I have just returned from volunteering experience with a really fab organisation in India and I wanted to include a small write up about this organisation on your website.
This organisation called Yearoutindia - is very small and only takes on just 30 carefully selected international volunteers a year. They do not have any paid advertisements anywhere and I found them through idealist.org after a lot of searching for a good "not for profit" org to volunteer for in India.
Now I want other volunteers to read about their work and go help out if possible.
From my first email to Yearoutindia volunteer coordinators, there was constant communication with helpful travel tips & guidance which made me feel at ease with taking on a project with a volunteer run volunteering organisation like Yearoutindia. Was lucky to find an organisation like this among the hundreds of gap year companies charging huge fees.
The coordinator guided me - an 18 year old girl fresh out of college on my first ever trip outside Europe as to how to get our Indian visas, vaccinations and helped me to make sure I got everything done before I left. I was also sent a breakdown of how we'd spend our time with YOI which allowed me to prepare accordingly and was a great help in making my family feel more comfortable on sending me off half way around the world!!
My time in Kochi helped me to acclimatise and get used to the food and culture. Our guide (arranged by Yearoutindia) was amazing, taking us around all the sights and answering all of our questions (of which there were many). He helped us settle in and showed us many things that we weren't expecting.
The accommodation in Kochi, the tribal village and our home in Kanthaloor was incredibly comfortable and clean. I always felt safe knowing the staff were near by and always on hand if we needed help (like when a baby scorpion found its way into our room!).
The food was amazing. Every meal I felt like I had to eat as much as possible just because I knew I'd never taste anything like it again!! The transport between the programmes and from Kochi to and from the sites was very comfortable.
We got the opportunity to work at multiple project which was fantastic.
Our time in the the tribal village was incredibly enjoyable. The staff and people we worked with and met out there were incredibly supportive and made me feel very welcome and at ease. Manoj and Anil looked after us and helped to make me feel at home, giving me my first taste of Indian home cooking (and attempting to teach me) and showing and explaining tribal village life, creating memories I will never forget. It was un unexpected bonus to our time with YOI but I wouldn't change it for the world!
We met Subish in Kanthaloor. He was incredibly helpful, making it easy for us to settle into our new home and into our hectic roles in the school. He made the evenings and weekends fun, teaching me how to make many of his amazing curries (I eventually wrote all the recipes down and am sharing them with my family at home), introducing us to his family and taking us on walks around the surrounding area. He knew all the schools and teachers, was incredibly aware of everyone's needs and was always there when you needed him! He filled the role of both YOI staff (reliable and supportive) but also that of a friend.
The placement matched the programme details on the website and brochure exactly. I don't think any volunteer will be able to go out there knowing exactly what to expect but I believe that's what makes this organisation different from others. Not everything is laid out in stone and the easy, relaxed, everyone 'pitches in' atmosphere means it feels natural, so you walk away feeling like you've contributed and deserve to be one of the 'YOI worldwide volunteer family'.
At both project sites we had very few/close to no problems. Any improvements we thought should be made we felt able to voice at the time (like taps and clocks at the school) and were actively discussed.
All our ideas and contributions were taken on board, specifically our concerns of the hygiene of the children at our school resulting in us building taps by the toilets in our last week with YOI. It made me feel that I personally contributed to the school in a long term way that will affect both present and future pupils. Everything I said and any ideas I had were listened to and openly discussed.
I definitely want to keep in contact and work with the yearoutindia and the people I met out there in the future! I left Yearoutindia teaching & building projects after two months feeling like I'd left my extended family and friends behind. I hope I can return one day! As I was heading down under for my travels, was even put in touch with other ex volunteers in Australia & New Zealand - which was fantastic.
An organisation and project that I would recommend to everyone leaving school! All the best!