India

iSpiice (Integrated Social Programmes in Indian Child Education)

I've now worked for iSpiice for a month. I've really enjoyed the whole experience, from the welcome we had from the team, to the overall organisation and volunteering projects, without forgetting the constant support we received whenever we needed it. iSpiice is a humanitarian organisation which really focuses on improving the lives of families, especially women and children in rural areas and slums.

The days were quite full but never dull, and were generally divided between several projects, depending on the time of year and needs of the community. I worked, alongside other volunteers and the iSpiice team, in a day care centre, and helped renovate another one. Evevry day the afternoon finished with my favourite part, and possibly one I believe to be of the most important aspect of the organisation: teaching children in the slums. Without education, the lives of these children would be doomed, and iSpiice supports the children by providing exactly this, as well as sponsoring them to go to school, and by providing school kits and clothes.

The iSpiice team is fantastic and totally dedicated. They work tirelessly for the community while looking after the volunteers on a daily basis, from answering patiently all of hour questions, to driving us to the various project locations, cooking us yummy meals, and even organising weekend trips to visit the area and help us make the most of our trip. The volunteer house is really comfortable and situated at the foothill of the Himalayan range, in the most gorgeous location.

I know a lot of people worry about the cost of volunteering for an organisation. I have now worked for a few and this one is 100% genuine. The way they use the money is absolutely transparent and our fee covers our food, board, transport from and to the airport and any visits we choose to do. Every other penny left goes to the children in the slums, may it be for school equipment, food, clothes, vaccinations and generally helps with implementing the community programmes set up.

I recommend iSpiice with all my heart, you will have a heart-warming human experience and built some friendships that will last you a lifetime.. as well as help improve people's lives.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: India
Posted: Mar 17, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Elective International

Elective International is an organisation which organises electives, exchange programs and internships abroad. I am currently a 5th year dental student in Kenya. I went for my electives to India last year, which was organised by Elective International. It was an amazing experience. The experience and skills I brought back home were worth it all. The staff at EL were very cooperative and supportive. And India on a whole, is a beautiful country. To anyone who wants to carry out their electives abroad, I would definitely suggest they get Elective International to organise it for them!

Program: Study Abroad
Location: India
Posted: Mar 5, 2014
Overall:
7
Support:
10
Value:
10

Sankalp Volunteer Society India

It's hard to come up with anything unsaid... All the lovely accounts provided by previous volunteers are all true! My four weeks work & travel program was unforgettably amazing.

I worked in Women Empowerment, a smaller program. Initially I signed up for the Orphanage Program but it was so confronting that after two days I decided it was too much for me. The orphanage is actually run by the government, but lacks both adequate resources and staff. Without enough nappies the babies excrete onto themselves, often not getting changed for it; we are under the impression that they are also not fed enough. The staff are also at times patience-less with the children, slapping/beating/yelling at them as a solution to stop them from crying. As horrific as the condition is, seeing an orphanage in a developing country is an experience I will never forget. I just felt too helpless with it and I requested a change, which Pranay and Amita agreed with absolutely no hassle. They also really tried to comfort me when I let them know how useless I felt because I couldn't deliver what I came here to volunteer for.
Women Empowerment turned out to be exactly right for me. Together with another volunteer, we would work with 4-12 girls at a time, age between 10 and 18. They come from rural villages, and although they do go to school, our main goal is to improve their English to broaden their life choices and job prospects eventually. Especially with the older girls who have a slightly better grasp of English, we encourage them to extend their horizon of aspirations by telling them life stories of India's great female banker, engineer, teacher, police etc. With the younger girls we incorporating drawing and games like Simon Says. Each day we also brought over a laptop belonging to Sankalp so we could introduce the girls to computers and typing. - I hope they will achieve their dreams, given that ALL their mothers were not given a choice but being housewives. These are the most lovely and sweet girls- after three weeks we felt like sisters. Most are so eager to learn, fighting over each other to give an answer in class or getting me to check their works. Everyday they came with a cheerful smile that would melt my heart; and towards the end as I was starting to learn how to wear a sari, they were more than eager to give me a helping hand to rearrange my pleats and pins. Asha in particular is amazing when it comes to it. She is a young woman (although mother of two) teaching in the Street Kids program and helping in our program, so that she can occasionally translate a few things and in the rare occasions that our girls lost control she could get them back in order in Hindi. She is very friendly and supportive, and through talking to her I've learnt so many things about the local customs.

All the Sankalp Staffs are incredibly nice people. Plenty of reviews have talked about Pranay and Amita, how they never let us feel unsafe or doubtful; I'll just expand a little. They are tireless when it came to our questions, and went out a long way to help us. Initially I had issue with date change and the Indian visa; I felt so awful for all the troubles I've created but Pranay was always there to offer help and never seemed bothered. You can ask them any questions, apart from the volunteering they also let me helped me with sightseeing and auto-rich saw bargaining!

One of the most delightful gems I've met on this trip though, was Puni, our cook. Everyone has talked about the very delicious food so I won't go into that. Apart from being an extremely talented cook and a cheerful girl, she is also such a helpful and enthusiastic friend. She didn't spare any effort to introduce me to the art of sari; another great insight of the Indian culture. She gave me opinions and advices all the way from choosing the right colour and material, to blouse making, and to how to wear a sari in different styles. To me it was interesting to see that the love for clothes and beauty definitely transcend beyond cultures- after all, she is just a girl our age.

The guesthouse we stay in is very reasonable a d safe, actually quite a treat for the standard of the place and price. Most of us have done extensive research on volunteering organisations and compared a fair few before choosing Sankalp, particularly because of it's affordability, and it didn't let us down. Come here not expecting luxury and you will be fine. I always felt protected, and all the things you need are around; it's true that water, power and Internet occasionally go out, but never for long and the fact that Sankalp has it's own power generator shows how organised they are. Most fellow volunteers are also a great fun to have around; in the evenings we would chill, chat, watch movies together. You come here for India and you leave here with new knowledge and insights for many more countries!

The traveling itself is pretty full on, cramping a lot of things into a short time. It is perhaps not my ideal way to travel, often feeling out of breath and time; but for time and budget restricted people, which sadly includes me, the Sankalp travel programs are of good value and organisation.

In terms of Jaipur- it is a lovely city (once you get used to the craziness of India) to spend two or three weeks in to explore it in a leisurely pace, as it does offer a lot.
Altogether it is an experience I cannot recommend enough.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: India
Posted: Mar 5, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Sankalp Volunteer Society India

I've just completed 4 weeks doing Sankalp's street kids programe, and I loved it! As an 18 year old with no prior teaching experience, I found the work extremely challenging, especially since the kids in my class were of mixed abilities. However, Amita and Pranay were hugely supportive in providing resources and ideas, and after the first week I was able to teach alongside my friend. So after 4 weeks with the kids, I feel I was able to make some progress with them which is very rewarding! I would definitely recommend Sankalp to anyone, I felt safe and secure for the duration of the programme, the accommodation is excellent and the food cooked by Puni is amazing. Overall the programme exceeded my expectations and I'm very sad to be leaving after such a short time!

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: India
Posted: Feb 28, 2014
Overall:
8
Support:
8
Value:
8

Sankalp Volunteer Society India

I have thouroughly enjoyed my 1 month stay at sankalp volunteering in Jaipur. The volunteer house exceeded my expectations and is a great place to chill out in with a communal dining area down stairs, a nice seating area on the second floor where you can watch a variety of western or Bollywood movies, and also an amazing rooftop where you can sit and enjoy the view of the city. The vegetarian food is also amazing thanks to the cook phuni, I am yet to be bored of a single one of her curries and am guaranteed to have put weight on during my stay. The house has a good atmosphere and I felt that they took many different precautions ensure the safety and well being of the volunteers which is reasuring , especially when you are in a new country for the first time. I was teaching in the street children project which has definetly had its challenges, however it has been a extremely rewarding experience. Originally I was with the youngest class which I felt unprepared for being only 18 I have had no previous teaching experience so I found them hard to control, especially because I didn't speak Hindi. However I am now with the 3rd class which I hope I have managed to make even a small difference to and I am going to be exreamly sad to leave them. The only thing I questioned about this project was stability for the kids with the teachers constantly changing meaning they are often starting a completely new topics (as there is not really a set curriculum) so I would reccomend to choose this project if you are planning to volunteer for an reasonable amount of time as it really allows you to get to know the children and what level they are at and its also great to see them progress.

Program:
Location: India
Posted: Feb 28, 2014
Overall:
8
Support:
8
Value:
8

Sankalp Volunteer Society India

I spent 4 weeks in Jaipur doing the Work & Travel program. I worked in the orphanage which was hard work but very rewarding! You grow to love the kids (the kids grow to love you) and I feel a month just wasn't enough! If I had more time, I would definitely have stayed for longer.
The first week was the hardest - settling in and getting used to the culture shock. However, the orientation delivered by Amita provided valuable information and advice which made me more comfortable and allowed me to gain a clearer perspective of Jaipur. Amita and Pranay were both very efficient, organised, kind and supportive throughout the whole trip. I always felt very safe and taken care of - especially food wise - thanks to Puni the cook who provided delicious, sizeable meals twice daily. I believe this program was of exceptional value.
Over all, the volunteer house was far beyond my expectations and my experiences, priceless.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: India
Posted: Feb 10, 2014
Overall:
9
Support:
10
Value:
10

Sankalp Volunteer Society India

Sankalp was a great experience. I wish I could have spent a much longer time volunteering, as it would have been so helpful for my students, aged 3-4, to have more continuity. I was only there for one week, but I would recommend 1 month minimum. The volunteer house was safe and clean and the staff were friendly and helpful. Puni was a fabulous cook and very cheery to have around. There wasn't one meal that I didn't enjoy and everything was vegetarian and healthy. The house was a great chance to meet like-minded people and feel comfortable and supported when exploring Jaipur, traveling on weekends, or getting advice on the volunteer position day to day. There were volunteers from all over the world, and when I was there, there were people aged 18-67. Quite the melting pot of humanitarians.
This was a useful glimpse into the education sector in India. School teachers are paid very little money and schools are ill-equipped with staff, supplies, support. The Sankalp school was very basic, but they provide the children with uniforms and a snack. I wish there had been more curriculum support or materials to design lessons with. It would be great if some volunteers focused on creating lessons, perhaps in their free time, or one day a week. Having written materials to go off of will help as volunteer teachers come and go, and when volunteers with little teaching experience could use ideas. That said, I very much appreciated the freedom I had to work with the children, one on one and in a group. Being thrown into a teaching situation is good experience, and it forces you to improvise and challenge yourself to do better the next day. The children are wonderful. You will not need much time to get used to them, as they smile, hug you and call you "Didi" (or Sir) from Day 1. I will remember this week forever, for sure,

Program:
Location: India
Posted: Feb 3, 2014
Overall:
9
Support:
8
Value:
10

Sankalp Volunteer Society India

I volunteered with Sankalp for one month doing the work and travel programme. What appealed to me most when choosing an organisation was Sankalps amazing reviews, this being my first time travelling outside a western country I was still apprehensive but the reviews are definitely accurate! Not only were Pranay and Amita friendly, inviting and supportive they were on the ball with any problem (if any) or worry we had. I volunteered in the orphanage and although it was extremely difficult the first week, I fell in love with all the kids there, I miss them so much already! They are so full of life, happiness and devilment - just as kids should be! The sweetest little things you'll ever meet in your life! The travel programme was a lot of fun too, the driving at times took it out of me personally but being from Ireland, I wouldn't be used to that many hours at one time in a car. We travelled to Agra, Rathambhore, Pushkar, Jaislamer and Jodhpur it was really great! One of the highlights for me was definitely the camal safari and sleeping under the stars in the desert! Just wow!! :) I would highly recommend Sankalp, what you see is what you get no rubbish! The volunteer house is comfortable and laid back and the food is spectacular! I will miss the food greatly!

Program:
Location: India
Posted: Feb 2, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
9
Value:
10

Sankalp Volunteer Society India

I accompanied my 29 year old daughter to Jaipur to do a 2 week volunteer program with Sankalp and I must say it was a rewarding and educational experience. I had some reservations due to my age and I feared the "culture shock" a little, but these were quickly dispelled once I listened to Amita's detailed and carefully prepared orientation which covered Indian history, culture, religion as well as information about Sankalp, the actual programs and the city of Jaipur, and once I met the other volunteers. It was a joy to be in such a diverse group of people, young and old, from all over the world. We had so many outings together to discover the many sights of Jaipur, in the colourful and historical state of Rajasthan, and we shared lively discussions and meals together. The house is in a safe area, watched over by a security guard 24/7, and living conditions are spartan but adequate, with a private bath in every bedroom (2 bunk beds can accommodate 4 people in each room, although not all were full). Living the local lifestyle meant getting used to no chairs, only floor cushions with low tables in the common room when dining or relaxing, sometimes spotty wifi and frequent short power and water outages, but really these were all minor problems and everyone made the best of it. My advice is, don't bring too much, keep your packing light--there isn't a lot of room (dressers, shelves, etc) to put stuff. You won't use everything you think you need.

There are strict house rules enforced (9 pm curfew and 11 pm lights out) which I appreciated as it is important to maintain control over such a diverse group's comings and goings. Everyone was pretty good about cleaning up after themselves (wash your own dishes and cups) and keeping the small kitchen in fairly good order. Puni, the young cook, is fantastic at making a variety of vegetarian Indian meals. Food is plentiful and tasty, and there is always a roti or naan type bread, rice and one or 2 vegetable dishes in tasty sauces, Breakfast is on your own; there is a small kettle and a 2 slice toaster, and most people run to the grocery store close by to stock up on cereal, toast, snacks, milk etc.
Pranay and Amita who run the show here are always available to receive comments and requests and they really try their best to be accommodating. They try hard to make sure you have a good experience.
They arrange drivers who are trustworthy and very skilled at navigating the chaotic driving on the crazy busy and noisy roads here, which are shared by cars, motorbikes, bicycles, autorickshaws, cows, pedestrians and more!!
As for the teaching, I was lucky enough to do 1 week at the street kids program and 1 week at the government school. There is such a need at both of those places --facilities are non existent; only a few chalkboards and pencils and notebooks to work with, but the kids are keen and many are quick to learn. So many come from appalling living conditions and it is so nice to see them coming willingly to the school, hand in hand with their siblings wearing little uniforms provided by Sankalp. Those volunteers who stay a month or more probably get the most out of the experience, but even for me, after 2 weeks, it was difficult to walk away from those smiling faces and eager eyes. Their level of English is not that good, so there is a language barrier that prevents most volunteers from adequately explaining lessons quickly and efficiently, so patience is definitely a virtue!

I for one, can definitely recommend the experience, and I would suggest trying to couple it with some neat exploratory travel throughout India if possible, after or before the volunteering. It is a positive and eye opening experience!

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: India
Posted: Jan 31, 2014
Overall:
8
Support:
9
Value:
8

Sankalp Volunteer Society India

I volunteered for 2 weeks at the Street Children Education Project in Jaipur, India, with Sankalp. It was a wonderful experience and definitely too short. (I would recommend at least 3-4 weeks if you can do that, not only for the benefit of a stable/continuous presence for the children you'll be working with, but also for a chance to spend time with the other volunteers and really get to know the great city and its surroundings).

The children at the Street Kids education project were beautiful, mischievious, bright, eager, and all the other regular "kid" ingredients you might expect from kids all over the world! I had a class of 9 kids and although you only do 3 hours per day (mornings from 9-30 to 1) it was exhausting and tiring but very worthwhile. The little progress I was able to make with them over the 2 weeks was really rewarding :) I only wish I could have stayed longer. I think the fact that volunteers come and go so frequently, and there's no curriculum they follow (except for the older class, which I didn't have) makes it difficult for a sustained learning progression for the kids --- so a handover between volunteers is really necessary and worthwhile. If you do this project you will surely love it; today was my last day and it was really, really difficult to leave.

The volunteer house is in a safe area and you can easily get downtown in about 30 minutes with a cheap tuk-tuk ride. When I was there, there were about 10 or 11 other volunteers. Rooms have two bunk-beds each, so 4 to a room. There is a communal dining space, as well as an upstairs TV lounge, and a great terrace. The house is basic and you may have fewer luxuries than you're used to but it is very comfortable and safe and best of all the atmosphere is a great one with a range of people (aged 19 to 67 when I was there!) from all over the world. It is sort of like living in a university residence again in that you need to do your dishes and keep the common areas tidy as you are sharing them with everyone - and everyone has different standards of cleanliness etc. But the group dynamic worked really well and we all lived together no problems during the weeks I was there.

The cook and house manager, Punima, is fantastic and makes really great veg meals, as well as being extremely friendly and chatty! I will miss her happy voice, big smile, loads of questions, and great meals. Amita and Pranay, who run the organisation (and whose office is on the same floor of the house where Punima cooks/sleeps) are very helpful and kind and I wish them the very best of luck with this endeavour.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: India
Posted: Jan 31, 2014
Overall:
9
Support:
9
Value:
8

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