Our service learning program in Kerala, India combines community development work with a comprehensive educational curriculum. Students will teach sports in the community, spend afternoons building an eco-garden or eco-toilet or get their hands dirty with a local partner-led construction project.
The program will focus on improving basic human rights through educational development, infrastructure improvement, and reciprocal cultural exchange, and will take place in Kerala, India, a sliver of a state in India’s deep south that is shaped by its landscape – almost 600km of fascinating Arabian Sea coast and beaches, a network of backwaters, and the spice and tea-covered hills of the Western Ghats.
Kerala is home to exotic wildlife and is a place of vibrant traditions, such as Kathakali plays and snake-boat races. As with the rest of India, it also hosts extreme economic disparities for communities who live well below the breadline, with little access to formal education, income opportunities, and decent hygiene standards.
These projects range in content suitable for students studying academic disciplines such as:
- Women’s Empowerment
- Sports and Exercise
- Sustainable Agriculture
- Global Health.
Example project activities include:
- Providing sports therapy at special needs schools and teaching PE classes;
- Vocational training for mentally ill adults;
- Women’s empowerment workshops and advocacy/awareness workshops with men;
- Maintaining sustainable vegetable or sensory gardens;
- Teaching life-skills and English to primary/secondary schoolers and adults;
- Teacher training workshops.
This inter-disciplinary program introduces students to international service-learning and sustainable development in content and practice, in Kerala, India. Through lectures, discussion, research, service, and reflection (beginning two weeks prior to their departure and continuing two weeks after their return home), students in this course engage in meaningful, context-driven service-learning at home and abroad. Emphasis will be placed on relating long-term project goals with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and engaging in daily reflection surrounding the experience, which will be led by qualified group facilitators who are trained to enhance individual student development. The program curriculum will be tailored to your students’ academic needs as well as any faculty requirements.
A GVI service-learning program provides students with the opportunity to live and work within the “classroom” of their chosen field of study, and to develop professional capacities associated with intercultural competency, global citizenship, teamwork, problem-solving, and leadership. By participating in this program, students will be prepared to contribute to solutions for critical global issues related to sustainable development within a local community, and alongside an international team.
The objectives for each GVI project are based on specific United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. In Kerala, students will largely contribute to need-based community development projects in Kerala’s surrounding township areas that primarily improve the general infrastructure and learning environments for local disadvantaged children.
India's short, mid, and long-term objectives
All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualize their contribution to the UN SDGs.Upon arrival to base, you will be educated about the history of the UN SDGs. You will learn about the specific goals of your location, the long-, mid- and short-term objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these goals on a global level.
Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to act as active global citizens after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.
Learn about the long-term objectives you will be contributing to in India:
1. Increase women's opportunities in Kerala
2. Ensure healthy lives, well-being and promote opportunities and equality for those with special needs in Kerala
3. Enable the absolute development of children and young adults in Kerala by providing support and training in LSBE (life skills base education)
This program varies in duration, depending on project requirements as well as cultural expeditions or activities. The below outlines a one week in-country program; however, your in-country service can run for as many weeks as set by your academic curriculum, objectives, and requirements.
Two weeks prior to departure, students will be assigned readings and assignments. These assignments make sure they have a basic cultural understanding of Kerala and it’s local conservation-based issues; a foundational understanding of international service learning and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; and begin a dialogue surrounding global engagement. Materials will be chosen based on collaboration with the group’s educational leader to ensure the work fits within the group’s in-class curriculum.
Day 1- Arrival at Kochi Airport and Transfer to Base
On arrival the group will be met at Kochi International Airport by a GVI appointed driver. We recommend that flights are booked to arrive first thing in the morning so as to maximize time spent in-country. Students and accompanying teachers will be transferred to their accommodation by GVI’s driver and given time to settle in and rest before meeting for an afternoon orientation session with the GVI field team. During the orientation, the week’s logistics, duties, and responsibilities will be explained. This session will also include familiarization with the Emergency Action Plans and Health and Safety Risks as well as an overview of GVI and our overall local and global goals.
Day 2- Welcome and Orientation
The team will be given an orientation tour around the city of Kochi, where they will be based throughout the service element of the trip. In the evening, a reflection period will take place in which participants will debrief and review their initial reactions and observations on the experience and location.
Day 3-5- Daily Structure: Service, Education, and Reflection
Students will report daily to the project construction sites where they will work side-by-side local community members and our partner organizations. Specific projects will depend on the needs of the centers at the time, and could involve engagement in construction and renovation projects, as well as creative activities, basic healthcare and hygiene programs, and sports development initiatives.
All service elements will be connected to a greater understanding of the cultural context in which the students are working. Assignments, in the form of lectures, readings, written response papers, journal entries, group presentations, and miscellaneous creative projects will be conducted daily to enhance student learning from their service involvement. Daily reflection sessions will act as the bridge that connects and helps to synthesize the many aspects of the experience.
Particular emphasis will be placed on the ways in which participants are working towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Students will critically examine their part in this process, by analyzing their contributions, challenges, and observations.
Day 6- Cultural Day
Understanding Kerala, India’s diverse and stunning culture, means that exploration is an important component of the experience. Options for the day could include: a traditional Keralan Kathakali dance show; a backwaters tour on one of Kerala’s beautiful and iconic houseboats; a safari outing to the Periyar Forest and National Park for a chance to spot elephants and monkeys (and tigers if you’re lucky); or a visit to the sea side village of Marari (40-minute drive away), which boasts beautiful sandy beaches lined with coconut trees. Activities will be determined based on the interests and educational goals of the group.
Day 7- A Fond Farewell
GVI field staff transfer the team back to the airport and bid them a fond farewell! GVI will endeavour to keep the group informed of any updates there might be in the field, with particular reference to the projects volunteers contributed to during their time in India.
Students will continue to engage with active reflection and educational expansion two weeks after leaving Quepos, with emphasis placed on incorporating the international experience, and insights gained which are then applied to the students’ home context. Assignments will involve generating ideas to continue global engagement, connecting the experience to personal and career goals, and reflecting on the insights gained while in the field.
What's It like?
If you’d like to find out what the experience of joining a GVI project is really like, simply contact us and we’ll put you in touch with one of our many Alumni.
We’ll try to match you to an Alum based on your location, nationality, age, stage of academic career, gender, and program interests. This allows you to gain insights into the experience that is most relevant to you.
Depending on your location you might be able to speak to an Alum over the phone or online, or meet up with them face-to-face at a coffee shop nearby. We also run a series of small events around the world where you can speak to GVI Alumni, Ambassadors and staff members.
Health and Hygiene
For over 20 years, GVI has prioritised the health and safety of our staff, participants, partners and local community members. In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, GVI has created the GVI health and hygiene team to put in place new standards of cleanliness, norms and behaviours that meet or exceed international recommendations to ensure the ongoing safety of GVI’s participants, staff and communities around the world. Internationally recommended practices, such as advice from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the governments Australia, UK and US, continue to be monitored and the standards are likely to change if and when international advice changes.
The work GVI is contributing to across the globe remains important and the following measures allow our participants to continue to join GVI’s programs and continue impacting positively on their world and the communities we work with. The following changes to our existing protocols have been made by the GVI health and hygiene team to strengthen our health and hygiene protocols and ensure that international standard safeguards are in place to protect our participants, staff and host communities.
Introducing you to Cheryl. Cheryl is the Regional Director of GVI Nepal and India. Her journey with GVI began in 2011. Before this Cheryl had a history of teaching, although she fancied a change, which lead her to volunteer with GVI in Cape Town. After this she became a staff member and subsequently she stayed in Cape Town for the next four years.
Another role came up as Program Manager for Pokara, Nepal, which Cheryl took on before finally getting to where she is now.
Cherly has always possessed a love for travel. She has backpacked across Europe, working as a nanny. Her main highlight however has to be Peru. In fact it was her experience here that inspired her to volunteer in the first place.
Deputy Director of Programs
Meet GVI’s Jill,also known by her rap name, Rainmaker, or her spiritual name, Field Whisperer. Her journey with GVI began back in 2007 as Thailand's Country Director, where she helped set up GVI’s first TEFL program!
Now she is based in Chaing Rai, Thailand. Jill's role involves providing support for all of our programs around the world. Working closing with each base, she looks to identify and manage any issues that occur so GVI are able to offer the best programs possible.
Say hi to Paul, the Program Manager at GVI’s Kerala hub in India. Paul is from the UK and came over to India last year. He originally came on a service learning program, however has since become the Program Manager. Paul has a background in experiential education and has previously managed operations of community development programs. They have been in a variety of countries, including: Nepal, Ghana and the UK. Paul’s passion lies with engaging with people in service learning activities so that they are able to get the most out of a experience while also giving back to a community. Lastly Paul is a freelance trainer. He enjoys capacity building and working with people from all walks of life. He is really excited to apply everything he has learnt to his time in India.
Meet the team - In-Country Staff
Meet Jutten. Heis originally from Kerala in India, where he currently works as a Program Coordinator at GVI’s hub there.
Jutten has been with GVI since 2010. He started his career as a translator and a Community Liaison. He really enjoys the work that he is involved in, as it helps him to empower and help the people in his community.
Below is a list of core ethics and best practices we believe are essential to the operation of high quality, ethical volunteer and sustainable development programs. We believe that all responsible volunteer and sustainable development operations should focus upon these principles. If you are considering volunteering, these are some of the key considerations you should question, to ensure that your time and money contributes towards positive change.
We want to constantly develop our own understanding of ethical best practice. In so doing, we aim to provide an exemplary industry standard for other education institutions, international development organisations, and social enterprises. Our Badge of Ethics stands for the drive to always do good, better. Find out more, click on the Badge below.
Our 10 Ethical Commitments
Locally Driven, Collaborative Projects
We aim to design all our projects in collaboration with local organizations and communities and ensure that they are locally driven.
Clear Objectives & Sustainable Outcomes
We aim to clearly define short-, mid-, and long-term objectives with sustainable outcomes for all our projects.
We aim to track, record, and publish the impact of each of our projects.
Working Against Dependency
We aim to build in-country capacity by assisting local organizations in becoming self-sustaining.
Responsible Exit Strategies
For each local organization we work with, we aim to have a plan in place for withdrawing support responsibly.
Clear Roles & Specialized Training
We aim to ensure that ever participant is assigned a clear role and that they are fully trained and supported to carry out their work by specialized staff.
Respect for all
In all our actions we aim to respect the skills and efforts of all and seek to protect the rights, culture and dignity of everyone who engages with GVI.
We work to ensure that credit for the results of any project, along with any data collected, research conducted, or Intellectual Property developed, remains the property of local organizations.
Transitioning from the Orphanage Model
We do not condone and aim to withdraw support of orphanages and residential care centers.
Child and Vulnerable adult policies
We will live by our Child Protection and Vulnerable Adult policies.
As an organization, GVI is committed to striving toward best practice, and to educating both our potential participants, our partners, and the world at large about them. Both the volunteering and sustainable development sectors are increasingly, and rightly, under scrutiny. Many recent local and global articles highlight poor practices and questionable ethics. GVI is widely recognized for striving to apply global best practice in the volunteering, education and sustainable development sectors throughout our operations by reputable organizations such as ChildSafe.
However, global best practice is always evolving and we dedicate both time and resources to engage with internationally respected experts and learn from the latest research to ensure our programs both fulfil their potential to create maximum positive impact, and minimise their potential to create unintentional negative impact. Along with and as part of the sustainable development and volunteering community, we are constantly learning and applying this learning to practice. We do not always get everything right, but we seek feedback from our community members, partners, participants and our staff, and react accordingly. We know are already doing a great job, and feedback we have received confirms this, but we aim to do even better and are continuously refining our operations to improve upon our already excellent reputation.
‘If only every student could do this. It changes your life in all the right ways,’ says Chris Heritage, parent of Luke Heritage, one of our teen volunteers who has participated on two GVI programs, one in Costa Rica and another in South Africa.
We are a parent-run organisation that is incredibly serious about health and safety, and increasing the impact, as well as the long-term career benefits of our programs. Our programs help young people develop the skills to select a career path that is personally fulfilling, and live a life aligned to the well-being of our planet and the global community.
Ken and Linda Jeffrey, whose son Sam volunteered with GVI in Thailand, talk about how the experience affected Sam. He also went on to volunteer with GVI again in South Africa. ‘I know it sounds like a cliche but in a sense, he did go away as a boy and he came back as a young man. Both of us could recommend GVI without any hesitation to any other parent thinking about exploring an opportunity for their children to explore the world and to see different parts of it.’
Parent Info Pack
Download the Parent Pack and learn more about:
Our staff: All our projects are run by staff, selected, vetted, trained, and managed by our central office. Health and safety: Our safety practices include a child and vulnerable adult protection policy and high participant ratios. Staying in touch: See what’s happening on base, by following a hub’s dedicated Facebook page. Free parent consultations: We would love to talk to you about exciting opportunities available for your child.
24-hour emergency phone
24-hour in-country support
A dedicated course co-ordinator
Access to Alumni Services and Discounts
Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
All necessary project equipment and materials
All necessary project training by experienced staff
Flight bookings service on request
In-country transport costs
Insurance on request
Long term experienced staff
Meals while on project (except on work placements for long term internships)