Volunteering With Children in India

by Marilyn Villanueva

The children of India are in high need as they consistently get lost in the continuously developing, and densely populated country. With a colorfully fascinating culture, composed of over one billion people, India is the second most populous country in the world. Despite the nation's fast economic growth, more than a quarter of the population earns very little. The high frequency of less than livable incomes results in long-standing, challenging socio-economic issues, such as poverty, malnutrition, poor health care, and often child trafficking.

Working with the Precious Children of India.
Working with the Precious Children of India. Photo by Gwen Gell

The Impact of Poverty on Children

Poverty is rampant throughout the nation, especially apparent in large slums areas and affecting children most greatly. With a limited amount of financial resources leading to an inability to provide enough food and other needs for the family, parents will often seek out any type of work to support the family, leaving older children (no matter the age) to look after their younger siblings. It is not an unusual sight in schools, to see children bringing their younger siblings along for the day. Although, most children given full responsibility of their younger siblings end up dropping out of school so they can care for them at home while their parents work. There are also a great number of street children (and even whole families) in metro areas, like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Chennai. Living on the streets is of course very dangerous for children because it puts them at a higher risk of abuse and unfortunate accidents that are often fatal.

Unique Opportunities for Growth

The build up of societal issues in India open up many volunteer opportunities for international participants, leading India to become one of the top destinations for students, couples, and even families to volunteer abroad. Volunteering with your children enables you to teach your children values, like thankfulness, and help them become a more understanding, open minded person. You can teach your children to grow emotionally through the challenges they encounter and strengthen your relationship with them, while helping them become more responsible.

Local Orphanages

Orphanages serve as a haven for street children and those who have lost their homes. Imagine a street child’s daily struggles to survive. One of the worst, yet often prevalent, challenges for children orphaned on the streets is extreme hunger, which usually results in stealing food or enduring mental, emotional, and even sexual abuse to fulfill the need for nourishment. Many children left orphaned on the street die of starvation or the consequences which come along with desperate hunger. Thanks to many NGOs and non-profit organizations, reaching out to these destitute children, a good number of children have been given the opportunity to transition into shelters and orphanages, which provide shelter, food, the ability to become literate, and various other basic needs.

At orphanages, volunteers can lend a hand in basic child care activities, including feedings, bathing, dressing, dental, and basic hygienic care. But they can also create fun, esteem boosting games to help the children move forward from their troubled pasts. For children who go to school, volunteers can help them work on assignments, projects, and other school related tasks to boost their academic success. It is not uncommon for volunteers to encounter children with behavioral difficulties, due to illness, disabilities, or a general lack of parental guidance over the course of their lifetime. Volunteers must recognize and take into account the experiences of the children prior to being placed in the orphanage in order to understand the child’s perspective fully. Most orphans grow up on the streets, and have therefore experienced a great deal of challenges, with no one to consistently take care of them. A great deal of understanding, patience, affection, kindness, and the ability to provide individual attention is needed in orphanage work. At the end of the day, it is important to provide orphans with a safe, positive environment to live in.

An Orphanage in India

One of the well-know orphanages in India is Divine Children's Home. The orphanage, founded by Alice Thomas, is located in Trivandrum on the west coast of India. It is also known as the "Evergreen city of India" referred to as by Mahatma Gandhi. There are close to 40 children most days, from infants and up. Children come from broken or very poor families and sometimes off the streets. All children ages three years old and above go to school while the younger ones are taken care of by the orphanage staff and volunteers.

A Beneficial Experience

Volunteers can stay with local host families or volunteer houses throughout their program duration in India. After hard, but fulfilling days of work, volunteers can take time to enjoy visiting the picturesque and fascinating places of India, such as the Taj Mahal, Charminar in Hyderabad, Bannerghatta National Park in Bangalore, or Gateway of India.

Every moment of your volunteer experience, from helping underprivileged children and poverty-stricken families to enjoying India's culture and tasting the local curries, will be worth all the time spent planning the trip. A trip to India will provide any volunteer with the opportunity to bring smiles to children's faces, and a meaningful travel experience packed with real cultural immersion.