Free Short-term Volunteering Projects around India - Need help?

#1 Sep 21st, 2012, 15:49
Join Date:
Sep 2012
Royston UK
  • ablemanc is offline

I was wondering if anyone could help me.

I am coming to India for 2 and a half months or 3 months at the end of October 2012. I am hoping to volunteer in certain areas as well as doing all the normal touristy things and possibly couchsurfing with some locals.

I was mainly looking for short-term opportunities (no more than a week) and which are free (doesn't charge a hefty sum that the project never sees), possibly with the option of paying for acommo, or your rewarded with free acomo for volunteering.

I think I will mainly have time to volunteer in these places:

And would love to volunteer over these areas (all if possible):
Conservation work

I was wondering if anyone had volunteered in any of these cities/areas or could reccomend reputable places?

I have heard of this place in Rishikesh: - is it any good? I also heard that you can volunteer at Mother Theresa's house in Kolkata - again, is this worth it or too comercialised?

#2 Sep 21st, 2012, 16:43
Join Date:
Nov 2011
out there
  • Hembrom is offline
A small word of caution: be aware what you are looking for. Visitors to a project who come only for a week can hardly be of any help in any field of work. So why would an NGO be willing to take in short term volunteers? Mostly because they hope for your money. They can show you their work, get you involved and hopefully you will donate accordingly. This is a fair deal for both sides if you are aware of it. But I know many volunteers who are disapointed: I gave them my time and work, but they are still asking for money?
So prehaps you should be willing to spend some money for the unique experience of working as a volunteer. Make sure a well deserving NGO gets it.
#3 Sep 21st, 2012, 17:14
Join Date:
Jan 2005
  • machadinha is offline
In Kolkata, check also with Calcutta Rescue I don't think they take short-termers and/or unqualified personnel anymore, but anyway just check with them.

In Mumbai, there are volunteer opportunities through Reality Tours & Travel and their affiliates, A member reported on doing so at

In Kerala, you could perhaps contact the tourism department to see if they have any info for you:

I know Lonely Planet used to have listings on volunteering opportunities, both in a dedicated section I think, and spread throughout the guidebook. Other guidebooks may as well.

Good luck with it. The Missionaries as well as other volunteering opportunities get often discussed here of course, just search the site for it, or scroll through this volunteering sub-forum that you're in, but it will also get addressed in the appropriate regional forums. There's much discussion about the Missionaries of Charity (aka Mother Teresa's, often misspelled as Theresa. Just to make this thread more searchable ) to & fro, but their being "commercialized" I think is by no means one of the arguments that come into play.

In Goa, there's the Goa Animal Welfare Trust One good member here is involved with such activities I think, though not sure if with them.

Also in Goa, there's Children Walking Tall, again a member here used to be involved with them. Not heard of him or how they're doing for long, I think. A glance at their website now would again suggest they're not looking for short-term volunteers; this of course may indeed very well be an issue, with any serious gang.

I know with the Missionaries it's very common for people to do that for just a few days or a week or so. As far as I know, it is indeed a simple matter of rocking up there, then you get started the next day or so. Their website(s) will no doubt tell you more about it, or again it should get described in some of the usual-suspect major guidebooks. Volunteers with them commonly hang around & stay on and around Kolkata's Sudder Street, the main backpacker hub there, so you should find all the info and some companionship you need there.
Last edited by machadinha; Sep 22nd, 2012 at 04:08.. Reason: edited
#4 Sep 21st, 2012, 22:33
Join Date:
Jan 2005
  • machadinha is offline
ps To volunteer in India with a reputed gang and for just a brief spell I'm sure shouldn't throw up too many issues.

The casual reader however should be aware India is no longer open to volunteering just like that, and technically these days it requires an employment visa, and I'd certainly advise to stick to that for anything more than casual. I've summed up what I think I know on it here. Usual disclaimer, I've never done it:

The Children Walking Tall site gets into it quite pointedly, btw. Currently at
Last edited by machadinha; Sep 21st, 2012 at 23:49.. Reason: edited
#5 Sep 22nd, 2012, 09:53
Join Date:
May 2010
  • dan bushell is offline
The Missionary Of Charity projects in Calcutta are Kalighat (destitute and dying), Shishu Bhavan (orphanage) and Prem Dam (mental health) and if you go to the Mother House on AJC Bose Road in time for mass one of the Sisters will arrange for where to go.
If you're staying in the backpacker enclave of Sudder Street you get many volunteers staying in this area who will be willing to help (and every rickshaw driver/taxi driver knows where the Mother House is!!)
#6 Sep 22nd, 2012, 10:41
Join Date:
Feb 2012
Cheyenne, WY, USA
  • Leens is offline
I am also interested in doing some volunteering while in India for about a year starting in November. I understand that a work visa would be required in an official way, but am also planning on doing it "casual," and also relatively short term, no more than a few weeks at a time. It is not the main reason for my visit to India, but would like to give something back. After reading a few charities' websites, I have decided to choose one when I am at my destination, as it seems hard to verify much about the organization over the internet. I was wondering if anyone can give some good tips to watch out for when seeing if an organization is legitimate. Is there a list somewhere of legitimate charities? DO they register with the government? What questions should I ask? Of course I understand donations would welcomed to any charity, and short term volunteers may not be needed as it would be hard to contribute much after barely getting the hang of the routine. As far as specific organizations, I will be spending a lot of time in Rajasthan and am interested in working with children or animal rescues and suggestions are greatly appreciated.

"There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign." Robert Louis Stevenson

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