Discover the fascinating continent of Asia while you get involved in construction projects in local villages in Kerala, India. The southern state of Kerala is famed for its tropical greenery, beautiful backwaters and rich culture. On arrival, volunteers will be given an orientation around the beautiful city of Kochi. Your living arrangements will be in a shared house in the heart of the local community of Fort Kochi, where you can experience the rich culture of India.
Depending on the needs on the ground at any given time, you will work alongside community members to help deliver basic needs such as improved sanitation through building eco toilets, construction of new houses or improvements on current slum dwellings, and classroom renovations.
Volunteers will be involved in either building new homes or improving the infrastructure of existing buildings in a local slum. You will be assisted by local community members and guided by the leadership and expertise of local masons.
Schools in Kerala are often extremely basic, and you will help make them more comfortable and conducive to a positive learning environment. Volunteers may help brighten up classrooms with new coats of paint or lend an extra hand in helping to reconstruct, build or rebuild a school’s facilities.
No previous experience is required for this project. Training will be given and you will work with local masons and other locals who can guide you. There will also be GVI field staff at hand. If you have special training that may be an asset to the project, please let us know when applying.
Immersing yourself a different culture and way of life; making a genuine contribution towards the development of a local community; living and working with volunteers from all over the world; support our local henna artist and immerse yourself in the Indian culture; discovering India’s ornate temples, breathtaking landscapes and vibrant cities during your time off.
"After 5 weeks in Kochi I finally managed to visit the backwaters, they´re sooooo beautiful, it was a great excursion. Soon after we boarded, the boat left and lunch was served. The food was great: rice, chicken, a sort of grated coconut & fried onion dish (sooo yummy!), some greens and probably some more food that I can´t remember now, plenty of delicious stuff to eat. For the whole evening we were just chilling in the lounge area, contemplating the beauty of the backwaters and seeing the everyday life of the people that live by the shore."
What's Not Included
Upon arrival, you will receive a welcome orientation covering health and safety and cultural awareness.
Monday to Friday
Your time will be spent assisting in either surrounding village/slums or in local schools. Depending on the project you are involved in you will be involved in the construction of eco toilets, homes and eco gardens; renovations at residents homes; repairing or refurbishing orphanages; improving and painting educational facilities at a local school or basic landscaping and repairs.
The project can be physically demanding, especially when you consider the weather which can be a little unpredictable, which you should be prepared for.
You will live in a dormitory-style room in a clean, comfortable house with running water, electricity and flushing toilets. After a long day out work, you will build up quite an appetite, a good opportunity to sample the variety of traditional Indian meals.
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.
What's Not Included
The support you will provide goes a long way to improving the health and education of local people. Through developing hygienic sanitation systems, improving access to clean water and helping renovate educational facilities, you can make a real contribution to this project.
How this project makes a difference:
Whichever construction project you are involved in, you will be making a significant contribution to the development of underprivileged communities. Working in schools, you will be helping to create an environment suitable for learning that the children deserve. On the eco toilet project, you will be helping ensure local people achieve the basic human right to adequate housing.
*There are many religious and cultural festivals throughout the year in India, as well as school holidays and exam periods. During these periods it may not be possible to access the project sites where construction is happening. Where possible we would like you to enjoy the celebrations and engage with our partners in the community this way so you may have the chance to enjoy the varied entertainment, food and traditions that Kerala has to offer during its holiday seasons. Aside from this its is also possible that during these periods you could have the opportunity to support other volunteers and staff with the running of 'Summer School' workshops for children and adults within the local community.
India 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)
What's Not Included
Volunteering with GVI not only allows you to participate in programmes assisting disadvantaged communities or endangered ecosystems, but it also offers wonderful opportunities to travel in the local area in your downtime or further afield either before or after your programme. Many decide to travel after volunteering, solidifying the lifetime friendships established during the programme.
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.”