The thought of traveling to India can be a bit intimidating for even the most seasoned of travelers. However, the myriad of cultural sensations that await are overwhelmingly rewarding, and most who venture to India will exclaim that it was one of the most impactful places they have ever traveled.
The region of Kerala, located on India’s south western corner, is a perfect place for any volunteer to ease into the enticing culture that India has to offer, while simultaneously making an impact on the local community.
Intrigued about the prospect and want to know what makes Kerala a great place to volunteer in India? Here are 10 reasons why you should volunteer in Kerala:
1. A Tantalizing Mix of Cultures
Kerala’s involvement in the spice trade has made it an important hub for international trade. Influences from the Chinese, Arabs, Portuguese, Dutch, and British have all had a substantial impact on the local culture.
Imagine a visit to Kochi city, which gives volunteers the opportunity to witness the use of giant Chinese fishing nets, visit ancient mosques, photograph traditional Portuguese architecture, and marvel at elaborate Hindu murals, all in one day.
2. An Overwhelming Variety of Ways to Get Involved
With areas of need widespread across the board there are many of ways to get involved as a volunteer in Kerala. For hands on participants there are construction programs, where volunteers can assist with building restoration or contribute to constructing flood paths in local slums. Women’s empowerment projects let volunteers help with self-esteem building workshops, teach career boosting skills, and assist with community building activities, such as henna painting and dancing classes. Finally, educators can get involved in both childcare volunteer placements as well as English teaching lessons.
3. Enough Natural Beauty to Turn Anyone into a Photographer
If it’s environmental diversity that you are after, Kerala is chock full of differing landscapes to explore.
Most famous for its 580 kilometers of coastline, volunteers should not miss out on the opportunity to dip their toes into the warm waters of Bekal, Varkala, Kovalam, and Andhakaranazhi beaches.
Travel inward and the region stuns with verdant green expanses of both spice and tea plantations. Also not to be missed is the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, a 345 square kilometer natural reserve where herds of elephants, elusive tigers, and showy peacocks all roam free.
4. A Chance to Proactively Contribute to the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals
India has the lowest reported income inequality gap among all emerging economies. This means volunteers will be met with quite startling glimpses into the realities of extreme poverty. That being said, Kerala has the highest literacy rates and life expectancy rates in all of India. This is due in part to both governmental and nonprofit initiatives that are thriving in the region. In order to keep these numbers up, talented and dedicated volunteers are in high demand in Kerala.
Contributing to the development of local organizations through volunteering in Kerala creates self sustaining change and produces long term solutions.
5. An Opportunity to Explore the Religious Wonder of India
Famous ashrams sprinkle the region, inviting visitors to engage in meaningful cultural exchange. The Matha Amrithanadamyi Mission is one that is especially not to be missed, as it is one of India’s few cultural centers with a female guru. Visitors can stop by for the day, partaking in regionally specific meals, ayurvedic treatments, as well as yoga and meditation sessions.
The majority of Kerala's population is Christian, but there is also a significant Muslim and Hindu influence, which all peacefully coexist within the state. This interesting religious dynamic is rare in India and makes for interesting explorations.
6. Of Course you Can’t Miss the Backwaters
One of the first activities that travelers are told to experience is the stunning backwaters of the region. Thirty-eight rivers feed into over 900 kilometers of waterways made up of canal, lagoons, and inlets. The region of Kerala is both a natural and cultural wonder just waiting to be experienced by international volunteers. Picture yourself cruising down the labyrinth of waterways taking in the swaying palm trees, watching the traditional rice boats pass by, and getting a glimpse into the riverside village life.
7. A Taste of Spice & Everything Nice
Start your day off with a warm cup of assam tea before you wander through one of Kerala’s famous spice markets, a dizzying treat for all of your senses.
When it comes to meal options, Kerala’s Muslim and Hindu influence make for an overwhelming variety of options. Vegetarians and meat eaters alike will be pleasantly satiated with options, ranging from Kerala style beef fry to thengapal (a vegetarian curry with a base of coconut milk).
8. Take Advantage of Budget Friendly Exploration
Spending a bit of time adventuring during your free time is completely feasible while volunteering in Kerala. Traveling to Kerala's main points of interest, eating a delicious and filling meal out on the town, and partaking in a wide variety of activities all won't break the bank. You can expect to spend around $3 for a mid-range three course meal, while a tour of the Munnar tea plantations will only set you back around $20.
9. A Place where Festivals Abound
Kerala’s numerous temples put on a host of traditional celebrations, musical performances, and religious festivals. Between August and September is the elaborately celebrated Oman festival, a ten-day long event comprised of kathakali dance, games, and enthralling boat races. With offerings on every couple of weeks, it is easy for volunteers to partake in a few different cultural events during their time in Kerala.
10. The Stats Speak for Themselves
Huge economic disparities exist among Kerala's different districts...
- While some parts of the state boast lower than 10 percent of their population living under the poverty line, other areas hit numbers closer to one-third.
- In 2006, it was estimated that less than 50 percent of females in Kerala aged 15 to 49 had completed their secondary education.
- Five of Kerala's largest corporations are responsible for generating almost 15 percent of the state's waste.
These numbers are both startling and overwhelming and make a hard case for the necessity of volunteers to join reputable organizations in their quest to make positive change in Kerala.
So what are you waiting for? Get involved in a diverse range of volunteer and internship opportunities in Kerala, India and start making a difference now! Choose to volunteer in Kerala in projects ranging from construction to education to healthcare to women’s empowerment.
This article was contributed by Global Vision International (GVI), an organization dedicated to connecting prospective volunteers with sustainable volunteer opportunities around the world. GVI supports local organizations that make a real impact on local communities, while providing volunteers with both personal and professional development.