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.
Here are four things you *must* know before you volunteer with street children in India.
1. 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.
2. You'll experience 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.
3. Many India orphanages could benefit from extra hands
Orphanages serve as a haven for street children in India 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.
4. It's 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.
Next steps to volunteer with children abroad in India
Now that you have the inside scoop, know where many volunteers choose to spend their time, and know common causes that volunteers are working to eradicate, it's time to choose who you want to volunteer abroad with! Choosing a program isn't as hard as it sounds, especially if you follow these steps:
Decide where to go. Figuring out where YOU should volunteer in India is paramount. Have a short list of locations that sound ideal for your goals and skills (i.e. if you don't have experience working with animals, you might reconsider volunteering in Kruger National Park). Don't let the lack of braii hold you back—choose a place that's right for you.
Pick your project. Do you want to work on a street child project in India? Become an India orphanage volunteer? We outlined a few common child-related causes that international volunteers support above. Do some reflection on what skills and knowledge you bring to the table, and which project would best benefit from your time and energy.
Choose from the best volunteer abroad programs in India. Pay attention to past participants’ reviews, program/university reputation, location, and how the project's needs match your skills. Some programs may even share contact info for ambassadors or past participants if you want the REAL dirt. Here are more considerations to make as you figure out how to choose the right volunteer program for you. Pro tip: You can use MyGoAbroad to compare programs side-by-side.
Plan your finances. Sort out funding before you go to afford daily essentials and splurge on travel (in addition to program costs and airfare). Be sure to raise a little extra money to donate to the organization that you'll be working with. Learning how to fund your volunteer abroad adventure is essential prior to your travels!
Get prepared! Preparing to volunteer abroad is as fun as it sounds. With the days til departure number dwindling and your excitement boiling, it can be easy to overlook the details. Lean on us to help guide you through your pre-departure process—that's what we're here for.