Volunteering in India, embarking on the road less traveled, stepping out of your comfort zone, and plunging into a world unknown can be quite daunting. Still, from my experience, it can prove rewarding. You are volunteering as you travel a beautiful way to see the World. Also, learn more about different cultures, ways of life, and positively impact the countries you visit.
Why Would You Volunteer in India?
It is a chance to test your inner strength. Although, you to check the boundaries you have set for yourself. Also, bring yourself closer to your truth, and transcend those social standards that you have been conditioned by, a chance for personal growth. For me, it all began with volunteering in India.
First Steps For Volunteering in India?
It is inherent from my nature of the personality to want to help others and the community in any way possible. However, the intrigue towards volunteering abroad came about during my participation in the Voices Foundation Malta Choir.
Foundation Malta Choir
The concert, which is held once every two years, sees the participation of 200 choir members who volunteer six months of their time to put on an unforgettable show. Well, one whose proceeds are then distributed amongst a few chosen local and international charitable organizations and do-guides. I was intrigued by the number of projects across the globe seeking to enact some positive change. So, following a few more years of study. Then, three years of working and a ton of self-talk, I finally plucked up the courage to make a move and pursue my dream of volunteering and traveling solo.
After following much research and deliberation, I narrowed down my options to Asia, but that still left me with an array of organizations to choose from. I sought guidance from a local voluntary organization back home to help with my decision. It was here that I first heard about the work of Sambhali Trust, a non-profit organization located in the city of Jodhpur, in the Rajasthan region of India.
Our Objectives and Goal
At the core of its mission, this grassroots organization has combatted the subjugation of women and girls, specifically from the Dalit caste. Living In a largely patriarchal society, the Dalit women already suffer injustices due to gender. On top of this, they also face social isolation simply because they are born into a caste. The caste ranks lowest in the rigid Indian Caste system—a system whose presence, even though abolished, is still widely felt in certain parts of India.
Overall Projects of Volunteering in India
Through the goodwill, persistence, and courage of the team at Sambhali, several projects were created to help alleviate the plight of these women by giving them a sense of pride and purpose through the development of their educational, vocational, and social skills. Also, giving them opportunities for financial independence. On hearing what this NGO stood for, I knew this was the place for me, and my choice was finally made.
Resistance From Family and Friends
Before leaving for India, I faced persistent protests from my parents. Family and peers, regurgitating the same old rhetoric repeatedly – ‘India is not a place to be traveled alone. Especially, solo female. It is dangerous, and haven’t you read or watched the news lately?’ – All this was said with good intent for, as truth be told, India draws in much negative attention by media. Those who haven’t personally visited India are mostly conditioned by hearsay or what the media has to report.
Down To India Finally
Yes, India is chaotic. Also, yes, India is confronting. But India is also charming. It is serene and in the hope of not sounding too cliché. Moreover, India is a more spiritual place. It is a place where people go to find themselves. And there is a reason for this – spirituality runs through its veins. After all, I initially battled with exposing myself to the cruelties of a poverty-stricken world from the word go. I questioned whether I should travel a little before volunteering and get accustomed to the culture. However, choosing Volunteering in India as the point of departure on my journey was the right decision for me.
Settle Down In India
I was given all the necessary tools to ease myself into the culture. I was taught how to dress, address, and assess situations, the safest ways to travel. Also, I got accustomed to the hustle and bustle of a typical chaotic city. I was taught that lighter skin was fascinating, and stares were inevitable. Therefore, you could either choose to have a staring standoff. And I can assure you; you’ll lose, or ignore and make your merry way. Jokes apart, playing the staring game may be perceived as an invitation for more than just a glance, so it would be best to avoid even though more often than not, those stares are harmless.
As time went by, I even became a familiar face amongst the locals. Also, that I was receiving invitations for a simple chai or full-blown meals, and refusing means having to face extremely disappointed faces.
So, you accept, you eat till your stomach hurts. Somehow, sharing the odd word here and there, a few nods and lots of laughter because if there’s one thing we didn’t share, it was the language! Most of all, this time gave me the knowledge and confidence I needed to set forth on the rest of my journey once my time of volunteering was over. My two months with Sambhali Trust saw me mainly working on administration, which included fundraising and seeking ways of gaining further recognition for the work being carried out.
Day to Day
Although my skills were best placed in administration. My most cherished moments were when I got to sit around with the ladies and volunteers and share stories day by day. Yes, some heartbreaking. Still, I could take solace in the fact that because of the organization’s work, these women have been allowed to take control of at least some aspects of their lives.
There were times when I would play replacement teacher in one of the empowerment centers or head down to the boarding home. Our boarding home provides shelter to girls from Setrawa, a town on Jodhpur’s outskirts, who would otherwise be deprived of access to quality education. Here we would help the girls with their homework or take them to a nearby park to play.
Nothing beats being welcomed by those gleaming eyes, smiles stretching from ear to ear, and the occasional clinging on to your leg with glee at the sight of you. Teaching students who genuinely want to be taught because they understand that this will significantly impact their lives is also advantageous. I spent most of my Saturdays down at the Sambhali boutique, occasionally with one of the local ladies. We would use the quiet time to expand on her English vocabulary.
More often than not, she would take center stage when customers came through the doors to practice her English. Chatting with customers was another highlight as you would encounter people from all corners of the World. Surprisingly, who have stories to share and are very intrigued by the work of Sambhali and how someone from Malta ended up volunteering there!
Is Volunteering in India Safe?
Being a westerner in India has its advantages and drawbacks, depending on how you look at things. Yes, this generally means you’re going to be targeted for your money. Still, you’ll learn a valuable lesson of negotiation and haggling. There some point to be considered as your a white female in India. You’ll also receive a lot of stares because you look different. Hence, as a woman, it is especially important to get acquainted with the culture and the type of dress to not draw in unwanted attention. Like in many other countries, walking alone after dark should be avoided, stick to crowds, and if a night out is planned, stick with the group and don’t venture off alone. When traveling on public transport, women and men are allocated separate sections in some instances, but if not, try and squeeze in next to a family.
Pay Attention to Public Transport
If traveling by sleeper train, always try and book one of the top bunks. So you are less in reach, and if this fails, once boarded, just ask one of the men occupying the upper beds to exchange with you – more often than not, they would gladly oblige. Most of all, just mingle with the locals and immerse yourself in the culture.
My experience of Volunteering in India was one of the select few that had a genuinely positive impact on my life.
It opened my eyes to a world I only knew on a TV screen or through colorful images conjured up in a book. A world so unfamiliar but one so familiar when you realize that we’re all striving to live in the best way we know-how as humans. Well, no matter how hopeless our situation may seem, we are all trying to find our way in this life, our purpose.
Would You Able to Change Life Volunteering in India?
After all, there no yes or no answer for it. My time Volunteering in India taught me resilience, persistence, and gratitude. It gave me a greater appreciation for the simpler things and the inspiration and motivation to involve myself in other similar projects. I did not go to India to change the World but to partake in what helps make for a better one and hopefully inspire others to do the same. There are many volunteering opportunists around the World, such as Volunteering in Africa. ( My volunteering experience-Ghana) or even in Australia. (Kangaloola Wildlife Shelter).
“I was volunteering in India personal experience” Written By Annika Gollcher!
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