Indian Link brings you India that is off the usual tourist map, and away from the beaten track
So you’ve done it all before – the Taj Mahal, the beaches in Goa, the temples in the south, the palaces in the north, the game reserves in the centre. Now, how about travel with a cause? Make your vacation count with voluntourism, where you do your bit to improve life for someone else, while still enjoying the sights.
You could teach English, work with street kids, in orphanages, or in women’s empowerment. Most likely, you would be travelling in groups of like-minded people, staying with “volunteer families” and seeing the sights after or in between your volunteering.
It won’t cost you an arm and a leg: the packages are affordable as many of the NGOs that organise these are not-for-profit.
Some wonderful programs are in operation, ranging in duration from a week to a year. They combine fun and adventure with learning and volunteering. Rewarding for gap students as well as older adults, these grass roots initiatives allow you to immerse yourself in another culture, and often to see life from the perspective of the citizens themselves. In India, you could choose to work in the mountains, rural regions, cities, even in monasteries.
Alongside working in education, vocational training, primary care or health care, you could be involved in renovations like painting and building (such as structures on school grounds or libraries).
Constructing greenhouses and solar passive structures, working with clean-water technology, planting trees and running workshops on conservation have been other fulfilling activities voluntourists in India have been involved with. Other areas include organic farming, promotion of ecological revival and sustainable living.
For health professionals and students, there is no limit to the opportunities – NGOs are constantly seeking doctors, dentists, ophthalmologists and nurses, but call-outs have been made for physiotherapists, speech pathologists, even dance therapists!
Volunteering with animals is also popular. There’s a great program about tiger conservation in Ranthambore for volun-tourists, elephant clinics in Assam, and marine turtle projects in Maharashtra. At other spots you could help study breeding biology of some bird species, amphibian population dynamics and herpetology, or help build photographic inventories of flora and fauna. If you’re a film-maker, you’ll be welcomed with open arms – and probably treated like a VIP – at any of these places.
You could also choose to do office work, data entry, base maintenance kind of jobs, especially if your partner wants to do something more professional.
One NGO recently asked for ‘spiritual volunteers’ – to help run meditation courses.
Want to experience the beauty of Ladakh? Why not take the opportunity to volunteer at the Druk Padma Karpo Institute – the remote school where the last scenes of the iconic film Three Idiots were filmed?
Prefer Mumbai? Work at a street school that takes in kids as the parents go out to work on construction sites.
Soccer fan? There’s a Slum Soccer club in Nagpur that is in need of a coach.
Check out here for opportunities