Volunteer alongside local teachers supporting disadvantaged children in the southern state of Kerala, famed for its tropical greenery and beautiful backwaters. On arrival, volunteers will be given an orientation around the beautiful city of Kochi. Your living arrangements will be in a share-house in the heart of the local community of Fort Kochi, where you can experience the rich culture of India.
You will work in schools which support low-income families and a local care centre. Due to the high level of demand classes can be very crowded making it difficult for teachers to provide the necessary level of support to students. Your support will ensure that their needs are met helping to improve attendance and grades, making a valuable contribution in the school.
Learning new skills in caring for and teaching underprivileged children, experiencing a new culture through its local people, local cooking lessons and exploring the amazing local environment. Support our local henna artist and immerse yourself in the Indian culture. Nearby highlights that some volunteers choose to experience include staying overnight on a houseboat and cruising along the enchanting backwaters, kayaking along the river and cycling through villages, relaxing on the gorgeous beaches, language classes, or indulging in a traditional Ayurvedic massage.
"The free time so far has given us little snapshots into life in Fort Cochin. From the small colourful cafes where I tried musumbi juice (delicious) to drinking coconut water out of a coconut next to the Chinese fishing nets, everything I’ve done has just made me want to explore as much as I can as soon as I can! Last night we had big plans to watch a Bollywood movie so John and Rodhi surprised us with a projector up on the roof with candles, fairy lights, rugs and cushions. It was so relaxing and the film was brilliant...until the power cut. Welcome to India!"
What's Not Included
Monday to Friday
You will work Monday to Friday assisting teachers at low-income area schools or a local care centre for girls with planning and delivering educational activities. Focusing on English language skills you can add your unique touch incorporating art, sports and games into your lessons. In the evening, you will need to prepare activities and plans for the following day.
During school holidays, you may have the opportunity to organise summer programmes with educational games, arts and sports for the local care centre for girls.
You will live in comfortable shared accommodation in the centre of town with electricity, running water and flush toilets. There is a constant supply of fresh fruit and vegetables, lunches will be prepared for you in local style while dinners are prepared together.
If you would prefer to stay in private accommodation while on this project, this location does offer upgrades. Contact us for more information, or mention to your Country Expert who will be able to assist you.
On the weekends you will be free to explore the stunning surrounding area. Sample the local cuisine, shop in exotic spice markets, take part in traditional Kathakali dance or just relax in your base town of Kochi.
What's Not Included
You will work with students from local schools in kindergarten all the way up to grade six. Many of the children come from poor low-income families or are taken in from the streets. Lessons are taught in English which although not being the children's first language they are incredibly enthusiastic and keen to learn.
Through education and support, we aim to build up the children’s confidence, English abilities and attendance. Outside of normal classes, you will also teach small focus groups of children who have fallen behind or struggle with their English ability, computer skills or other areas. Increased support will encourage these children to stay in school.
How this project makes a difference:
Many students feel pressure from their families to drop out of school and start earning money but by developing English skills, the children will have a better chance of getting well-paying jobs, which require the ability to speak English. We aim to keep kids in school by providing teacher support and funding so that the students can have the chance at a better future.
What's Not Included
Volunteering with GVI not only allows you to participate on programs assisting disadvantaged communities or endangered ecosystems but it also offers wonderful opportunities to travel in the local area in your down time or further afield either before or after your program. Many decide to travel after volunteering, solidifying the lifetime friendships established on program.
Our long term field staff are a great source of advice and are here to help you make the most of your time abroad. Remember to ask about discounts on local activities and side trips through your association with GVI. Our Kerala field teams have helped us put together the following information on trips and travel options in India!
Included Side Trips
You will embark on an orientation of Fort Kochi during your arrival weekend, seeing the main tourist sites of the local town, as well as the many hidden treasures. You will also be taken to a traditional Keralan Kathakali dance show, which will open your eyes up to the wonders of India and its culture.
Optional Side Trips
Kerala offers a variety of different adventure trips from trekking to rafting, kayaking and even diving in some of the most beautiful locations that India has to offer. Close to base in Fort Kochi, the 14th century Chinese fishing nets, St Francis Church and an amazing array of boutique art galleries, cafes and restaurants make for an amazing cultural experience.
One of Kerala’s finest attractions popular with our volunteers is the backwaters tour, an experience of breathtaking beauty and serenity as you snake through the incredible landscape on a houseboat. You can stay overnight, eat amazing local cuisine, and gaze at the sunset: a perfect weekend getaway.
The Periyar Forest and National Park offers safari outings and a chance to spot elephants, monkeys and tigers if you’re lucky, combined with some spectacular scenery along the way. For the more active, you can get even closer to it all with a number of trekking options.
Kerala can boast some incredible beaches within reasonable distances from your base. Marari is a short 40-minute drive with beautiful sandy beaches lined with coconut trees, while Varkala is a little further with restaurants and cafés perched spectacularly on cliffs offering incredible views of the ocean.
And if tea is your poison then this is the location for you…tea plantations stretching as far as the eye can see and jaw dropping views of mountain ranges and valleys await. There are sightseeing and trekking options available (depending on seasons) for the adventurous, or you can just sit and relax, breathe the fresh mountain air, and soak it all in.
Further Traveling Opportunities
For those with a little more time on their hands, you may want to consider some of the following. The Taj Mahal will be top of most India bucket lists but beyond this famous landmark; the quaint hill stations in Darjeeling; the Ganges at Varanasi; the desert and fort palaces of Jaisalmer and Udaipur; safari at Kanha National Park (home of Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’); the lively nightlife of Mumbai; or the laid back atmosphere of Goa will leave you with an everlasting experience of India.
Transport Coordinator and Translator
Meet Jutten, our local Transport Coordinator and Translator here at our hub in India. Being a native of the country, he was asked to drive the tuk-tuk and coordinate the other tuk-tuks for the volunteers in Kerala. Later he was offered to be a official staff member and was thrilled to take the job.
He has worked with all of the projects here in Kerala. "I like to work with both the sports and health projects, because I enjoy seeing the beneficiaries happy and satisfied."
Before working with GVI he was a package tour driver as an English/Hindi/Tamil speaking tour guide. Since joining us he has taken great pride in his work and is enjoying meeting all the volunteers. "I like to see people happy. All the people that I meet through working here are treating me as their own."
Assistant Director of Programs
Meet Jill, our Assistant Director of Programs and line manager for Thailand, Laos, India, Nepal, Australia and Kenya programs. ‘Manow’ (lime), as she’s locally known in Thailand where she's based, taught English, environmental education and art in the USA and Thailand before joining us to set up a TEFL and Community Development Expedition. “I haven’t looked back since!”
When Jill isn’t working, she likes reading or doing just about anything energetic. “I devour books, love cooking and enjoy finding some time to get some exercise – yoga, dancing and aerobics are some of my faves.”
What does Jill like most about her job? “It’s great to see volunteers rising above the cultural and language barriers between themselves and the communities. That, and every day is completely different, which is the way I like it- it keeps me from getting bored.” Being ‘allergic’ to being bored has led to Manow doing some pretty amazing things. “I once ended up spending a week living in a cave with some Buddhist monks while I helped them build a small adobe monk hut.”
Meet Lucy, our Base Manager here in Kerala. As wildlife conservation student, she initially joined GVI as a wildlife conservation intern to gain practical experience before staying on as a part of the team. Lucy has worked on our former Shimoni hub as long-term staff member before moving to India.
What does Lucy think volunteers bring to the projects? ” Without a doubt, the programs would not be able to run without the volunteers. The sheer amount of data volunteers help us to collect is immense, and so vitally important.”
Lucy’s highlights since working for GVI? “Setting up a new partner project in Kenya’s Western province, where I worked with a grassroots community group in Kenya’s last rainforest was amazing."
Meet Zeno, our Country Director in India. He used to work on Crocodile Morphology and Ecology and has even trekked the Sierra Madre mountain range in the North of the Philippines in search of one of the last members of a critically endangered freshwater crocodile population. Zeno used to be our Country Director in Kenya a few years ago before moving to India.
His most memorable moments since he started working with GVI? Was discovering a population of ‘hidden’ African Skimmer Birds at Lake Turkana, which turned to represent almost 40 percent of the world population. “That, and when my cat left a snake at my bed as a ‘present’, which turned out to be a new species for Kenya!”
His favourite aspect of his job? ”Seeing people being in awe of everything new around them, realising and completely accepting how different their world of experiences suddenly has become.”