India

Sankalp Volunteer Society India

This is a review I've written and submitted to people who have contacted me; concerned fathers for their daughters were predominately the people who reached out to me. I was happy to submit this review to them, particularly seeing as how both myself and my parents held similar reservations about virtually any program we didn’t directly know someone who had attended.

I’m a 24 year old female, was 23 at the time of the program, and live in LA now. I've studied in both Germany and Morocco, and traveled internationally by myself many times. Because of this my parents were more willing to trust my decision; however, as the program date got closer, I became nervous that it was a scam, fraud, etc. Not the case at all. There’s a cultural difference in communication which lends them to having a rather “hands-off” approach to communication, or rather, the level of communication isn’t up to Western standards. This doesn’t mean it’s not a great program. Pranay and Amita founded the NGO together when they were 21 (they’re married), and truly believe in what they’re doing. I cannot praise the both of them enough.

They contract drivers to shuttle the volunteers to the program sites, and the in-volunteer-house cook, Puni, is not only a wonderful cook, but a wonderful person. Nobody got sick while eating at the volunteer house as the cooks are very sensitive to what volunteers’ stomachs may or may not be used to. Pranay and I had corresponded via email and arranged for him to book my first night in a hotel (he even made the hotel recommendation), and arranged transportation and paid both the hotel and driver from the airport (for which I reimbursed him for later, of course). He even had the driver from the airport phone him when I was in the vehicle, and spoke with me over the driver’s phone to let me know that this was the legitimate driver, and to which hotel we were going. This was above and beyond in my eyes.

I was pleasantly surprised at the volunteer house facilities. The rooms had ac from 11:00pm to 6:00am (I attended the summer, Jaipur program), and there’s actually a western style bathroom. There’s even a brief orientation in which they give the breakdown of cost percentages of your program fee, and how much actually goes to those in need. I don’t remember the percentage off the top of my head, but it is a large one.
I did the Women’s Empowerment Summer Program, and at the beginning of the program, everyone has a chance to change their program after learning about all of them. There are many nationalities, and I was only one of three Americans, which made the program a blast. Essentially all programs, government school, street kids, women’s empowerment, and orphanage work are all just teaching English. Just in different locations. This was such a challenge, but so very rewarding and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

On another note, Pranay and Amita don’t go on weekend excursions with you, though Pranay goes on the week-long summer program excursion with everyone. He’s young (about 28) and a lot of fun. The age demographic was that of self-sufficient, early to late (mostly those out of university) 20-something year olds.

I’ve done four overseas program (none volunteer though, Sankalp was my first), and while the organization to this one is perhaps the worst, the heart of the people and customer service is the best. Other volunteers and I did come to the conclusion that, from an organizational perspective, there was a Western bias and expectation that we held. I think the existential thought most people held was “who am I to come into a culture with little-to-zero legitimacy and still think I can make a difference?” This is incredibly valid, but once you’re there and complete the program, you realize that the point isn’t to teach them English fluently, it’s not to build a curriculum (which is virtually impossible because no structure exists, nor are we there for years), but just to keep the kids and young adults interested in schooling and learning. That, rather, is what I took out of it.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: India
Posted: Jul 22, 2014
Overall:
9
Support:
9
Value:
9

Agency for Internship in India (AII)

Hi everyone
I’m happy to share my emotions about my experience in India. Thanks for AII I lived in India for two months. During this time I was studying English (it was reason why I came India), travelling a lot, enjoyed Photographer Course and learning Indian culture. I’ m very much obliged my organization for: invitation, my host family and a lot of new friends from different country that I have met there. Before India I couldn’t speak English but now I feel confident myself. It was really good experience that opened new opportunities for me. I hope to come back India soon.

Program:
Location: India
Posted: Jul 18, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Sankalp Volunteer Society India

Well, hello. I'm sure you're reading this because you're considering volunteering in India. Let me just start off by saying that I would love to go back and volunteer with Sankalp again in the future. I would like to say that this volunteer organization is trustworthy and provides great opportunities for memorable experiences. Here is a quick review based on my personal experience in Jaipur while volunteering with the Street Children Program.

Plus:
-Friendly and personable staff at the volunteer house
-Respectful and understanding directors of the program
-Great group of kids and rewarding experience
-Semi "strict" rules at the house but it shows that the program cares about your well being
-Orientation was informative
-Food was delicious (home cooked two times a day)
-Rides to and from work daily

Delta:
-Was not given any information in regards to the curriculum that was supposed to be taught/what was taught already
-Informed not to bring any additional resources for teaching but content based resources were not provided

Be ready for an adventure and be willing to put in extra work to figure out what to teach. However, if you need any materials (as far as school supplies), don't hesitate to ask the program directors (or consider bringing things to donate). Although many times things seemed a bit unorganized (as far as how the school was run, what to teach, etc.) it was a rewarding experience and a great opportunity to meet and work with kind people.

Program:
Location: India
Posted: Jul 18, 2014
Overall:
7
Support:
7
Value:
9

Cross-Cultural Solutions

I accompanied my teenage daughter for three weeks of volunteering in Dharamsala. Overall, I would say we had a very good experience. I loved India, and the children and teachers at the childcare where we worked were wonderful. We were the first volunteers at this site, which was somewhat undeveloped, which proved challenging. We were able to identify some of the issues that needed to be addressed beyond the time we were there, and hopefully moved everyone toward developing a curriculum.
We were well looked after by the staff: picked up at the airport, fed, and generally made to feel secure. This was very good, because I had never volunteered or been to India, and it was pretty overwhelming for me. It was very overwhelming for my daughter, but she also liked the experience on the whole.
We lived in a flat with several other volunteers. While I liked them personally, I found it difficult to live in a dorm-style setting after having my own home for many years. The food was simple and healthy, although far too spicy for my palate. It took a couple of weeks before the cook was able to tone it down to the point that I could eat the vegetable and pulse dishes. I would be interested to volunteer again, but I would like to do it in a way that allows me more personal space and freedom.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: India
Posted: Jul 17, 2014
Overall:
8
Support:
9
Value:
8

Sankalp Volunteer Society India

I had a wonderful time volunteering for four weeks with Sankalp. I stayed in Jaipur in the volunteer house run by Amita and Pranay. They were gracious and welcoming hosts, always open to our ideas, and always interested in a dialogue on what we were up to in our classrooms and how we could improve the students' experiences. The volunteer house was comfortable, clean, and the food was AMAZING.

I highly recommend the program. It is up to you, though, to make it as amazing as you want it to be. The only complaints I heard were from volunteers who didn't want to put in the extra time to make lesson plans. They wanted Sankalp to provide them with what they were to cover and when. Instead of waiting for other people to tell you what to do, I recommend coming up with your own ideas. The internet is full of resources, including lesson plans, exercises, quizzes, flash cards, games, etc. that you can use to teach ESL to beginning learners. Use these resources! They're a great help. I had never taught young children before and these online resources helped me a great deal. Also if you're willing to come up with cool ideas to improve the school, Sankalp is really excited to hear them. This is where I really, really appreciated Pranay and Amita. My sister and I volunteered together and we asked if we could spend our free time painting the school. Amita and Pranay were not only really supportive of our idea, but went out and got us all the supplies to complete our project. They even went out of their way to drive us to the school on their own time so we could paint when the school wasn't even supposed to be open.

I love this program and I highly recommend it. As two single girls traveling abroad, it was nice to have Sankalp on the other end of our journey to India. We were picked up at the airport in Delhi and driven by a private driver to Jaipur. It was all organized for us in advance of our arrival, so it was all really easy, which was nice after our flight from Minnesota. Amita and Pranay also help you organize weekend travel plans if you want (and you're free to make your own travel plans if you want to be completely independent too!). They give great advice on how to stay safe when you're out playing tourist and provide a wonderful house to come home to at night.

Program:
Location: India
Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Comments

Hi there, I am very interested in learning more about this organization through the eyes of another volunteer and was wondering if you had time to answer a few questions. -What did a typical day look like for you? Was there a lot of down time where you felt you did not really have a chance to be active within the organization or was there a lot of opportunities to stay active and involved? I read another volunteer said you can take on two volunteer roles(one in the morning and in the afternoon if you so choose, is that correct?) -Was there a lot of direction and instruction for volunteers on their contributing roles? Or was it quite flexible and left up to the volunteers to navigate? Was there any training or orientation for volunteers? -Did you have prior teaching expeience? Was there a lot of direction and instruction for volunteers on a specific teaching curriculum to follow? How did you go about making lesson plans? -What was the surrounding city environment like? Was it safe? Was it friendly and welcoming? Are there any specific places you would suggest I visit in the surrounding area? -What were the main sources of food you were served?.. I have an allergy to wheat and dairy so the diet is my biggest concern. -Are there any particular pros and/or cons you think would be helpful to share about your experience with this organization?..I read that under Sankalp's policy you are not able to interact with the locals in the area, is this true? Thank you SO much in advance, your insight is greatly appreciated and will really help in allowing me to decide if this is the right organization for me:) My email is gemini_88@msn.com!

Active Internationals

We were a groups of 6 people (5 girls & a guy) from Columbia, U.S. It was an incredibly amazing month of my life with Active Internationals. Spent about 30 days in India. While volunteering for a deprived community centre in Jaipur, I honestly never got myself so satisfied ever before in life. Teaching little kids and helping the ladies in constructing their houses was the best thing I could ask for.

During our stay, we travelled to Agra, Udaipur & Goa. Special thanks to Kuldeep for being the best guide through-out our program. He was humble, Very good in English, "A YOGA MASTER" & a dear friend.

Not even once did we think that the organization has compromised with our safety. We travelled in clean & good vehicles, stayed at decent accommodation & I fell in love with India Food (Thanks to Ram - our cook).

For anyone willing to visit India, It is my personal recommendation to participate in Active Internationals programs.

Program: Gap Year
Location: India
Posted: Jul 15, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
9

Active Internationals

Two years back I volunteered in India with some other organization, and felt that my efforts were not used to the full.

A friend of mine introduced me to Active Internationals and I came to them this year. The most professional Indian organization I have seen.
All things were well planned and had a long term goal.

My stay was fun filled and made a lot of friends from all over the world. The projects looked great and the local support was overwhelming.

I will come back and bring my friends along too.

I love India just because of you guys.....

Program: Gap Year
Location: India
Posted: Jul 5, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Active Internationals

Hi,
I would thank Active Internationals for thinking different from others. They stressed more on the sustainability of the project than just bringing Volunteers in from different countries.

Great work by these people. They kept all of us engaged, active and comfortable. The best part of the service was - being cared yet not being pampered like little kids.

The fun activities were absolute fun, and I picked a lot of Hindi.
Food was just out of the world.

Thank you Active Internationals -- there is bright future for you.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: India
Posted: Jun 30, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Sankalp Volunteer Society India

When I decided to take a gap year I looked for a legitimate and trustworthy organization amidst a rally of overpriced volunteer businesses. I happily settled upon Sankalp because their programmes looked great and the price was reasonable.

I had no expectations when I began and was pleasently surprised with what I was met with. From the get go I had the support I needed. I asked for a pickup from Delhi ariport and I was met right on time; no misunderstandings or mistakes. I was then given an introduction to the organization and the work after arrivel. The conditions of the volunteer house was much better then I expected, however the rooms could need some more cleaning from time to time. However, the cleanliness of the room will also depend on yourself and your roomates. You are given lunch and dinner everyday, and the food is amazing. If you have any issues you can tell the cook and she will adjust.

I worked at the street children programme and it was great! There are not too many children making it easier to teach the children properly and devote more time for each one. Some children have a carriculum they follow, whilst others don't. In which case you just ask the teacher working there if she can help you out. The children are amazing you will fall in love. They have so much to give and teach you. You have weekends off, so plenty of time for travelling around Rajasthan and India.

The programme directors were very supportive and available most of the time if needed. However, there are some pesky rules placed by the organization that are there for your safety, but they are also a little exaggerated. Some of them such as curfew and limited communications with the local community were some that saddens me the most. For a short term volunteers this would not be of much issue, but for me who was there for 4 months it was not very pleasant and I soon grew restless. The other rules are mostly reasonsable. Anyhow, the staff are nice and very approachable.

I highly recommend this programme! I learnt so much about myself and how I am as a person. We got to see so much of India and the beautiful city of Jaipur. My gap year would not have been as amazing had it not been for Sankalp.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: India
Posted: Jun 28, 2014
Overall:
8
Support:
6
Value:
8

Sankalp Volunteer Society India

Overall, I wouldn't recommend this program because I am not completely sure I believe in "Global Aid". It does a lot in the way of reinforcing paternalism with the third world v.s first world relationship emphasized. Who's to say our Western values-- education namely-- are transatlantic views to be upheld? Moreover, who's to to know if these impressed upon the "aided" people group isn't more isolating for them in their community at the end of it?
As with Sankalp, highlights included the cook and her 1) delicious meals 2) her girlish, sincere energy, as well as the group of girls we worked with in the Women's Empowerment program, as well as the woman who translated for us in that program.
As far as improvements, both the Street Kids and Women's Empowerment could use more structure in what material to teach. As volunteers, we are thrust into an environment where we don't know what level of education any of these children have, so lesson planning is crucial and often misguided and fallible. Also, when old volunteers leave and new ones come in, the children are left to deal with this gap i.e being re-taught, or taught at a level too high/too low for them, or just having to re-acclimate to a new teaching environment. Because of the inevitable flux and the lack of consistent lesson plans, the children suffer.
But, who really is to know how these things turn out because we come for 4-6 weeks spans, exploit the city and its people, and leave forever with no follow up of progress. It's a safe space to feel good about yourself and the mark you've left in the world as a global citizen, but without knowing the actual impact you have on these people in this community and if it was any good at all.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: India
Posted: Jun 20, 2014
Overall:
4
Support:
3
Value:
5

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