Our NGO in India runs building projects all year long, and they are always on the lookout for volunteers to help with sustainable community development, such as renovating schools and building bathroom facilities or tanks for collecting drinkable water. Projects are run by locals, which both helps with the unemployment rate as well as allows the community to feel a sense of empowerment and ownership of the improvements to their amenities.
The schools we work with are very basic structures, and the communities they serve are usually unable to afford to improve their functionality. Our projects aim to improve the health and safety standards of the school, as well as to make better use of the limited space available, give the classrooms a more pleasant appearance, make them more user friendly for teachers, and provide a more positive learning environment for the children. Basic construction work, such as maintenance on existing infrastructure like walls, doors and windows will be required, as will fun things like painting educational murals on the walls.
Water Sanitation Project
You will assist local builders with the construction of new bathrooms and water tanks for poor families in villages in Kerala. The water sanitation projects are especially important in fishing villages surrounded by sea water. Drinking unsafe water and unhygienic sanitation practices are some of the leading causes of significant health problems in Indian communities. By building rainwater tanks, you will help to provide sustainable drinking and cooking water for poor families living by the backwaters. One week of work is generally needed to build one toilet or water tank. Volunteers will alternate, or combine several building projects when enrolling for several weeks.
Work with children
Volunteers on building projects will also be given a chance to organize activities for the community children, such as sport competitions, English lessons, life training and practical skills.
Requirements and living arrangements
To get involved in this program, you must be over 18 years of age and plan for a minimum stay of two weeks. A good command of spoken and written English would be beneficial. You are not required to have any technical knowledge, as you will be assisting professional builders.
The cost of taking part in this project includes a financial contribution, which goes toward buying materials for the construction site. It also includes home stay accommodation with a local Indian family or guardian, and an orientation session on arrival, which covers Indian culture and project details. Bedrooms are shared with other volunteers, and all homes have running water, electricity, Western-style bathrooms and WIFI. Breakfast and dinner will be home cooked continental or Indian, and there are many western cafes around, should you crave pasta or burgers. You may also cook, with groceries available at a supermarket within walking distance. Daily transport to the projects will be pre-arranged, and the numbers for all doctors and emergency medical facilities will be given to you upon arrival.
Things to do in your free time
As you will be based in Cochin, this program will give you a chance to stroll around the port town of Fort Kochi. This area is perfect to discover the history and culture of Kerala: the Jewish Synagogue, St Francis Church (the oldest European Church in India), the Santa Cruz Basilica, which was built by the Portuguese, the spice market and the famous Chinese shore-operated fishing nets.
On weekends you will have the chance to go on a backwaters cruise – one of the 10 best things to do in India, according to Lonely Planet. Drifting through quiet canals lined with coconut palms, eating deliciously authentic Keralan food, meeting local villagers and sleeping on the water under a galaxy of stars - it's a must do!
There are also many other activities you may want to consider: get a tan or surf in Varkala or Goa; not only taste, but also learn to cook the delicious cuisine of South India; attend a Kathakali dance theatre show; and drift along in a houseboat on the lush backwaters of Allepey.
So step-up and help those in need as you explore incredible India and learn more about its rich and vibrant culture.