India

Helping Abroad

I volunteered at an Orphanage in India for a week through Helping Abroad. I received the initial information as to where I would be located and a little information about the orphanage and was told to get in touch with the contacts I had been given when I arrived.
On the weeks leading up to my arrival I emailed and called the phone number with no reply. I was not completely sure of where to go and if they were expecting me as I hadn't heard anything in months.
I got a taxi to the orphanage. The taxi driver had no idea where to go and we ended up having to pick up a local in a nearby village who showed us the way.
I arrived and the orphanage staff had no knowledge of my arrival. They had not heard anything from Helping Abroad and seemed very confused when I showed them the emails I had been sent.
They were kind enough to give me a bed and allow me to assist with the running of the orphanage and the schooling of the children for the week however I feel my experience would have been far greater if they had known about my arrival and were prepared to allow me to help out more.
On my final day there they asked me for a donation to cover the costs of me staying there. I was aware that the money I had previously paid Helping Abroad had all gone to the orphanage in order to cover this. They said they had not received any money. We rung the contact number I had and a man who answered hardly explained the situation but just told me I had to pay what they were asking. I ended up paying an extra $120 USD on top of the $250 I had already paid before my arrival.
The staff at the orphanage told me they would love to have me back but next time I would be better off organising my visit directly through them rather than Helping Abroad.
I emailed Helping Abroad when I got back to Jaipur and never received any kind of response clarifying what happened and where my money went.
I cannot recommend the experience of helping in an Indian orphanage enough however be very sceptical of the companies that organise these programmes. Helping Abroad offered no assistance and just took my money which could have gone a long way to helping the orphanage. I encourage those looking to do something similar to look further into volunteer programs and if possible organise them directly with the place you will be volunteering at.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: India
Posted: Apr 25, 2016
Overall:
4
Support:
1
Value:
1

Sankalp Volunteer Society India

Sankalp Volunteers
Introduction

I am Fajer Ben Naser, a graduate from the American University of Kuwait 2015.
For as long as I remember, I have admired being a leader in volunteering and not only wanted to change the lives of people who are less fortunate, but mine, and those around me to take a step up, leave their comfort zone, and experience the real world.
Experiencing the real world doesn’t come naturally, by traveling the world, living in luxurious hotels and learning about cultures. Its living the culture, wearing their clothes, eating their food, showering with a bottle of water, not having a choice of whether to walk, hop on a tuk-tuk or a camel’s hump.
Those are the moments we refuse to forget and taught us a lesson, that what we have can be gone at any moment, and what we think we need are just “wants” that make us see life way more complicated than it is.

I have organized several trips with my university, and my aim was that after I graduate, I would see those who took part, continue and take on my path to create future youth volunteers. I successfully did. Sankalp volunteers were our starting point. After having assured everyone’s safety and good time, volunteering trips became an annual part of our university’s good cause initiative.
Sankalp Volunteers 2013, Jaipur

To sum up all of our experiences in a nutshell, the trip to Jaipur India with Sankalp Volunteers in 2014 was unforgettable; it changed each and every one of us as individuals and group leaders, and brought us close together. As most of us travelled not knowing anyone in the group, we became a close group of friends that went on several other trips representing our University after India was the first for most of us.

Flashing back through the memories, describing our experience gets me lost out of my excitement. To start off, we were a group of 20 students around the age of 18-23 both males and females. As we arrived at Jaipur’s airport early in the morning, we were very warmly welcomed by Pranay, Sankalps Director who picked us up on time with a tour bus as promised. Amita, welcomed us at the Sankalp’s housing with warm greetings and some snacks before going down to the basement to have an introductory session.

We all felt safe, as we went into the house, not knowing what to expect, it was exactly what we saw in pictures, no disappointments, three floors, and a basement. In fact it has a very cozy living room, which was our lunch area and a rooftop terrace for us to chill at night.
Volunteering experiences

The volunteering programs differed. We had a choice of going to the orphanage (girls only), teaching and playing with the street kids at a local school run by Sankalp Volunteers, and lastly, teaching at government schools some English and math, all very basic, nothing to worry about. As the number of volunteers in each area varies, we divided ourselves into groups as Amita explained that once we chose a place to volunteer, we could not change it later. At first, we wanted to try volunteering in all three places and be able to rotate. But after volunteering for 10 days, we understood why that was a rule, and thankfully we sticked to it. Going to the same place and spending hours with the same kids allowed us to grow a connection between them and us that both of us needed. We learned what our weaknesses are and tried working on that, and the kids wanted some older people to look up to, and not just visitors.

Briefly, for all three areas, we woke up early in the morning where a car arranged by Sankalp took and to and from the orphanage, or Schools. After that we’d come back home where we’d find our vegetarian lunch prepared and then rest and explore the city together. Indeed, the food was very clean and healthy, no one got sick or tired as there was enough provided for everyone. One rule is to always drink from bottled water, that’s it.
The orphanage

The orphanage was a tough task, as the people who volunteered there wanted to take another step forward, having previous volunteering experiences before. It taught us girls how to become mothers, and appreciate our families. We went in in the morning seeing how the kids all share a few beds to sleep on, some disabled kids with no wheelchairs or aid, children crying and fighting over what clothes to wear as they shared everything. They had no sense of belonging to a place, nor a thing.
We tried to create an enjoying atmosphere. You’d think its easy to sing, dance and play, what else would make kids happier? Here, we understood the difference; the street kids and school kids were fine with those simple acts, but not the orphans. Too much emotional energy was required, but in the end we did it. After the first week, the kids began to realize that we’re not like any visitor coming for a day or two to sit around, since unfortunately, they had no official “teacher” or “guardian”. We helped them shower and change and play old school games.
If you’re looking for something very life changing and have experienced volunteering before, this is where you’d love to be. It made us stronger.

Street kids and Government schools

Here too, so much patience is required. Kids coming up to you so excited and shouting around a class of around 40 kids is hard to handle. You don’t just want to teach them and leave; you want to make sure they understand the lesson, as if you’re their teacher. Its your responsibility now. Making sure all of your group members abide to the rules and regulations of Sankalp and the school and act as adult leaders is necessary because these kids look up to us as foreigners.
The uniform

During our first day at Jaipur, we went to a shopping center to buy local clothing, as it is a must to be wearing while volunteering. For the government schools, it is required by the government and for the rest; we wore it out of respect and the very different culture we were around. It also made us feel very local, and enjoy the experience. Not only that, we all felt safe while wearing local clothing, as it is advised not to wear tight or short clothes.
Daily touring

Clearing our minds and setting ourselves free came at the end of the day after having some rest. We went to a lot of markets around and ate a lot of good food.

Amazing experience, truly one of a kind. This is because the house was really good safe, had good food, Amita and Pranay were always a doorstep away for any help. We also met a few other volunteers who stayed at the house the same time as we did, great opportunity to make connections worldwide!
After volunteering with sankalp volunteers, Amita and Pranay kept us updated about the kids whether they got adopted or graduated from school. We truly feel like we are part of the Sankalp Family. Great efforts Amita and Pranay, well done.

Truly, a place to visit again with a group of friends, school or family.

All the best everyone.
Thank You,
Fajer Ben Naser

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: India
Posted: Apr 21, 2016
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Sankalp Volunteer Society India

Working with Sankalp was one of the decisions I have ever made, from the time I made 1st query till the end of my program. Working at Street kid’s school was the highlight of my program. The kids at the school were so adorable and eager to learn. I taught kids English and Maths. The provided services were basic but comfortable. All the necessities were take care in very well way. Pranay and Amita were very friendly, ready to solve every enquiry we made. Help us in all the ways. Food was always delicious, though vegetarian meals only. I would recommend Sankalp to anyone who are interested in volunteering in India and meaningful volunteer work.

Program: Gap Year
Location: India
Posted: Apr 20, 2016
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Sankalp Volunteer Society India

I completed the Gap Year program with Sankalp from October to the end of November 2015 and was placed in the Orphanage. This experience is unique compared to most travel opportunities in India. In each volunteer program with Sankalp, you experience India in its original state NOT JUST tourist attractions. You are immersed in the culture and community and have the ability to learn how the locals live. Really, by the end of it, you are likely to feel more like a local than a tourist.

Prior to arrival, Sankalp sends you detailed information of things you should/shouldn't bring, rules of the volunteer house and their contact information. I have heard people that went through other organizations like Love Volunteers did not get information prior to arrival. So my FIRST SUGGESTION is to either go on their FAQ section on the Sankalp website or even contact Pranay or Amita (the couple who run Sankalp) via email and ask any questions. Even though I had received information from them, I still had quite a few questions to ask through email that they were prompt in answering.

The volunteer house is situated in a community just outside the main area in Jaipur. Whether you arrive in Delhi, or Jaipur, you are picked up by a car organized by Sankalp. SECOND SUGGESTION is that you keep Pranay andIAmita's phone number handy and some Indian rupees (coins for a pay phone) in the event that the driver is not there. My flight was a bit early so I called them to verify when the driver will arrive and they were very helpful in calming my nerves. This was my first time traveling alone and first time in India.

Upon arrival to the volunteer house you are placed in a room with two bunk beds and each room has a bathroom with shower. This is great because you will only need to share a bathroom with a max of 3 other people. There are 3 floors and a terrace. The main level is where the house mom Puni stays, the kitchen that she cooks lunch and dinner and Pranay and Amita have their office. The other two levels have 3 rooms and 3 bathrooms a kitchen area and living areas. One living area has a tv and books and the other has small individual tables to eat at. The food is vegetarian in the house and primary Indian, however once a week Puni makes western food for the volunteers. I don't eat much Indian food usually but I didn't get sick of Puni's food during my trip, in fact her food was better than most restaurant food.

The Orphanage is the most emotionally draining volunteer placement of them all. The others consist of teaching in different ways but this one is more so providing affection care and smiles to children who don't receive individual attention usually. It is hard to see the kids in their current environments and some people feel that they could be taken care of better. HOWEVER you must keep in mind that Sankalp is NOT RUNNING THE ORPHANAGE it is government run and they don't really have an ability to change the way things are run. They can voice concerns to the supervisors but making real changes is difficult. We are given the opportunity to spend time with the children and this is a unique situation because being government run, they are allowing us to come in when they could easily say no. The situation in this facility is difficult to see especially being from a developed country but you need to keep in mind that this facility takes in as many children who are in need as they can and there is 24/7 care at the orphanage even though there is a negative stigma in Indian society regarding orphans or people with physical or developmental delays. The orphanage provides healthcare, food and a safe environment. Clothes are donated but the kids have clothes appropriate to the weather. Sankalp brings in donated toys and they are locked up so that the children are able to use them when volunteers are there (it is a reality that if new toys/ cloths are given to the orphans and not regulated they could be taken by staff etc. as this has occurred in many other orphanages globally). Thus, the children's time in the Orphanage is NOT LUXURIOUS BUT they are given more than some kids that live in dire poverty within India and honestly, without orphanages the child mortality rate would be even higher because of INDIAN CULTURE. You need to be aware that your work in any program is working with people in need, people in need within India have MUCH less than people in need within developed countries.

There was a post I read stating that the street kid program has kids that don’t speak English, further there are posts stating that the orphanage kids don't wear diapers etc. When I was going to the Orphanage, I can confirm that WE DID take diapers for the children which were provided by Sankalp. Diapers are a cultural thing, there are used in developed countries but in India they don't usually put diapers on children (because of the heat and the waste/cost). The reason Sankalp provides them is for the comfort of volunteers. Though they are becoming more common in India because of influence from other countries, it is still far from the norm. If you are EXPECTING children who are considered to be 'street kids' in India to speak English, that may not be the best place for you. They are given a more formal education due to Sankalp’s program but really, in a country where Hindi is the main language and with EACH STATE so diverse with their own language plus multiple dialects it's not fair to assume the street kids speak a lot of English. Yes they have made great progress since Sankalp was involved but they aren’t very fluent because they don’t use it as often as other languages.
THIRD SUGGESTION, try to learn about India and its culture before going. Learn about their social issues and positive changes that have happened over the years. Learn a few words in Hindi (working with kids it’s great to know phrases like listen, sit, don’t hit etc.). Make more of an EFFORT to understand that you going there and volunteering; whether your intention is to make a difference for your whole trip or just to do some good before traveling somewhere elsewhere, your attitude, effort and participation are what really matter.

Before writing a bad review about your experience, consider how you could have changed the experience for yourself and the kids. If you have questions or concerns talk to someone politely (not in an accusing tone) don’t let your concerns fester inside and diminish your experience in India. I chose Sankalp, as an informed decision after reviewing many options to volunteer in India. My current course on Peace and Tourism really highlighted for me the pros and cons of voluntourism and what a company/tour operator does that are considered best practices in their field. Sankalp is following best practices in terms of the street kid program, orphanage program and women empowerment program (the only 3 I had an opportunity to research and understand). They are working to better the lives of children in India that are in dire need and if you have concerns about where the money is going Pranay and Amita are very willing to explain if you give them a chance in a respectful way. If you do your research, understand voluntourism and INDIAN CULTURE/ CORRUPTION you will see that Sankalp is a great place to volunteer. Please make an effort to immerse yourself in the positive points of Indian culture and don’t let the negative aspects of it deter you from helping.

I was born and brought up in Canada, as I mentioned this was my first time in India and traveling alone. I currently attend university and am in a program that teaches me about world issues, social development and a course in tourism specifically. Also despite my passion regarding the work that Sankalp does, I am not affiliated with Sankalp in any other way but being a prior volunteer.

If you have any questions or concerns that you wanted to discuss prior to your trip feel free to contact me. You can request my email from Pranay or Amita as I would prefer not to post it on here.

*only people interested in volunteering and no spammers or harassment thanks!

Program: Gap Year
Location: India
Posted: Mar 31, 2016
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Sankalp Volunteer Society India

I wanted to write to say that I had an extremely positive experience volunteering in Jaipur with Sankalp. Amita and Pranay were lovely hosts. I learned a lot from them about Indian culture which helped me immensely on the rest of my 3 month trip throughout the country. The accommodations were good, the food was amazing and the other volunteers were all great. I think sometimes volunteers go into the experience with very high expectations that they will come and teach for a month and somehow that will change people's circumstances. The children going to this school will gain a positive experience from it because they are there surrounded by other children, playing games and enjoying themselves. The smiles on their faces everyday were beautiful and deeply joyful and that is a direct result of the work Amita and Pranay have put into this program. I understand some people may have been frustrated at the lack for formality or structure but I found the experience very reflective of the sort of chaotic harmony I saw throughout India. If you are looking for a good cultural experience and you want the chance to bring happiness to children, this is a good organization to choose.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: India
Posted: Mar 28, 2016
Overall:
9
Support:
9
Value:
8

Sankalp Volunteer Society India

I volunteered for 4 months in 2008/2009. The experience was life-changing. I did real, meaningful work at an orphanage and bonded with Amita, Pranay, the children, and my fellow volunteers. Three very important reasons to select this program 1) affordability 2) safety 3) the caring and professionalism of Amita and Pranay. Don't pay more to a middle man to volunteer somewhere, this is the real deal.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: India
Posted: Mar 27, 2016
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Sankalp Volunteer Society India

First off, I want to give Pranay and Amita a huge shout out and thank you two for giving me the opportunity to volunteer in this program.
I had the most amazing experience I have ever had while teaching at the school and working at the orphanage. I made some really good friends with the volunteers who stayed at the house and thought the living arrangement was terrific; better than I expected! I will never forget the undeniably giving people who I worked with.
Finally, I believe that this trip changed my life. I will never be able to go through a day without thinking about the kids I met. I became attached to many of them and built relationships I never thought I'd be able to have. Being able to love someone more than myself has made me a better person and I hope to come back to see the kids again.
I would recommend this trip to anyone looking to build relationships and make changes in a positive way!

Thank you,
Gabrielle

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: India
Posted: Mar 24, 2016
Overall:
9
Support:
9
Value:
10

Sankalp Volunteer Society India

Really very very frustrated with the chil teaching program. Pranay and Amita, really they are not volunteer. They start the business only to earn money in illegal way. Real volunteer help to the Poor Child for their health, education and economic. Its shop to earn the MONEY ONLY. These couple income is not big but they purchase the Big Property in Jaipur and make big Black Money.

I am come here before one week. really not feel happy with the program. I can't ask anything from Pranay.. because he don't know english and Amita can't understand proper english. Surprise!!!!

They are not volunteer... they Just Open the Shop to earn BIG MONEY or TAX FREE money.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: India
Posted: Mar 24, 2016
Overall:
1
Support:
1
Value:
1

Sankalp Volunteer Society India

I have just returned from spending 6 weeks volunteering with the Women's Empowerment Project.This project was very enjoyable. This is an afterschool program where young girls aged 7 to 13 come to improve their English and computers skills outside of mainstream education. The hours of volunteering were quite short , only 3 hours a day, that was out of volunteers control as it is afterschool ( 3 to 6) and I suppose teaching is quite limited to those hours. So volunteers must make good use of there time teaching.

I had an amazing teaching assistant who was there throughout my whole time with Sankalp. She supported me in my teaching and provided guidance concerning topics to introduce. She really was a lovely person and I felt she made my time with the charity run very smoothly. I had the opportunity to teach the girls important topics such as body image and peer pressure. Whatever skill or topic you are interested in teaching the girls check with Pranay or Amita first , and Asha ( teaching assistant) but really volunteers are encouraged to teach different topics. The only negative thing I can say is that supplies at this project are non existent. Myself and another volunteer had to buy materials for a lesson as there was nothing there for paints and crafts. I would suggest to the charity buying more paints and craft materials and locking these away after each use at the project, so that the girls can get good use from them.

The volunteer accommodation:

The accommodation provided by Sankalp is basic but homely. Beds are comfortable and the house has many recreational areas. Food provided by the house manager was really tasty and plentiful.

The house is located away from the tourist area in Jaipur which was great as it was safe and had a small neighborhood feel.

I would recommend the Women's Empowerment Project to future volunteers .

I must advise future volunteers to manage there expectations when they do arrive. There is WiFi which was intermittent, there is no heating and no washing facilities, but these are small petty things which do not reflect upon Sankalp.

Do volunteer with this charity and have a life changing experience.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: India
Posted: Mar 19, 2016
Overall:
7
Support:
7
Value:
8

Sankalp Volunteer Society India

Avoid.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: India
Posted: Mar 10, 2016
Overall:
2
Support:
2
Value:
2

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