How to volunteer in India

Children supported by Paper Kite

I had a chance to sit down and chat with Tarik Kadri the founder of Paper Kite Children’s Foundation, one of the many charities in India. This one uses Canada as a home base to gather volunteers and funds, then does yearly trips to the Bihar region of India to help designated orphanages.

My recent and first trip to India has brought a few folks to my virtual doorstep to find out more about traveling the country and volunteering so I was eager to chat with Tarik about his perspective.

First things first

If you’ve never been to the country, go see it first before committing to volunteering. You need to experience it to get a feel for what’s there and how things work. And I’d suggest going with a minimal plan so that as you discover things of interest you’ll be free to explore them rather than bound by a schedule.

Do your research

While you’re there talk to folks, both locals and foreigners about their experiences. Follow leads that will take you places and people that can inform you. Ask questions on how things work and see them for yourself. There are a lot of ashrams in India and many of them will have a variety of ways you can help. There’s a lot of corruption in India and in the charity world, but there’s a lot of good work going on as well. You just need to do your research.

Then when you’re home you can follow up, as I did with Tarik and others I met along the way. You can also help by simply sharing your experiences with others.

There are many forms of volunteering

I did a deep dive with Tarik on his needs for Paper Kite and he identified these:

  • In Canada there are 3 things: give funds, advocate (raise awareness and fundraise), and volunteer (help with events or the organization). The best volunteers do all three. As little as 5 hours a month makes a difference.
  • In India – You can join one of their trips and help in many ways. Their trips are generally 2-3 weeks but the longer you stay the more value you can provide.
    • Purchasing – they take board-approved funds are taken to India to purchase goods and services needed by the orphanages. Local purchasing is done and the logistics are supervised. You can help with purchasing (especially if you speak the language, understand the customs and can drive a good bargain) or the logistics.
    • Teaching – teachers of almost any subject are needed. Short or long term teaching can be accommodated. If you can stay for 6-12 months, the school will provide housing and food.
    • Translation services
    • Research – studies of orphanages, local needs, assessments and more
    • Marketing and public relations – gathering of stories and images/videos that can be used for marketing campaigns as well as ongoing marketing and PR support

Next trip to India for Paper Kite is December 2012. To find out more see paperkitefoundation.com or visit them on Facebook.

I’ve written this from an India-centric perspective and using Paper Kite as an example but there are many causes and many countries including our own that can use your help. I just hope that my quest has helped inspire yours.

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