Volunteering In India

As shared by Priscilla M @Priscmarinero

Why India?

I watched a documentary on Netflix named “Daughters of Destiny”. I watched it with my 13 year old daughter and we were both sooo taken back. She had so many questions for me including “what year was that?” and I couldn’t really answer the rest. She couldn’t wrap her head around the idea that little girls and women in India aren’t given the same opportunities as males. And she couldn’t understand why their living conditions were the they were. That night we both had trouble sleeping. I wanted to travel to India and volunteer to show my daughter, and my nieces, that we can make a difference in peoples lives no matter how small or how many. I don’t want them to feel like there is nothing that can be done and when you you feel a calling, you must answer it. I also wanted her to know that travel can and should be so much more than Pina Coladas in Palm Springs (her favorite).

Was your flight expensive and how far out did you start saving?

Note From The Editor: To travel to India you will need a passport valid for at least 6 months from the time of your trip along with a tourist visa. You can obtain an e-visa here. I suggest applying for it a least a month before your trip in case there are any issues. You save time and money obtain an e-visa without obtaining it through a third party.

My plane ticket was $450 and my Tourist Visa was $165. I flew China Southern. The flight was originally $1,300 and it was way out of my budget. I prayed on it and prayed on it and asked God and the universe to give me a sign if this was a trip that I needed to be on. The next morning my flight dropped more than half and I knew that it was because I was meant to embark on this journey. I truly budgeted $700 to get there and I kept the faith.

Did you travel with a Group? Was there an additional cost?

I didn’t travel with a big group or have a set itinerary put together by a travel agency. I flew to New Delhi alone and met up with two other girls that were going to be volunteering at The Sambhali Trust as well. This group is part of “GRL Collective“, a Latina owned jewelry company that funds girls education in India at Sambhali.

I met the owner of this amazing brand from years back but never really kept in contact besides through social media. She went to India the year prior and when I asked her for more info she mentioned that she would like to return as well and so we made it happen. I definitely feel like it was destiny for us to have exchange socials back then.

Her goal is to take girls back to India every year to volunteer and she is making it happen! Definitely check out her incredible work and see if that is something you can do one year. As far as boarding, there was an additional cost that was broken down by the days I stayed in the guest house in a shared room. Not expensive at all and the food was optional at the guest house as well.

Is India as unsafe as people paint it to be for women?

India is unsafe if you aren’t careful or respectful enough. Do your research. I don’t want anyone to be discouraged about going but when you do visit, remember to be considerate of their beliefs and their culture, especially in certain parts of the country. We made sure that we wore loose clothing, below the knees, no exposed décolletage, shoulders etc. We purchased clothing there as we needed to wear a uniform when we went to the schools and empowerment centers.

You will stand out and they will treat you like a Kardashian when you’re in touristy places. Another important thing is to stick to whatever tour guide you have or driver that you have hired. They take pride in their job, their country and will make sure you’re safe. Ours was amazing!

What cities in India did you visit and how did you move around in each one?

I landed in New Delhi and didn’t explore. I could barely breathe and I was so tired. We hired a driver that drove us around everywhere. He would drive us to our next destination and was at our beck and call when we needed to go anywhere in between states/cities.

We traveled from New Delhi >  Agra > Jaipur > Jodhpur. The Boarding homes, empowerment centers and schools were in Jodhpur so that is where we spent most of our time.  When it was time to go home, I booked a flight from Jodhpur to New Delhi (cheaper this way) and 13 hours later, boarded my flight back home. My travel back home was more than 24 hours.

Was lodging included for you? Did you stay anywhere sketchy?

Lodging was included in the total price but I paid it all separately as I arrived. Everything looked sketchy from the outside. Nothing is very modern or clean looking and I was very worried almost every time we pulled up to a place (except the guest house in Jodhpur). However, once you get in and settle, you quickly realize it is clean and safe. It helps to look at reviews of places on Trip Advisor because some places are definitely sketchy!

How long did you visit for? What time frame do you think it’s good for a first time visitor?

I visited for just over two weeks. Ideally I would like to volunteer for longer but I had to get back to my girl at home. I think if you aren’t volunteering there and just exploring, 2 weeks should suffice. Maybe 3 if you can handle the culture shock.

Was anything there expensive? What would you say was the most expensive thing for you?

Nothing was wildly expensive. If you want to stay in a really fancy hotel then that may run you a lot. You might spend “too much” on handmade gifts and jewelry to bring home but it really isn’t a lot once you look back. I bought a beautiful Opal ring for myself from a jeweler we made friends with that made it specifically for me. I always say I married myself on this trip LOL!

Anything you would warn people about?

India will make you feel the lowest of lows at times. You will see EXTREME poverty. You will feel guilt. You will itch. There will be LARGE bugs. You will be hot in so much clothes. You wont be able to breathe at times. You’ll yearn for more than just rice and suspect curried food. But, just like the lowest lows, you will be sooo incredibly in awe. You will feel the highest of highs. India is enchanted. You will feel like there is magic everywhere you look. You’ll just have to change your perspective a little and allow yourself to embrace the discomfort. After that, almost everything is perfect. You will leave with a whole new heart and soul. I believe India is the soul of the world.

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