Volunteering Abroad

LeaveURMark

About

Leave UR Mark is a social enterprise that serves volunteers, interns, and travelers from around the world that want to come to India and work on career development as well as positive community growth through local initiatives. We work with professional organizations, start-ups, non-profits, and NGOs that are working for the betterment of India. Each experience is a unique look into India’s fascinating culture and growth. Every intern or volunteer feels changed in some capacity through their time with us.

Headquarters

United States

Reviews

Default avatar
Nina
1/10
No, I don't recommend this program

Leave Ur Mark is an extemely unprofessional organisation that's trying to get as much money as possible. The service I received before I left for India was meek. No help with the Visa whatsoever, basic information you can google in a second and no further advice on what flights to book, what medication to bring etc. As soon as I transferred the first payment to them I had to wait days for them to answer. Basically they lose interest in you after they've won you for one of their programs. After I arrived in India I found out that my internship is not at the place they promised it would be but rather a one hour bus journey from my location away. Moreover they promised that there would be a lovely community of interns but when I arrived was literally not a single other intern. Due to this dishonesty I decided to quit the internship. Their reaction to that was highly unprofessional and confirmed the bad impression I had gotten over the past weeks. They'll lie to you about the circumstances and think it's okay to do so. I wasted money on a bad (non-existent) service. Keep your money and volunteer for an organisation that doesn't ask you to pay them money so YOU can do FREE work for them

Response from LeaveURMark

Hi Nina,
Thank you for your valuable feedback as we always strive to improve our services in order to make sure our customers feel supported during their internship experience in India. We are sorry that you had such a bad experience with our services and regret any miscommunication as a result of. Our pre-departure support services for every intern focus on helping provide you health, culture and safety information through a 2 hour pre-departure orientation, a 25 page pre-departure orientation packet, and an email chain of over 35 exchanges answering preparatory questions for our interns. As for the visa, besides providing a reference for your visa application and/or a visa sponsorship letter if an intern applys for a student visa, there is not much we can do. The visa websites throughout the world do not allow us to login to your account and input any information for you. We do not have access to what is confidential information between each applicant and the visa consulate. Therefore apart from visa reference and/or letter if needed, internship program providers like us are limited in what we can do. We do not list out visa processing as part of our services as that is something we are neither registered or qualified for. In cases of emergency where interns have not received their visas before their flights, we have gotten on the phone with visa processing centers to figure out what the delay is. However, this was never requested by you and thus we did not know you needed us to step in. In terms of what flights to book, our interns come from all over the world and book tickets according to what they think is cheapest, what routes they find to be most convenient and what dates work best for them. We are not and never will be a travel agency that books airfare for our participants. This is generally a good thing as if we were to add that to our services, we would have to upcharge. If an intern was having real trouble finding flights, we would step in however, this was not the case with you where it was communicated that you needed extra help with flights. In terms of medications, we have an extensive section in our pre-depature guide regarding 'health'. However, we absolutely cannot legally provide medical advice in terms of what innoculations and medicines that interns should take and bring because we do not know your medical history. We advice every participant to book an appointment with their physician and/or travel clinic so that your doctor who knows your medical history can provide you the safest advice on what would keep you healthy in India. We also link out to resources from the CDC (Center for Disease Control) India section so interns know to follow the advice of qualified medical professionals. In terms of confirming your payments, if there was any delay from a pre-departure support coordinator, it would have been because it takes us 5-7 business days to receive your payment in our account as it is an international payment. Each intern should get an automatic confirmation in their email via Paypal that the payment has gone through--but we go through our own verification after Paypal gets the money and it hits our account. So if you had to wait 5+ days before getting a confirmation, it is because we were waiting for us to receive it. No harm or negligence was meant. We have never lost interest in an intern after payment. After payment what normally happens is that we provide a 2 hour pre-departure orientation, airport pick up (which our records show that you did not want to receive), on-arrival orientation (which you showed up for only 1 out of 2 days), internship placement (which you did not commence), and checking up on your internship with a personal visit from our internship coordinator every 2-3 weeks. We absolutely understand being frustrated when you are in a new country and a programs deliverance not being up to an interns expectations. However, we strongly recommend all participants to properly read the actual services that are provided, to communicate with in-country staff, and to allow improvements to be made. We hope those that don't find us a good fit are able to continue on their Indian adventure with something that is more meaningful for them! Email communication is always open with us so we can properly iron out grievances and make improvements for the services we actually provide.

Ashley
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I discovered the LeaveUrMark organization while searching for volunteer programs that would give me adventure, culture, and a meaningful experience. In 2015, I was working for a small business 40+ hours a week doing email marketing. At that point in my life, I was pretty unhappy and I really wanted a vacation that would change my perspective. While scrolling the internet one day, I luckily stumbled upon the opportunity to explore India with several volunteer options through LeaveUrMark. The internship at the Sheila Kothavala Institute For The Deaf (SKID) in Bangalore, India called to me the most. Even though I had only taken one semester of American Sign Language in college, I decided to volunteer there in a pre-K class. I think about those children every day. They opened my eyes to a whole new culture and taught me so much. I still remember the sign for the color "black" and how they would point to their hair. Volunteering at the school is ideal for anyone searching to make a difference.

Read my full story
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Tara
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I had been to Bangalore as a volunteer back in 2003 and wanted to visit again and wanted to get some backup in terms of accommodation and logistics when I was back in Bangalore in terms of organising placement and travel, as well as the opportunity to meet other volunteers/interns. It was so easy to organise my trip with leaveurmark and the staff were very helpful and accommodating and I didn't have to worry about anything when I was out in Bangalore. The apartment was nice and there was a housekeeper who sorted meals which was great.

What would you improve about this program?
I would encourage more participation from the in country team in terms of checking on placements and accommodation needs- I know that the intention of leaveurmark is to learn and develop with a safety net but there are still some volunteers who lack experience in troubleshooting or being confident enough to raise any issues, but leaveurmark does a great job in working with the volunteers to develop skills and confidence and ensures that they have a great experience!
Default avatar
Peiwei
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Looking back the past month, a bewilderment of fear and joy, of excitement and melancholia makes me start to think about my experience in India. In terms of work, it was meaningful, in the end it taught me practical knowledge, broadened my interpersonal circle,and helped me understand more about Indian economy while being a part of it. In terms of travel and life in India, I'm sure everyone who's looking for adventure and colorful recreational life will be thrilled to enjoy their time here. India has so much to offer that there will always be surprises everyday.

What would you improve about this program?
I would only stay longer for this program.
Default avatar
Liqian
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

It was a really wonderful experience when I was in India for one month.I made a lot of Indian friends, ate a lot of delicious Indian food, and traveled to a lot of wonderful places.
The apartment I lived in India was very nice. A caretaker cleaned my room every day. I could always get some Indian breakfast and lunch. But actually, I haven’t spent a lot of time in the apartment because I spent a lot of time with my Indian friends. They were my students when I taught English in YWCA. I was not confident about my English, but the girls’ innocent eyes and bright smiles touched my heart. We talked, connected, and exchanged thoughts and ideas. I found that they were ambitious and had a lot of thoughts and ideas about their lives. So I encouraged them to insist on their dreams and never give up. They are nice girls, just like most Indians. They invited me to their houses to have dinners. Their parents and other family members were also very hospitable. I not only tried a lot of local snacks, but also traveled to a lot of beautiful spots because they recommended me many beautiful places.
I really enjoyed the time I spent with girls, and the time I worked with kids made me understand the meaning of life. I spent about three weeks with kids. I disputed milk and food, played with them, and helped them clean every day. Sometimes they were very naughty, but sometimes they gave me unexpected surprises: they put a leaf or a feather in my hand as a gift; they gave me their toys; and they kissed my head tenderly……I was so happy and excited with kids every day; they made my heart soft and warm. They don’t know what’s good and bad; they are pure and natural. I hope they grow up happily and healthily.
I didn’t meet a lot of cultural shock in India, instead of some interesting cultural habits. My Indian friends taught me how to use hand to have dinner; I saw cows walk in the street freely and even the crowded traffic cannot disturb them. Every family has their own beliefs, and they believe in their Gods very firmly. There are hundreds of Gods in India, and my friends have told me some of their legends, like cobra God or the God with an elephant face…… The stories are so mysterious, and I think it’s really interesting to know about them. Everything is fine in India except traffic, and I was afraid to cross the road, because all cars, autos, motorcycles are very fast. I learned one skill in India: bargain with auto men. I not only had to tell the auto man go by meter, but also tell him please go fast or he would choose a longer distance for charging more money.
Anyway, it was an unforgettable experience for me. I like Indian people, Indian culture, and Indian food. I will definitely recommend to my friend because it will give you a beautiful and unforgettable memory.

Programs

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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Ashley Illicete

Ashley is a graduate from Nassau Community College with a degree in Elementary Education. After college, she dabbled in many different working environments, especially in the food industry. She has done everything from writing reviews on Long Island's most prestigious restaurants, to currently hosting at The Melting Pot Fondue restaurant. Her passion in life is traveling and doing charity work at her local parish, St. Martins of Tours in Amityville.
Volunteering at the Sheila Kothavala Institute For The Deaf in Bangalore

Why did you pick this program?

I picked this program on a whim as a means of finding an eye-opening experience while traveling abroad. I was at first hesitant to go to India, but after talking to one of the coordinators from LeaveUrMark, I knew volunteering at the Sheila Kothavala Institute For The Deaf in Bangalore would be worthwhile.

What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?

I tell anyone interested in doing something meaningful in an underdeveloped country to definitely consider going with a program that will make you feel safe and comfortable.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

I would tell them to be patient, kind, and open to new experiences. It was sometimes hard for me to adjust to the social norms of the Indian culture, but because I was open to learning, I was able to adjust in my own time. For instance, it took me a while to get used to eating with my hands, but when I did, I continued to do it back at home!

What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?

Although I had wonderful experiences with the other interns, my fondest memory is of the pre-K class I was volunteering with at the Sheila Kothavala Institute For The Deaf. During school recess I would go outside with the children and throw frisbee. They had so much energy and it was always my favorite part of the day. One day we were throwing the frisbee around when a random but beautiful butterfly landed on my left shoulder. The kids were ecstatic and all smiled while making the sign for "butterfly". The simplicity of their happiness touched me and has become a meaningful moment in my life.

Was traveling alone intimidating?

At first it was, especially because the flight is so long. It took me 22hrs to arrive in Bangalore. Honestly though, traveling by yourself builds character and is now my preferred way to travel. All I can say is to follow your intuition.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Prachi Naik

Tell us a little about Leave UR Mark and your role at the company.

Prachi: Leave UR Mark was started to focus on the development happening in India right now. We help facilitate an experiential education for students and travelers from all over the world who want to engage with Indian society and culture in a meaningful way. We work with several different professional internship placements in Bangalore and Mumbai as well as NGOs and Non-Profits throughout Southern India. Our interns choose our projects because they are well-researched, offer customized learning opportunities, and are committed to community development.

My role at Leave UR Mark is to spread awareness about our projects through University Relations as well as assist with Pre-Departure support. I love helping each and every intern fulfill their dream of going abroad and it's very rewarding to see them make progress in a country that is so foreign to them.

How did you get involved in the volunteer industry?

Leave UR Mark volunteers walking around Goa, India

Prachi: I worked and traveled a lot in India, China, and Japan and saw the growing influence of Asian markets on the rest of the world. When I interned in India I met dozens of social enterprises, for-profit businesses, NGOs, etc. doing some fantastic work.

I also met a lot of travelers who wanted to get set up at these projects but found it hard to navigate Indian administration, finding safe/fun accommodation, and a good support system while there. With a few of my housemates that were already working in the volunteer abroad field, I helped set up a more streamlined and supportive system. Most importantly, I got involved because I love India and never stop talking about it. I wanted to share my own experience with others.

What makes Leave UR Mark unique?

Prachi: Our projects really set us apart from all other organizations. We offer some really innovative placements such as Event Management where interns can help set up conferences and launches for international companies. We're also involved with smaller start ups like a very interesting Vegan and Animal Rights Organization, an LGBT placement, a travel magazine, and more. We shy away from the traditional orphanage work and instead work on stuff that no one else is doing. We also have a beautiful accommodation in Bangalore that you'd just have to see to believe!

In your experience, what characteristics make a good international volunteer?

Prachi: Someone that doesn't have too many plans or expectations about what their experience is going to be like. The volunteers that have the best time are able to roll with the punches, adapt quickly, turn off their iPads, and just observe. Volunteers that really help us out are ones that are good at politely communicating with us about their ups and downs, likes and dislikes. It helps us improve constantly.

How do you ensure that your programs are sustainable and mutually beneficial for you, the community, and the volunteers?

Prachi: We work on quality versus quantity always. We prefer having less volunteers but ones that fit our in-country coordinators, our projects, and our staff. We also prefer to work with organizations that have asked us for help rather than forcing interns or volunteers upon them. We have recently changed our duration to 4 weeks for all participants so that we don't use up local staff resources at the project and avoid accepting people that are only coming for a quick "feel good" experience. Lastly, since our field directors are part of our company and not a third party provider, we are able to better monitor each project, each participant, and each experience for it's full value and potential.