I have participated in two volunteer trips with Developing World Connections (DWC), once to Cambodia as a team member and once to India as a team leader. I found the five week volunteer experience in India to be an incredibly fulfilling adventure, with a very meaningful and organized project to work on, many cultural experiences, and an overwhelmingly kind and welcoming host partner, Youth Touch.
DWC worked with myself and the host partner’s leader for a year prior to organize trip details and provide me with training and resources while I recruited volunteers and organized fundraisers, etc. I highly recommend applying to become a Student Trip Leader with DWC if you would like to improve your leadership and communication skills, meet new people and of course, participate in a life-changing volunteer experience in a developing country. There is no past volunteer experience necessary to lead a Student Volunteer Trip with DWC, although the experience I had volunteering in Cambodia certainly helped. Student Trips’ through DWC are 4-5 weeks in length and held through May-Aug. for participants aged 15-29.
Our project in Sikar, India was to help build a three-story children’s home just outside of the city and near the poorest area within the region. The home was going to be used by Youth Touch to house gifted students who expressed interest in focusing on their studies, and whose parents had given their consent. The goal of the home was allow ~80 students from the poor slums of Sikar to live, study and be cared for in an environment that would accommodate their learning and development. The well-educated young adults would be candidates for well-paying government jobs and would be able to support their families still living in the slums, thus breaking the cycle of poverty.
Our group helped a mason and construction workers carry rocks, sand and other supplies from piles to where the foundation was being laid. We used large metal bowls and formed a chain, handing bowls off to one another. A runner would collect the bowls and bring them back to the start of the chain. This technique really added to our team spirit! We worked in shifts, one in the morning and one in the evening; we couldn’t work during mid-day because it was too hot. Although the work could be strenuous at times, breaks were encouraged and taken for water or for anyone who required a little extra rest.
The Youth Touch organization in Sikar was lead by an inspiring and kind leader, who ensured his guests and volunteers who stayed in his home were well cared for and comfortable. Meals were cooked by our leader’s wife and his sister-in-laws. The food was authentic and delicious. All of our food concerns and preferences were taken into account by the family who worked with us to ensure our needs were met. During our mid-day break from work, the leader of Youth Touch would engage our group in activities that familiarized us with the culture and ways of life in India. We dressed up in traditional clothing, learned how to cook our favourite dishes, and were given lessons on the social traditions, geography, Hindu religion and their language.
On weekends, we would travel around the Rajasthan area and visited monuments, temples, and cities, including the Taj Mahal in Agra. A highlight included an overnight camel back safari through the desert, and visiting Udaipur, known as the “Venice of India”. These excursions were not planned through DWC but instead through Youth Touch. As a trip leader, I researched tourist destinations and through recommendations by the Youth Touch leader and suggestions from other group members, we decided on a final list of destinations and activities to do on our weekends off from work. The Youth Touch leader budgeted costs (which were incredibly reasonable!) and planned an itinerary for these excursions.
When we left India after the five weeks we all agreed that we left with a very good understanding of the region and all felt that we had contributed to a very worth while organization that was hugely impacting the lives of some of the poorest children and their families in Sikar. India was an incredibly beautiful and fascinating country that stole our hearts. We all would like to return some day soon!
Overall, I highly recommend participating in Developing World Connections trips, either as a trip participant or leader, especially to Sikar, India with the non-profit organization and host partner, Youth Touch.