• India
    • Delhi
    • Rishikesh

Program Details

Age Min.
Guesthouse Host Family Hostel Tent
Small Group (1-15)


Starting Price
Price Details
Our program fee includes all on-the-ground costs including a comprehensive program itinerary, accommodations, meals excursions, and experienced program leaders with you 24 hours a day. This does not include flights, insurance, or personal expenses such as souvenirs.

We are committed to financial accessibility. Our Financial Needs Grant can cover 15-25% of your five- or six-week program fee and is available for anyone experiencing financial strain.
What's Included
Accommodation Activities Meals Transportation
What's Not Included
Airfare Travel Insurance Visa
Jul 15, 2022
May 23, 2018
42 travelers are looking at this program

About Program

Ask any traveler – India is one of the most intense places in the world when you first arrive. It is an enigma of a country that weaves its ancient past so uniquely into its modern and progressive present. It can embody all the beauty, the sadness, and the intrigue in the world. We hope to facilitate the opportunity for you to challenge yourself and understand why it is such a powerful and distinct place.

At Operation Groundswell, our programs explore various social justice issues like gender equality, environmental sustainability, and access to education. We examine these vast and nuanced issues with local experts and activists, through our work with partner organizations and through our volunteer experiences.

Few other countries are as challenging on your body and your mind. Packed with bitter-sweet contradictions, you will often find yourself as frustrated as you have ever been in one moment and contemplating the beauties of life over sweet chai tea in the next. Ready?

Video and Photos

Program Highlights

  • Broaden your understanding of the complex reality of gender in India by examining some of the religious, cultural, and historical contexts that define this vast landscape, and by collaborating with organizations working to challenge the status quo.
  • Visit Macleod Ganj, home to the Tibetan government in exile, the official residence of the Dalai Lama, & the focal point of the Tibetan refugee community. Explore the history and mission of the Tibetan diaspora, and why Tibet is & was worth fighting for.
  • Collaborate with a charitable eco-tourism initiative working to blend modern sustainable farming approaches to ancient sustainable practices.
  • Hike to remote villages in the breathtaking Spiti Valley and discover the Buddhist communities, culture, and religion of the uniquely beautiful Himalayan plateau.
  • Explore a piece of the vibrant, historic Himachali culture by getting to know the people, the food, and the language of a hill station in the Himalayas.

Related Programs

Program Reviews

4.92 Rating
based on 13 reviews
  • 5 rating 92.31%
  • 4 rating 7.69%
  • 3 rating 0%
  • 2 rating 0%
  • 1 rating 0%
  • Impact 4.7
  • Support 5
  • Fun 4.85
  • Value 4.95
  • Safety 4.65
Showing 1 - 8 of 13 reviews
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Yes, I recommend this program

OG India

Participating in this program gave me a whole new worldview. Discovering new things about the world, other people and cultures, and yourself, will inspire you and fuel the fire towards creating a better world! All while making incredible friends and connections that will last a lifetime. Being abroad alone is scary, especially when the culture is so different and you don’t speak the language. Being able to immerse yourself in a group of people that are going through the same things helps, because not only is their support there and vice-verca, but each person can provide a varied perspective on different matters, and the sharing of ideas between each other further broadens your mind and enriches the experience. The level of awareness we gained while in India is phenomenal, and the encounters we had are exactly why we all want to travel. This program made me feel like I can do anything, it brought out qualities in myself that I hoped I had but had never had the chance to put into action! The best thing about it was getting to spend 6 weeks with 13 people from all around the world, from different backgrounds and feeling like you couldn’t live without them (awfully bittersweet).

What would you improve about this program?
It can’t.
128 people found this review helpful.
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Yes, I recommend this program

OG Mind & Body:

One of the most impressionable 2 weeks of my life will be the time spent in northern India with Operation Groundswell. After traveling several times with a volunteer abroad organization over the years I was initially drawn to OG’s “traveling with a purpose” message as that is something I deeply resonate with. Then seeing that one of their programs was in India, a country I’ve dreamed about visiting since I was young, and that it incorporated the country’s rich traditional practices of yoga and meditation into the program, I knew that I was supposed to be on that trip. Over the course of those 2 weeks that feeling of synchronicity was justified time and again.

India is not a country that one can jump into lightly, I was challenged initially by the intense climate and pollution but more so by trying to understand the controversial societal norms surrounding gender and class that are deeply rooted in India’s culture.

One of the reasons that OG stands out among the many other volunteer abroad organizations is its dedication to focus on the participants growth of knowledge through experience of the country’s social, economic, political, and environmental challenges through direct involvement with NGOs they partner with. The partners we worked with and learned from gave such a personal insight into India’s challenging caste system that systematically leaves so many uneducated and in poverty. But the partners we worked with are actively striving to confront the unjust system and bring education and healthcare opportunities to those it’s been denied.

The second reason are the incredibly competent, open minded and hearted Program Leaders OG places in each program. My program had a few things go wrong that threatened the overall positive experience of the trip but what brought peace and security back to our group were our amazing PLs and their clear and focused problem solving abilities that always put the group’s safety and concerns first. The trip would surely not have been the same without our PLs and I have OG to thank for putting those truly incredible women in my life.

My favorite memory is of time I spent learning a Bollywood dance and performing it for the children at the organic farm we spent a week at near Rishikesh that gives refuge and education to children of India’s lowest caste.

Being in India those 2 weeks with some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met allowed me to be challenged and ultimately grow in ways that will affect the way I live as a global citizen and practice as a spiritual person for the rest of my life. For that I will always be grateful and will continue to recommend OG to those who are looking to join the “backpactivist” movement.

My only regret is that I did not stay longer.

-Treva Appugliese

What would you improve about this program?
Longer trip dates for the India mind and body program!
119 people found this review helpful.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Experiencing Gender and Religion in India

My experience in India over this summer changed how I saw the world and the kind of impact I wanted to make in it. I learnt a lot about my self as well as other cultures, and was challenged to new levels mentally. Some of the toughest parts of the program were actually perhaps the best things of the trip, such as the 11 days we spent in rural Rajasthan. Working with local organisations was a perfect way to immerse ourselves in the culture, and participate in it the way locals do, and with the locals. While you cannot escape the fact that you are a tourist, OG encourages you to be a responsible tourist, and if not able to have a positive impact, to at least reduce and be aware of the positive impact you can have. It gives you confidence as a person, and the independent travel time was the perfect way to put everything we learnt into practice, and demonstrated how much we had learnt and changed over the 6 weeks.

This program is certainly not perfect, and there were several occasions where the ethics of what we were doing came into question, despite the fact we had come precisely because we did not want to be "voluntourists". Cross-cultural communication was challenged, and it was sometimes easy to feel as though we weren't being listened to, by OG or the organisations we were working with. Several of the discussion activities felt prescriptive, as if we were doing them for no other reason than them being part of the itinerary.

One thing to note is the programs will have an impact on you more than the communities you work in. The primary aim, as far as us could tell, was to educate you as the participant, rather than attempting to change the state of education or the Tibetan refugee crisis in 6 weeks flat. However, it is immensely worthwhile and rewarding, and I have made some amazing friends out of it.

What would you improve about this program?
Several of the discussions we had felt a little forced and constructed, adhering too strongly to the activities rather than letting the conversation flow naturally and go where it wanted to. This was my main issue with the project. While I understand there are time limits, I think there should have been more time dedicated to them, particularly some of the more intense and complex discussions. On the discussions where we were having the most intense and lively debates which people clearly cared about the most, several times they were cut short or re-routed.
127 people found this review helpful.
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Yes, I recommend this program

India: Mind and Body

I enrolled on the India: Mind and body program without really knowing what to expect. I was simply hoping to be thrown out of my comfort zone... and oh boy, was I ever!

OG puts a lot of emphasis on cultural immersion and traveling in a simple and humble way. So, our accommodations were modest and we took sleeper trains and rickshaws to get from place to place. We had a lot of opportunities to learn from the culture and practices of India through structured activities, but I also felt like we had a good amount of free time.
There was a fairly last minute change to the itinerary, which altered the program quite a bit. Rather than staying in the Rishikesh area, we ended up spending a week farther up in the Himalayas on the Ramana's Garden farm. There, we had a lot of time to do service projects and to get to know the many wonderful people there. We also had a lot of time to discuss our impact, and how we could make the experience mutually beneficial for ourselves as well as our hosts. Things didn't go 100% smoothly, but what held the program together was the amount of love and support between all the people in our group, as well as our program leaders. They all became sisters to me, and I wouldn't want to have shared the experience with anyone else.
India was tough for me. The sensory overload, the heat, the lack of toilet paper, etc. was overwhelming at first. However, one I got into the swing of things, I found the whole experience to be both profoundly beautiful and humbling.
If you're thinking about going on an OG program, do it! You won't regret it.

What would you improve about this program?
Less time in Delhi, more time in the mountains!
126 people found this review helpful.
Yes, I recommend this program

For those who are not afraid to expect nothing, and everything

The 40 days I spent in India with Operation Groundswell (OG) encompassed some of the most challenging, rewarding, and beautiful experiences of my life. No other volunteer organization to my knowledge quite matches OG in terms of transparency, ethical travelling, and all-around mindfulness; from the itinerary, the leaders, community partnership, to volunteering. This program is best suited for a young activist/student (not necessarily in school, but a learner of all kinds) who seeks to challenge their own perceptions and ideas, immerse oneself in the comforts & discomforts of another peoples' culture, and mainly, expand their mental and spiritual space in a constructive way, and do so in a particularly striking physical space that is the Himalayas. The scenery across the mountains is breathtakingly beautiful; and the best part is weaving your own spirit into its beauty by climbing it yourself, driving along its ranges, catching sunrises, rafting down the river, sleeping under the stars, and much more. You will discover so much about yourself and the world, and you will gain much appreciation about the environment within which you discovered these truths in.

132 people found this review helpful.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Making Connections

Bonding and making connections with people is something I value, be it when I'm traveling or at a coffee shop; it's what I live for. This program brought both to the table. I was able to bond and make connections with my team, with the locals, with the surroundings, and even with the spirituality that saturated the country. I had never experienced bonding like that before. But, going into the program with an open mind, excitement, and making one of my main goals bonding and making connections, really paved the way for that to happen.

Within the first three days, the whole team had bonded, and the bonding took place over the topic of fecal matter! But it helped make us a cohesive group. We were able to be vulnerable with each other, confront each other if there was an issue, and bring things to the table at group meetings that we may have been struggling with and discuss it without feeling any judgement.

When we started working with Students For a Free Tibet, I felt so strongly about reaching out to the community beyond those we were working with, to really grasp the Tibet/China diaspora. By doing this, I made connections with people who I'm still in contact with, who I consider friends. I was able to learn about their personal struggles, learn more about their fight for Tibet, and most importantly, learn how to listen and be an ally.

The scenery in Northern India is absolutely breathtaking! You have mountains surrounding you, lush trees, waterfalls, flowers galore, a cold dessert, and stars in Spiti that look like they were freshly painted because of how bright and clear they were against that dark expanse of sky. I felt so alive when I would take it all in. I felt so grounded and yet so free. I felt balanced. I can't even describe how incredible it felt. It made me connect with the nature and spirituality that was there. It was such an overwhelming feeling.

My connections and bonding experiences could not have happened had it not been for the PL's making me feel so welcome and able to achieve them, and had it not been for the group bonding as quickly as is did. Operation Groundswell does a hell of a good job when they choose Program Leaders. They are able to really help bring you out of your shell, help expose you to new ideas for you to consider, which help you be open to connections and bonding experiences. OG facilitates such incredible programs that should you choose to join one, you will not be disappointed. The people you will travel with will always strive to help you achieve your goals. They did for me.

What would you improve about this program?
I would love for this program to be longer than six weeks, that way we could have more time to have Independent Travel Time within the program time. I realize it could be done after the program, but as a first timer, I liked the feeling of having the option of contacting them should something go wrong. But yeah, bottom line, longer than six weeks and more time fort ITT.
121 people found this review helpful.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Becoming a 'Backpacktivist'

I landed in India ready for my Operation Groundswell Gender & Religion trip with no idea what to expect (mmm except crowds, heat & for my curry addiction to get worse...). However, I am glad I had no idea because I never could've imagined the unbelievable journey I was about to embark on.

On my trip I got to travel with the most beautiful people (S/O to all my OG family that I still talk to & visit), have the most remarkable trip leaders (who have become significant role models for so so many - if not all - of us trippers), and experience and learn so much. We were faced with hard truths, tall mountains, flat tires, and a little bit of Delhi Belly, but all of this was worth it, especially with the unwavering support from our new family, and the locals we met and stayed with.

Operation Groundswell gives people the opportunity to travel in an ethical manner, to meet and have deep, impactful conversations with locals and local organizations, to become a more engaged global citizen, and to grow into a 'backpacktivist' alongside wonderful new friends (...family)!

I will never forget my experience and everything that I learnt in India still resonates with me, and still impacts my daily decisions.

What would you improve about this program?
On this program we travelled around a lot, and got to work with many organizations and people, to learn about gender and religion in India. This was amazing, as we got to learn from so many inspiring and knowledgable people, however it was a lot of bouncing around in 6 weeks!!
It would've been nice to have one partner that we worked with for a little longer, but I wouldn't change anything about my time with Operation Groundswell!
131 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

The best was to spend a summer!

Going on this adventure was a last minute decision for me, but one of the best decisions of my life! I made friends that I still talk to every day and I am positive I will travel with later in life. I got to experience Northern India through the people that live there, rather than just as an outsider looking in. I got to eat some of the best food I've ever had. And I came home with a greater understanding of who I was.

OG's Gender and Religion program is a whirlwind of adventure and an absolutely amazing time! It is a 6 week trip that is so jam-packed if feels like it goes by two days. We hiked through the Himalayas, got lost on the Delhi subway system, met the Karmapa, got head-butted by cows, lived with a local family, and had countless laughs on endless train rides. I can't help but smile when I look back on my trip and have suggested and would suggest it to anyone!

Some logistics... OG as an organization is amazing! All my questions were answered, I had support every minute leading up to and while on trip. They aren't lying when they say they have the whole tripped planned for you. Our program leaders were some of the raddest people I have ever met, and they had our schedule planned down to the minute. They knew where we were going to eat, had medication when we needed it, and went above and beyond to provide support 24 hours a day. And somehow they did this all without feeling like leaders, they were just our friends.

I had done a fair bit of travelling before going on this trip, and I always had something to complain about when I got back. But reminiscing on this trip, there really isn't anything I would change. I would do it all again in a heartbeat!

124 people found this review helpful.

Questions & Answers

Thank you for your question! As a non-profit we keep our program fees as low as we possibly can in an effort to maintain accessibility, but we understand that international travel can be expensive, and that they may still be inaccessible to some. These fees do cover quite a bit, including on-the-ground expenses like all meals, accommodations, transportation, excursions, entrances to historical...