Live and volunteer in India to lead physical activities, arts, music or therapeutic sessions with individuals with physical and mental disabilities.
You will work in a special needs school and you can get involved in leading sessions of games or sports, arts and other basic activities alongside specialist teachers. There will also be opportunities to assist specialist teachers in early intervention units or the vocational unit of the school.
You will work at one or both of our healthcare projects in Kerala, depending on the need of the project at the time. Our first healthcare project is located at a special needs school where volunteers will be involved in leading sessions of games, sports, arts and other basic activities alongside the specialist teachers. There will also be opportunities to assist specialist teachers in early intervention units or the vocational unit of the school. The other project is based at a local relief settlement for individuals with varying mental and physical illnesses. Volunteers will carry out vocational training as well as helping to sustain an eco-garden to offer therapeutic activities to the residents.
No previous training is required. However, if you have prior experience in the health sector or in working with disabled people this would be hugely beneficial to the project. Mention to your coordinator if so, so we can utilise your skills correctly on the ground.
Immersing yourself a different culture and way of life; making a genuine contribution to an underprivileged community; living and working with volunteers from all over the world; discovering India’s ornate temples, support our local henna artist and immerse yourself in the Indian culture; and take in breathtaking landscapes and vibrant cities during your time off.
"Experiencing India from a tourist angle and from the community gives a great insight and understanding. It was a great introduction to the rest of India as Kerala is very reserved and less chaotic, a great choice to wean yourself into Indian travel. I went on to travel more of India and I felt more comfortable having spent time on the project. The opportunities made available by GVI would be almost impossible to recreate without the organisation and security of GVI."
What's Not Included
Monday to Friday
Upon arrival, you will receive an orientation that will provide you with information on cultural awareness and training about the health partners and what you will be doing. Having completed the training, you will begin volunteering on the project!
You spend your days supporting healthcare projects based on the need and urgency at the time. While at the school you will spend your time leading physical exercises and learning activities with children with special needs and disabilties. You can also be involved in conducting one-on-one lessons with some of the children or spending time with students in vocational training units. At the relief centre, in between assisting with the vocational training and therapeutic activities you may also have the chance to assist with construction and improvement works in the local community. Although your days can seem very long they are also extremely rewarding.
You will live in dormitory-style accommodation in a clean and comfortable house with running water, electricity and flushing toilets. Your meals are also provided for you. Cooking and cleaning duties are shared.
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.
As well as being a lot of fun, exercise can help focus the children’s minds for learning. The sessions you will lead offer them exposure to the English language in a fun learning environment, so you will be helping both the physical and educational development of children.
What's Not Included
On this project, you will have the opportunity to make a genuine and varied contribution towards the quality of healthcare support in Kerala. In addition to assisting at a special needs school, you may also get involved in creating educational and promotional materials to be used in workshops and assisting with health and hygiene education. The variety of roles you will have means you really can make your mark while your own the project.
How this project makes a difference:
Resources and facilities for people with disabilities are limited in India, so the help you will provide local communities is highly-valued.
Through exercise sessions and learning activities, including art and play therapy, you will be making a significant difference to both the physical and educational development of children with special needs.
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 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.”