In January 2014 I volunteered for two weeks in Goa, India. I had the experience of my life; I loved meeting the other volunteers, exploring the area during the introduction week, spending time at the projects and learning so much about not only Indian culture but the cultures of the volunteers around me as well. I can’t say that I have a favourite part of the journey, the whole this was incredible and suited me down to the ground!
A day in life at the projects:
So you actually got to choose two projects; a morning project and an afternoon project. I chose the women’s outreach program and the children’s slum. Breakfast is served from 7:00am to 8:30am and the cars to the projects leave at around 9:00am. None of this is concrete however (so if you sleep in you won’t miss out, they will wait for you!). For the first few days of the project you are generally accompanied by one of the coordinators or another of the staff from the house.
At the Women’s Outreach Program we started with some exercises. We sometimes incorporated some yoga or meditation, and then moved on to our activity of the day. The women enjoyed card games and were very interested in learning any new games we had from our home countries. We always offered card games but also offered a different activity, such as painting or drawing. Unique activities are much appreciated, and it is obvious that these women have done a lot of art before. We brought along some biscuit decorating equipment which they enjoyed very much! The first project only goes for a few hours, and you are back at the house by around 11:30am. This is flexible as well, you are able to arrive at the project earlier and leave later if you want to! You have a while before lunch is served (any time between 12:00am and 12:30am) and don’t leave for the next project until about 2:00pm.
At the Slum Project the volunteers visit a 'classroom’ of sorts that the local slum children attend every day. This is not an actual school, and some of the kids do attend the local primary school, although for many of them this is the only education they get. You spend your time teaching the children english, maths, and a variety of other subjects. There is no real syllabus, and you have a lot of leeway with what you teach the kids. After almost two hours in the classroom the volunteers bring a snack which they hand out to the children. After the snack the kids head down to the field nearby and play games with a ball that the volunteers provide.
The afternoon project ends at around 4:00pm, so you actually have the entire evening to do whatever you please. I spent some of this time exploring the local markets, heading out for dinner with the volunteers, and so much more! The volunteers don’t have to be home until 10:00am, but the coordinators are very flexible, and even allowed our group to come home at 2am once!
My favourite thing about the entire volunteering experience was the relaxed atmosphere. The volunteers are given a lot of free time to explore the area on their own, and the house rules are very laid back. You are also given a lot of free reign when it comes to the projects; as I said before you can extend the hours at each project if you desire, and you can introduce really anything that you want. Any activity that you can think of can be introduced in your particular project! You can ever initiate routines within the projects, for future volunteers to carry out after you leave. The biggest accomplishment that our group achieved while volunteering was the introduction of toothbrushes to the slum children. One afternoon we went into the local market and bought 40 toothbrushes, a lot of hand sanitiser, and toothpaste. The next day we came to the slum and gave each child a toothbrush. Before their snack we got them all to wash their hands, and after their snack we had them all line up and brush their teeth. Many of the kids hadn’t done this before, and the minty flavour was something very foreign and not altogether pleasant for a few of them. Hearing back from the volunteers that stayed on longer than us the toothbrushing and the hand washing was something that stuck, and it is still a daily routine for all of the kids.
This experience is something that has changed me so much, and I am so glad that I found this website! I did this project just before my final year at high school and it has given me so much motivation and life experience that I will take with me for the rest of my life! GoEco is one of the only organisations that accepts volunteers from 17 years of age, and I’m so glad that they do or I wouldn’t have been able to attend the project! GoEco took care of everything, and answered any questions that I had about the project or my travel plans. I would definitely (and probably will) travel through them again!
I recommend this project to everyone!