Volunteer Your Skills Abroad in India

The complete guide to making a real impact

Anybody can tour through India. But if you really want to experience the majestic landscape, finest meals, and get to know the locals in a meaningful way, you’ll have to invest more than money.

India is among the most rapidly growing emerging markets in the world. It is full of social impact organizations that are actively looking for people to volunteer their real skills to help them improve education and create opportunities for its expanding population.

As a traveler, you can go skills-based volunteering or Experteering in which you trade your skills and know-how for a unique experience that also helps build a better world. But, before jumping at the first volunteering project you see, here are some tips to make sure you have the experience of a lifetime.

Finding the Right Volunteer Project in India

India has a lot to offer and IMF Growth Forecasts predict that the country’s GDP will rise by 7.4% in 2018. During this huge growth period, addressing the ‘talent gap’ is especially important in order to reach India’s full potential. This can be partly addressed through skills-based volunteering -- and that’s where you come in. When searching for a volunteering project, beyond making sure that the opportunity is safe and legitimate, it is also critical that you ensure it is ethical and makes a real impact. To assure that a volunteering project is legitimate, ask yourself the following questions (as originally shared in our complete guide for high impact volunteer projects abroad):

  1. Does this project use my real skills?
  2. Is this something that a local could be doing? Is it possible that I’m taking a local job?
  3. Will the tasks I will be completing leave a lasting impact on the organization and the surrounding community?
  4. Are the goals and objectives I am being asked to complete locally driven?
  5. Is the host organization reputable?

There are many organizations that make sure the volunteering opportunities they post are through organizations that operate in an ethical and sustainable manner. Some

include: VSO International (Voluntary Service Overseas), MovingWorlds, Cuso International, and Peace Corps.

Check out more tips for finding the right volunteering project abroad.

Examples of Volunteering Projects in India

Within the next 15 years India will have the largest workforce in the world. India has massive growth potential, and as such, there are lots of opportunities for skilled volunteers to make an impact. It can help organizations address infrastructure gaps, increase agricultural efficiency, and improve education to meet rising shortages of skilled labor. A few samples include:

Using your business strategy or software development skills to implement sustainable waste enterprises. Improving drinking water by using your market research skills. Improving education by using your design skills, or teach software development skills to local aspiring developers.

Best Practices While Volunteering in India

When you get to your destination, there is a right (and wrong) way to volunteer in a way that truly makes an impact. First, you should outline clearly defined goals that are created in partnership with your hosting organization. In addition, following these rules will help create positive outcomes for all parties:

  1. Support locally initiated projects, to make sure that the work will continue after you leave
  2. Train local staff to take over your work so that the transition after you leave will be seamless.
  3. Spend more time teaching than doing.
  4. Do what’s best for the host organization, not what’s most interesting to you.
  5. Embrace cultural differences and discuss with your host the differences you might have, and how you can use those to your advantage
  6. Check in with your team consistently to make sure everyone is on the same page about tasks and timelines for projects.

Take this free training for international volunteering best practices through Udemy, and review this complete guide to volunteering your skills overseas.

Cultural and Communication Tips to be an Effective Volunteer in India

It is important to understand India’s cultural differences so you can work and communicate effectively with your partners.

globe+smart+India This chart shows the cultural differences between someone from India and the USA, and where a typical Experteer might be. Image from GlobeSmart® provided by Aperian Global.

As an example, people in India are high-context, indirect, and collectivistic, whereas people from America and Europe tend to be low-context, direct, and individualistic. A very common pitfall for volunteers when working with people from India is that they will get a verbal confirmation about next steps, only to realize that the next steps are not completed as expected. This is largely because Indian’s do not like to say ‘no’ and disappointing the recipient. This is not out of dishonestly, but rather an attempt to be polite. To detect false-positive answers pay attention to how specific the information given is. Usually when a person gives deliberately vague information they are giving a false-positive answer.

Use Kwintessential and country-specific travel guides to learn about customs and social norms.

Finishing Your Project and Recapping Your Story

We always say that success is something that happens after you leave. That being said, when you return from your trip it is essential that you keep in communication with your host organization to ensure the project lives on. You should also reflect on your own experience in order to create the most personal growth. Reflection has been proven to improve happiness and enhance learning. There are many reflection strategies during and after your overseas experience and it is up to you to find the one that’s most fitting to your own personality. Most importantly, be sure to inspire others to follow in your footsteps and do good by sharing your experience with as many people as you can.

Share your story with the #Experteering hashtag

Additional Tips While Volunteering in India

Here are some additional resources to help you plan, fund, and prepare for your trip, if you do decide to travel and volunteer in India:

  1. Guide to funding your trip
  2. Gear, resources, and tools for your volunteering adventure
  3. Books to read while volunteering in India

In Summary

Volunteering your skills in India has the potential to create a huge impact! To be successful, we hope you’ll use this guide to ensure that the work you are doing is sustainable, you are able to communicate effectively within the cultural bounds of your host organization, and that you can find projects that are best fitted to your skillsVolunteering your skills in India has the potential to create a huge impact! To be successful, we hope you’ll use this guide to ensure that the work you are doing is sustainable, you are able to communicate effectively within the cultural bounds of your host organization, and that you can find projects that are best fitted to your skills

There is little excuse to not give it a try, since you can volunteer overseas for any duration of time. Especially considering that there are many opportunities to live for free while you're abroad when you use the right matching service. So get out there capture that immersive, life-changing experience you’ve been searching for by volunteering in India!