Today, India is one of the most popular international destinations for volunteer work. There is good reason for that. India’s colorful culture, dramatic diversity and oftentimes profound poverty combine to create a volunteer experience like no other. With some careful planning and an open mind, volunteering in India can be exciting, educational and rewarding for all involved. Jaipur, a city of rich and royal history, offers opportunities for volunteers in many areas including women’s rights, community development, teaching, and healthcare. The contrast between the wealthy, developed, touristy areas of Jaipur and the sharp need of the city’s poor presents volunteers with a chance to experience and impact the daily lives of her citizens.
As a nation, India has developed and advanced rapidly in recent years. Jaipur, like many Indian cities, has seen growth and increased access to health centers and clinics. Still, there is a great need for more education and provision of health care, especially in the areas of infectious disease, sanitation, and hygiene.
For those interested in volunteering in the health sector, there are a wide variety of options available, ranging from actual clinic work to public health, research and community education. Oftentimes healthcare volunteers are required to have some related training, however, this is not always the case.
Recently, India has gotten a lot of international media attention for gender inequality issues. While this is certainly not a new problem for the country, this attention has opened many doors for volunteers interested in working toward the promotion of gender equality.
In Jaipur, gender equality volunteer opportunities often include work coaching or educating women in marketable skills (computer competency, home industries), personal hygiene, and reading/writing. Jaipur has a booming tourism industry and as such, many community members have been exposed to international travelers who display and encourage gender equality. Such exposure makes Jaipur a fertile environment for educating and empowering women.
Because Jaipur volunteer projects include rural and urban areas, this is a very broad category that includes such projects as teaching English in schools, providing childcare for over-burdened families or orphanages, and reaching out to the many street children who must work to survive and thus do not attend school. To be successful in youth support or education programs, volunteers need to be ready and willing to share their enthusiasm, guidance, and love with children.
Jaipur is a popular destination for international travelers and volunteers. This popularity, and Jaipur’s easy access to India’s capital city, New Delhi, mean that there is a great support network in place for foreign volunteers. A well-established volunteer organization (these are the type you should look for!) will provide much-needed support to volunteers including on-site staff to help answer questions and help in communication with the locals.
In addition to this support, your country’s embassy will be located in New Delhi, an easy train ride from Jaipur. (Travel Health) Since Jaipur such an international destination, there are many local organizations established to help support travelers and volunteers which will be a great resource while you are on location.
Even large hotels or train stations will be able to provide information, maps, and advice to help make your visit more comfortable and to help ease your transition into India society.
Requirements & Things to Know Before You Go:
Volunteers to India should definitely read up on cultural practices and expectations before traveling to the country. This is especially important for volunteers, who often find themselves dealing with sensitive subjects like health care, women’s rights, and youth education. The last thing you want to do is to offend the very people you came to help because of poor preparation.
Examples of cultural practices to know before you go may include: what clothing is appropriate where (when to cover your head, remove your shoes, etc.), what subjects are sensitive or even taboo (and how to broach those subjects when the need arises), how to accept gifts and when to offer them to others.
There are many required or strongly recommended vaccines and medications for travelers to India; be sure to speak to your doctor well in advance of your travels. It is also not recommended that travelers drink tap water in Jaipur (or anywhere in India) without filtering or purifying the water first.
Carefully research visa requirements well in advance of your trip. It can be exceedingly difficult to obtain a volunteer visa to India, and many volunteers find it easier and more practical to apply for a tourist visa instead.
Questions to Ask:
The better prepared you are before arriving in Jaipur, the happier you will be.
Ask your volunteer organization about your housing arrangements: how close will you be to your volunteer site? Will you share the space with others? Is there reliable plumbing and electricity? Will meals be provided? What type of neighborhood or community is your housing in?
It is recommended that you ask for details about your volunteer work as well: Are there materials that you need to bring with you? Will you be expected to be out after dark? Will transportation be provided? If applicable, will proper sanitation or security resources be available? What will an average day include?
Health and Safety of Volunteers in Jaipur:
Volunteers will need vaccinations in order to travel to Jaipur. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention has an excellent website detailing necessary vaccines and other health precautions. (Center for Disease Control and Prevention.) Volunteers are encouraged to begin their preparations early as possible, as some vaccines are given in a series and can take some time to complete.
While volunteers can live and work safely and happily in Jaipur, some precautions are necessary.
It is important for volunteers to remember that Jaipur is a city of extremes, of great wealth and great poverty. As such, foreigners can often be seen as sources of easy money. Volunteers should be aware of their surroundings, conscious of the attention that they are drawing and keep an eye on their belongings.
As a general rule, volunteers should not travel alone or after dark. Women should never put themselves in a situation where they are the only woman on a street, in a bus, or in a restaurant. Volunteers should avoid contact with stray dogs, monkeys, or other animals on the street.
Contributed by Maxine Marshall