Detailed Travel Guide: Volunteer Travel in India in 2021

  • By: Nikita
  • Date: April 30, 2021
  • Time to read: 7 min.

Volunteering is a great way to explore, learn, expand, blend and absorb the true essence of travelling. If your idea of travel echoes with finding communities, meeting people, giving back to society, volunteer travel is the best way to do it. 

The volunteer travel culture in India is gradually taking shape. In this vast country, there are a plethora of opportunities and possibilities for volunteers, solo & budget travellers. 

Volunteer travel is a perfect balance of exploring diverse places while saving money. If you are a budget traveller, looking for affordable travel options, volunteering is an ideal way to embark on this journey. 

Keep reading to know more about volunteering in India, how you can do it and where to find opportunities. 

What is Volunteer Travel 

Voluntourism is gaining popularity all over the world. It’s a fun mix of work and travel. It is an immersive experience of cultures, local life and skill exchange. Volunteer travel primarily is a barter of skills in exchange for food/accommodation or both.

As a volunteer, there are a wide array of work modules available to you. From hourly teaching to managing properties, working with animal rescue NGOs to women development projects, you get to pick the right fit for you. 

In India, there are various mainstream and small/remote organizations working closely with the local communities, environment, in development projects and hospitality sector. You can explore this way of travel more deeply with the kind of work you want to do, the place you want to visit and the duration of your trip

The process of finding the organization 

While the process of finding the organization is exhausting it is just as exciting. Cutting down the whole process into tiny steps will help you ease into a whole new world of travel. 

If you think Voluntourism is the right fit for you, here’s how you can do it. 

  1. Make a list of the skills you can offer 

The first key step that will help you determine the where what, why and how is making a list of skills you can offer and the things you would like to do. List out all your skills, narrow it down by asking, “ can others benefit from it?” 

This will give you a list of precise skills. If you are good with graphics and computers, look for opportunities in NGOs running campaigns or fundraisers. If you love talking to people, apply for a position in hostels and homestays. From management to teaching, and hosting to farming, there are a million things you can do with the skills you already have. 

  1. Shortlist the destination for your travel 

  • What time of the year you’re planning to travel
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Summer is the best time to travel to North India and early winter/winter is ideal to plan a trip to the south. Another important factor is the peak working period for the organization you choose. For example, if you want to volunteer in schools, check for holidays, summer/winter breaks. If you want to work at a hostel, check the peak travel season for that destination

  • For how long are you planning to stay? 

If you’re looking for a short-term volunteering gig, travelling too far from your city is not feasible. Look for nearby options to cut down on your travel time. For short term opportunities, search for clean-up drives, community events, workshop management, etc. 

  • How much flexibility you want in terms of time and workload 

If this is your first time volunteering or visiting a place, look for opportunities with less workload and flexible modules. For example, hourly language classes. This will give you enough time to explore the place, get an idea of volunteer travel and enough free time to do other things. 

  • Why do you want to volunteer?  

This is one of the key elements before shortlisting a destination. Volunteer travel is perfect for budget travellers, solo travellers, nature enthusiast and extroverts. Experiment with what works for you and what doesn’t, you might find something new in the process. 

  1. Find the right organization

Once you have figured out and finalized your destination, finding the right organization is simple. You can use dedicated platforms such as Workaway or Gooverseas to save time on this. If not, Google searches, Facebook groups, Tripoto community are good places to start looking for an organization. 

When you travel, keep building a network to find opportunities for your upcoming destinations. Talk to people, approach travellers, and connect with co-volunteers to find newer destinations and opportunities. 

  1. Send a pitch 

How to send a pitch (With sample pitch) 

  1. Find the best medium for approaching the organization. (E-mails, Phones, forms or in-person ) 
  2. Read about the organization and write what you understood about the organisation in your application. 
  3. Give the details about the dates and duration of your travel.
  4. Mention all the skills you can offer. Make sure that those skills are relevant to what they do.
  5. Write about why you are interested in working with them, on a personal and social level. 
  6. Brief them about what you expect in exchange for your time and services. 
  7. Ask questions about their work expectations from volunteers. 
  8. Attach a clear and easy CTA (Call to Action)
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Hi, this is Jane from Odissa. I came across your NGO’s profile through the ‘XYZ’ platform. I appreciate the work your organization is doing for the refugees and would love to contribute to the cause as a volunteer. I would like to join your organization as a teacher during the winter program. I can teach English, social science and geography to kids between 10 and 17. I will be landing on the 3rd of December and will extend my stay as per your needs. I want to work as a volunteer with you because your organisations’ vision aligns with my values of compassion, learning and happiness. 

I’m currently pursuing honours in English and add value to learning with literary insights. As a student, I cannot plan my stay in a hotel for a long duration. Please let me know if you can accommodate me in your hostel. Although I have read the responsibilities of a volunteer, please let me know if there is anything else I need to know before my arrival. You can reach out to me on the same email or the number given below. Looking forward to joining your organization soon. 

Thank you.

  1. Wait for the response  

After sending a pitch to the organization, your work is done. Wait for a response from the organization or send them a follow-up email after a week. Sometimes your email may not reach the right person or might get lost in spam. Try to find other ways of contacting, if you don’t get a response. In most cases, organizations reply in a week but NGOs working in remoter regions take longer. 

Where to find the organization accepting volunteers 

  1. Google 

Browsing through Google is the simplest way to find the organization. Keywords such as, 

  • Volunteering opportunities in India 
  • Where to volunteer in India 
  • Volunteer for free in India 
  • Long term volunteering in India 

are a great way to start searching. You can also look for a list of NGOs and go to their independent websites to get more information about their volunteer program. Try narrowing down your search to one location, it saves a lot of time and makes the process easier. Check this website to find free volunteering opportunities in India. 

  1. Social media platforms, Travel Forums & Online Travel Communities 
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There are various groups on Facebook for volunteers, budget travellers, and travel forums. Join a few relevant groups to stay updated. There are several global communities on Instagram, LinkedIn and Tripoto, where you can find information. Surfing through blogs is a great way to explore availability, destination info and more. 

  1. Workaway 

If you are a frequent traveller, Workaway is a great investment for you. You can find new opportunities every day all across the globe. The annual subscription fee is $44/year which gives you access to over 50000 volunteering opportunities. You can find various resources, such as blogs, community forum, 24/7 support to help you plan a trip as a volunteer. 

Workaway makes it easier to find your fit, that matches your skills and expectations. 

  1. Gooverseas 

Gooverseas is a platform for volunteers looking for teaching opportunities worldwide. It is a great platform for people on a sabbatical, gap-years students, volunteer travellers and backpackers. They have multiple online programs to help expand your skills and knowledge about volunteer travel. 

  1. Worldpackers  

Worldpackers is curated for volunteers looking for work opportunities in hostels, homestays, holistic centres. If you like hosting people, connecting with travellers and looking for volunteer work in the hospitality niche, you can find all the information at Worldpackers. If you think working in hostels is your thing, you can get their yearly subscription at 49 dollars, with access to other opportunities. 

List of top NGOs for Volunteer Travel in India 

  1. Sikkim Himalayan Academy 

Nature of Work: Teaching kids (Art & Craft, Languages, Dance & Music)

Best way to contact: Phone (+91-9733441923)

Location: Panitanki Dara Bariakhop 737121, Sikkim India

Minimum duration: No specifications 

  1. Dharamalaya 

Nature of Work: Environmental awareness, sustainable living 

Best way to contact: Website application 

Location: Dhanaari, Keori, Himachal Pradesh 176125 

Minimum Duration: Short term and long term programs (minimum 4 months) 

  1. Auroville 

Nature of Work: Various programs of diverse niches 

Best way to contact: Official website 

Location: Auroville, Tami Nadu 

Minimum duration: 1 month 

  1. Disha 

Nature of Work: Teaching therapy 

Best way to contact: NGO website 

Location: Jaipur, Rajasthan 

Minimum duration: No specifications 

  1. Zostel 

Nature of Work: Property host 

Best way to contact: Volunteer application

Location: Country-wide 

Minimum duration: 2 weeks 

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