Page is a Mental Health student nurse on her final year, and who spent her summer volunteering in India with the IVHQ Program.
Why did you choose this program?
Considering that I am a 21-year old student, I was looking for the most affordable program to volunteer with. IVHQ was not only the most affordable, but also had the most positive reviews, the most projects to choose from, and the best locations to travel to. For any questions I had, Samantha was there to help all the time.
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
As part of my degree, it is compulsory that you complete three weeks of Professional Development (volunteer work). This is something the University expects you to take on by yourself, to show that you are able and independent. Therefore, the University didn't participate in my trip to India. It was all organized on my own, and the layout of the application and the steps are so simple to complete that this wasn't a problem.
I was provided with the email for my point of contact if I needed anything, and Samantha was absolutely amazing. She responded quickly and would do her best to answer all the questions and worries!
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Have no expectations!
I had no idea what to expect, and that meant I was not disappointed in any way, and I was just constantly amazed and overwhelmed by everything and everyone I met. Everybody experiences it differently, and you will read reviews about how you will be chucked in the deep end and lack support. Yes, you will more than likely be chucked in the deep end, but it's what you make it. Go in with no expectations, plan ahead, and embrace every moment because when you return home, it doesn't feel real.
The majority of the people volunteering are adults and are not babied, but the support of IVHQ staff overseas is there whenever you need it. Share your experiences with each other, get ideas from other volunteers, and don't be afraid to ask the staff anything! Also, don't be afraid to get stuck in.
The children in my Children Care Project appeared so shy at first; they get volunteers come and go all the time, it must get confusing! However, the minute you interact with them, they have the biggest smiles on their faces, and you start to develop the most adorable little bonds.
You will not be able to change everything in your time volunteering, that's what I learned during my time on the project. I will never be able to make everything perfect, but every day, I made sure the children left class with a smile on their face.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
The average day for my program was to wake up at around 7:30 AM for breakfast with the other volunteers. The driver then picked volunteers up from the hostel and transported us to our projects. My project was Childcare so I would arrive at the school around 8:30 where I would interact with the children individually before starting class at 9. There are teachers in the classroom, however, they are mainly there for discipline. You are the real teacher, so you just get stuck in with basic English, basic Math, nursery rhymes, coloring, and then the children have a half an hour play before they have lunch. The school day ends at 12 noon.
The driver will then pick you up from placement and take you back to the hostel where lunch will be waiting for you, and all the volunteers sit around talking about their day. The afternoon and evening are yours to do what you wish! I would highly recommend using this time wisely to travel around your choice of location! Get to know the culture and see everything you can in your time there!
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
One thing I was worried about was that the language barrier would make the project difficult. Thankfully, this was not the case. The language barrier was the most difficult part of the project, however, there had been many volunteers before me, so the teachers, pupils, and staff were amazing. They all spoke good English, some better than others, but it was still not a problem!
I also made sure I learned some Hindi before travelling, and whilst I was over there, the staff and children were great at helping with any barriers or translations!
Should I be worried about traveling alone?
If you're travelling alone, do not worry about a thing. You will meet the most amazing people and friends from all over the world. I am already planning on meeting up again with the majority of the volunteers I had met during my time in India!
Embrace every single moment and take as many photos as you can, because once it's over, the photos are all you have.