Volunteer Vacations
96% Rating
(10 Reviews)

Volunteer Vacations

Our placements offer genuine work with charities and social enterprises overseas. We want you to get involved with a project that is making a difference to the lives of local people so that you can have a truly remarkable travel experience which gives you an insight into life in that country, the culture, the problems and the living conditions. Whether you are teaching, coaching sport, looking after rescued jungle animals, engaged in marine conservation... you will enjoy the work and feel you are helping a community. We make sure you are well prepared and informed about your placement before you go so that you can get the most out of the experience and that includes letting you know about all the fun things you can do in your spare time like safaris, zip wiring, white water rafting.

Most Recent Program Reviews

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Georgina
Female
25 years old
UK
Nottingham Trent University

Memorable & rewarding experience

9/10

I don't know where to begin...I had such a fantastic time volunteering in India. Jill the founder of Volunteer Vacations was extremely supportive leading up to the trip. She put me in touch with an ex volunteer who kindly showed me lots of photos, so I could get a feel for the project. What's different about Jill and her company is that she visits the project herself every year, so she knows what's happening and can answer any questions from her first-hand experience and see the progress. The fact that I was the only English volunteer attending did not put me off, because she coordinated the dates with an Australian/New Zealand company called Antipodeans. I was therefore part of a group of 16 aged between 18-24 years old, which was great and made a huge impact on my overall experience.
The project itself was very well organised and we lived with Pankaj (project leader), his mother and sisters in a 3 floor house. We also had an Indian cook who was like a second mum to us! She cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner for us. I felt very comfortable living in the house. Each bedroom had around 2-3 bunk beds with an en-suite bathroom with buckets and hot water taps for showering, but this was all part of the experience! Breakfast was usually quite Western (cornflakes, bananas, porridge), lunch and dinner were usually curries, but we enjoyed tomato pasta and burgers on the occasion. We were able to ask for a certain dish, they were very flexible. Pankaj also bought fresh oranges and pomegranates from the market, so we could squeeze our own fruit juice as we were having fresh fruit withdrawal symptoms! There was also an Indian cleaner who were there everyday keeping the place tidy.
Our first day was called 'orientation'. We walked around the nearby village where we would be teaching in the local government school. It didn't feel like we were imposing on them, because they were aware of our volunteer programme, and if anything grateful for our help. The houses were made of cow dung, they had no electricity and 3 water taps in the village. Everybody was smiling and waving at us - it was lovely! We were introduced to the children briefly, so they could meet us before teaching and we spent a couple of hours just playing. In the afternoon, we visited the boys orphanage where we would be teaching for an hour and playing every day. Pankaj gave us a tour of the orphanage and explained the costs/facilities they have and would need in the future. At the time we were there, they were building a new kitchen. I found it very useful seeing the transparency of where our money was going, and I don't think you would necessarily see that if you chose to volunteer with a larger organisation.
Teaching: We were partnered up with a teaching buddy by Pankaj which worked well for some people, and not for others, as everybody naturally gravitates towards certain people/personalities. I was very lucky and my partner is now a friend for life! We taught English/Maths in the local government school in the mornings and used a rough syllabus as a guide, but it wasn't difficult. We taught colours, shapes, letters, simple addition. I didn't have any previous teaching experience, but this wasn't required as you just have fun teaching the children in creative ways. We had a resources room (donations from ex volunteers) with plenty of games, paper, crayons etc, which we brought with us to aid our teaching. We taught for 1.5 hours and our group was between 7-10 children aged around 5-8 years old, but the numbers fluctuated everyday as some children had to work in the fields with their parents or look after siblings.
In the orphanage, the boys were aged between 7-18 years old, and again we had groups of 7-10 boys each. We taught them in the afternoons for 1 hour and then played volleyball/cricket/handball afterwards. It was great fun!
In between, we had lunch at the house and 2-3 hours free time. People would either catch up on washing (washing lines on the roof), sunbathe on the roof, or go into Udaipur city and look around the markets or chill in a cafe. The local tuk tuk bus cost 10 rupees (10 pence) to travel into town, the bus stop was 5 minute walk and it was about a 15 minute ride. It was great fun riding with the locals - a couple of us were invited to a wedding on one occasion! Never a dull moment.
At the weekends, we had the option to go away on trips, which was an extra cost (I think my VV package included the Taj Mahal weekend trip). We went to Pushkar one weekend and climbed up a hill to watch the sunrise - I loved this city, the markets were amazing. We took an overnight train to Agra and visited the Taj and the third weekend trip was visiting Jodhpur and the desert. We slept under the stars with a local desert tribe and went on Jeep safari ride and watched the sunset followed by an early camel ride the next day to watch the sunrise. A very memorable trip.
Tips - take a sleeping bag, hat, gloves if you are visiting the desert in Dec/Jan/Feb. It is very cold! Rehydration satchets/immodium are a must! Don't bring tonnes of clothes, you are going to buy so much out there! Find out if there are other volunteers signed up, so you are not on your own.
Overall, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this company or specific project and I will remember this experience for the rest of my life. To this wonderful country and wonderful people - I will be back!

How can this program be improved?

A few hesitations - it doesn't feel like an entirely sustainable project, because we teach the children for 4 weeks and notice the difference we are making, and then we have to leave. They may not have any more volunteers for another month and this kind of ruins our hard work/what the children have achieved. Also, the weekend trips felt rather expensive, but this was maybe because we were a larger group. I was happy to catch a local bus/train instead of hiring a private mini bus to places to lower the cost.

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Hannah
Female
24 years old
Guildford

India is my happy place.

10/10

I booked my first trip to India very last minute (1 month before I left!) which didn't give me much time to get things ready! However Jill was so helpful that the short time restraint didn't matter, I was fully prepared when I left.
I was 17, just about to turn 18, when I flew out to India, and I'd only booked for three weeks. While there, I spent the whole time wishing I'd booked at least 4 weeks! I've since been out to India for a 6 week trip, and am going back again in 2017. The people you will meet, both Indian and other volunteers, will stay with you for a lifetime. I still talk with some of the volunteers I met on my first trip!
India is my happy place, and I'm forever grateful to Jill and Volunteer Vacations for helping me discover it, and their continued support and encouragement to explore the wonderful country!

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Sandie
Female
68 years old
BT

A magical experience

10/10

I had never been to India so did not know what to expect. Of course, I had seen much on to and the Internet but really went with open eyes and mind!

The children in the village school were some of the happiest I have ever met ...despite having very little. The village only had two or three taps for water and no sanitation as we, in the West, would know it. However, we were told that the Government were now giving grants for toilets to be built. These lovely children have nothing apart from the clothes they stood up in and the love of their families. It made me feel very humble. I am not a trained teacher or social worker ...just a retiree who lost her husband two years ago .... but I did feel I could contribute something to the project both at the village school and the boys home. The charity is doing some fantastic work and the children are so appreciative. The supervisor of the programme ...and young man wiser than his years ...was a great inspiration to both us volunteers and the children. We were lucky enough to be in India for Holi ....which was great fun for us all.

The social side of the programme gave us such an insight into this ancient culture and something I will never forget ....not just the obvious Tourist sights but riding camels though the desert at sunrise and noisy toot toots in Agra, practicing yoga on the roof as the sun set over the mountains surrounding Udipur, eating and learning to cook delicious local food, all added to a wonderful experience I will never forget! Cannot wait to do it all again!

How can this program be improved?

Good feedback from outgoing volunteers so that the new intake would know exactly what the previous volunteers had done and could continue the work rather than starting again from scratch

As an older volunteer, better accommodation on the visits would be preferred. Not luxurious, but we were not gap year students, and a little more comfort would have been preferred.

The induction pack should be sent to volunteers before they fly and more Indian vocabulary should be included.

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Sally
Female
61 years old
Guildford
University of Liverpool

Not just for Gap Students!

9/10

As an older volunteer I really enjoyed spending my time in the volunteer house with young students from other parts of the world as well as getting to know the local staff at the house and on the programme generally.
The volunteering work was well supported and can be tailored to any expertise that you might bring. For example, my group focussed on health care for a couple of days and we had a great morning with the children at the school washing/de nitting hair along a production line whilst singing local songs followed by a mime session on best practice in teeth brushing!
There are basic language lessons available at the volunteer house which were helpful and I also really enjoyed the early morning yoga sessions on the rooftops above Udaipur.
My only negative from the trip is that 2 weeks was not long enough to follow through on some of the learning for the children.
Overall a well-organised fun and beneficial trip both for the children and for me.

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Jake
Male
20 years old
London

Life changing experience

10/10

I went to Swaziland to simply fill up some time over my gap year, not knowing what to expect but I went out completely open minded and ending up meeting some amazing people and creating memories I'll cherish for a life time. I got to meet some wonderful children that were incredibly enthusiastic to learn, which made it really easy for myself. To sum up, if you get the opportunity don't pass it up!

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