Volunteer Travel in India: 7 Opportunities to Realign Your Passion and Purpose.

Guest post by Dhruv Khanna (with inputs)

In the summer of 2022, I had the opportunity to volunteer travel to the remote Sarmoli village in the Uttarakhand Himalayas. Along with the local organizations Himalayan Ark and Himal Prakriti, I was to organize workshops on visual storytelling for the local community.

Before I arrived, my main aim was to share what I had learnt about social media, especially how to reach a wider audience with a meaningful approach. But once I got there, I quickly realized that teaching is always a two-way process.

Over the next few days, I was exposed to a whole new world. I learnt how important it is to embrace who I am and where I come from. To be open to new experiences and do things that make me feel alive, like the locals who ran long distance, high altitude marathons! To stay in tune with my own natural surroundings, and preserve what we have.

That experience left such a profound impression on me, that I’m now an advocate of volunteering and travelling simultaneously.

Also read: Insider Tips: How to Get Paid to Travel the World in 2024

Introspective afternoons while volunteering in Sarmoli. Photo: Dhruv Khanna
Learning that teaching is always a two-way process. Photo: Dhruv Khanna

Why volunteer in India?

India has so many layers, that travelling as regular tourists, we can hardly unravel them all. Slowing down and volunteering for a cause close to our hearts can allow us to build strong bonds with local communities, travel to places off the beaten track, and make a tangible difference in the lives of those who call them home.

Whether you’re passionate about education, environmental conservation, healthcare or community development, this list of volunteering opportunities in India offer a rewarding experience to travellers looking to leave a positive impact on the places they visit.

From the remote Himalayan deserts of Ladakh and Spiti to the lush forests of Darjeeling and Auroville, these non-profits and social enterprises invite travellers to contribute their time and skills to worthwhile causes:

*Please note that while none of these offer free travel volunteer programs in India (or involve paid volunteer work), they subsidize the boarding and lodging fee for volunteers.

Volunteer travel opportunities in India

1. Sadhana Forest, Auroville

Sadhana Forest: A transformative opportunity to volunteer while travelling in Auroville.

Sadhana Forest is a transformative ecological project focused on reforestation, water conservation, and sustainable living. By supporting local rural villages through water retention and indigenous plant restoration, it empowers communities to cultivate their own food and prevent migration to urban slums. Through environmental education, particularly targeting children and young people, Sadhana Forest aims to foster a shared vision of ecological responsibility and sustainable living, allowing them to experience and preserve the forest heritage of their ancestors.

Opportunities

  • Engage in ecological restoration and sustainable, vegan community living
  • Assist with daily community tasks and caring for rescued cows in the vegan animal sanctuary
  • Live in an off-grid, low waste campus in the forest

Desired skills 

  • Minimum 4 nights commitment

Costs involved

Volunteers are required to contribute INR 600 per day to cover the expenses of their food and biodegradable toiletries.

How to apply

Send an email to [email protected] 

2. Lha Charitable Trust, Dharamshala

LHA Charitable Trust: Prominent in the list of voluntary organizations in India.

Lha Charitable Trust, a prominent non-profit in Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, supports Tibetan refugees in India. Through language classes, livelihood training, scholarships and social services, Lha empowers Tibetan adults and youths to settle and thrive in their new home, while also welcoming local Indians and people from the Himalayan regions. Lha offers volunteer opportunities that enrich the community through engagement with international travellers and visitors.

Opportunities

  • Volunteer as a language teacher in English, German, French, or Chinese with a three-month commitment.
  • Provide personal tutoring and one-on-one support to students seeking to improve their language skills.
  • Join daily English Conversation classes as a drop-in volunteer, engaging in informal conversations with students to help them practice spoken English. No prior commitment is required for this; simply drop by between Monday and Friday from 4 to 5 pm.

Desired skills 

Experience in teaching language to foreigners is a must. Preference is given to those with a certification in language teaching, such as TESL or TEFL.

Costs involved

There is no cost involved for volunteer opportunities offered, but volunteers have to manage their own accommodation and meals. No stipend is involved.

How to apply

Fill out Lha’s volunteer form.        

3. Sambhali Trust, Rajasthan

Sambhali Trust: Don’t volunteer to travel for free in India – do it to make a lasting difference!

Sambhali Trust, established in 2007, empowers Rajasthani women through education, traditional skill training, and self-help groups. They provide support in cases of domestic violence, legal or medical issues, and promote awareness of human rights. Sambhali Trust is dedicated to addressing discrimination faced by women from marginalized communities.

Opportunities

  • Teach at the Trust’s Empowerment and Primary Education Centres.
  • Provide admin and office support.
  • Support survivors of gender-based violence.
  • Work at the sewing centre. 

Desired skills 

  • Volunteer for ideally two months, have a satisfactory level of English, and be willing and flexible to get involved in changing activities.
  • Show patience, understanding and compassion towards children of varying learning abilities. Prior teaching or arts and crafts experience is beneficial, while sewing, dress-making, or tailoring skills are advantageous.
  • For those interested in supporting their Aadarsh and Nirbhaya projects, which focus on counselling and raising awareness about sexual abuse and gender-based violence, a background in psychology or counselling is required.

Costs involved

Reach out to Sambhali Trust to discuss.

How to apply

Email [email protected] with your CV and motivation letter.

4. Tieedi Forest Garden, Darjeeling

Tieedi: Learn about regenerative travel and living as a volunteer.

TIEEDI, an environmental conservation organization in Darjeeling, specializes in permaculture. Since 2016, their focus has been on experiential environment education, regenerative tourism, natural farming, waste management, and sustainable land and building design. As frontline warriors in the battle against the climate crisis, they strive to provide holistic solutions to the challenges of our times.

Opportunities

  • Engage in diverse volunteering roles, such as natural farming, permaculture principles, Zero Waste Andolan Projects, waste collection and segregation, upcycling, and local craft techniques.
  • Dedicate 6 hours per day to voluntary work, with no specific time commitment for the duration of your stay, allowing flexibility based on the duration rate chart provided.
  • Volunteers can also contribute their skills in areas like guest management or social media management, depending on their expertise and interests.

Desired skills 

  • They seek passionate individuals who share a commitment to zero waste and sustainable living and are eager to make a positive impact on the world.
  • Artists, craftsmen, and experienced permaculture designers are encouraged to submit their portfolios for potential opportunities, which may include subsidized stays or waived volunteering fee based on project needs and valuable contributions.

Costs involved

Volunteering fee varies based on the duration of the stay, as below:

  • Upto 2 weeks: INR 750/day
  • Upto 1 month: INR 500/day
  • More than a month: INR 400/day 

The volunteering fee needs to be paid before or upon arrival at Tieedi. For volunteers looking to volunteer longer than two weeks, an amount of 10,500 needs to be deposited in advance. 

How to apply

Aspiring volunteers can email at [email protected] or send them a DM on Instagram. 

5. Aarohi, Uttarakhand

Aarohi: Help reforest the Uttarakhand Himalayas.

Aarohi, a not-for-profit organization in Uttarakhand, fosters resilience through sustainable livelihoods, healthcare, education, and environmental conservation. Touching the lives of over 150,000 people annually, Aarohi empowers communities with a dedicated team of over 100 full-time staff, many of who hail from neighboring villages.

Opportunities

  • While the organization is not currently looking for volunteers, they anticipate doing so in the near future and will notify interested individuals of potential openings. 
  • A minimum of one week is recommended for volunteers to gain a basic understanding of the organization’s diverse operations.

Desired skills 

  • Aarohi seeks individuals with expertise in social work, health, education, livelihood generation, natural resource management, and conservation to contribute to their mission.
  • They also welcome volunteers in data collection, analysis, content creation, social media strategy, and marketing as they expand their scope.

Costs involved

Volunteers are expected to cover their own expenses for boarding, transportation and food, although discounted options for volunteer accommodation and meals can be arranged. This is a wonderful opportunity for international travel volunteering in India for anyone interested in environmental conservation in the Himalayan region.

How to apply

Contact Aarohi by email at [email protected]

6. Rose Kanda, Uttarakhand

Rose Kanda: Experience rural village life while supporting grassroots projects.

A homestay located in the picturesque valley of Kanda, Uttarakhand, it offers a unique opportunity for international students, volunteers, social activists and eco-conscious tourists to interact with the local community, support micro-projects, and experience authentic village life. From participating in farming activities and festivals to fundraising, Rose Kanda offers a diverse range of experiences in the heart of rural India.

Opportunities

  • Teach English in the local school.
  • Study Rose Kanda’s approach to rural sustainable tourism, environment protection, and eco-development.
  • Get involved in projects like rural architecture development, eco construction, renewable sources of energy like solar lighting, organic farming, etc.
  • Assist in marketing campaigns, website design, networking, office help, and slideshow creation with an international perspective.

Desired skills 

Contribute any skill you possess. Whether it’s teaching, designing, building, filming, marketing, or any other ability, your expertise is valued and can make a difference in the community.

Costs involved

Contact the organization for more details. 

How to apply

The best way to apply is via email: [email protected] 

7. Maitri Pathshala, Spiti and Ladakh

Maitri Pathshala: Volunteer as a teacher in the remote mountain regions of Ladakh and Spiti.

Maitrī Pathshala, a volunteer-run teaching program, is dedicated to providing language and life skills education to monks and nuns while enhancing the infrastructure of their classrooms. Inspired by a Lama’s request, the initiative actively involved the children and the Lama in envisioning their ideal learning environment.

Through fundraising efforts and the support of volunteers, Maitrī Pathshala successfully extended their efforts to Kwang Nunnery in Kwang village. Building on their achievements, the program expanded its impact in 2023 by engaging with a government school in Ladakh, to offer volunteer teaching opportunities and further improve classroom facilities.

Opportunities

  • Maitrī Pathshala seeks volunteer teachers and admins to support the program’s operations, but there may be opportunities for specialists and field workers in the future, depending on specific needs and ongoing projects.
  • Volunteer teachers are expected to commit to a minimum duration of one month, ensuring a substantial and meaningful engagement with the students and the program.

Desired skills 

With an emphasis on open-mindedness and strong communication skills, volunteer teachers at Maitrī Pathshala do not require specific qualifications. However, a love for children, and an enthusiastic spirit, combined with a readiness for adventure, are highly valued attributes for those who join the program.

Costs involved

Volunteers at Maitrī Pathshala are responsible for their travel and accommodation expenses during the volunteering period. The organization provides information to assist volunteers in planning their travels and finding suitable accommodation near the monastery. In some cases, it might be possible to volunteer and travel for free in this part of India, with the option to stay in the free teachers’ room at the monastery or nunnery, subject to availability.

How to apply

Send them a DM on Instagram.

To compile these active volunteering opportunities in 2023/24, we reached out to travellers on Instagram to seek recommendations – and shortlisted a wide range of organizations doing commendable work in their regions. We hope to gradually grow this list. If you’ve volunteered on your travels, or run an organization that offers meaningful opportunities for travellers, please reach out.

Have you ever volunteered on your travels? What was that experience like?

About the guest author:

Dhruv is a creative storyteller and sustainability marketing manager with a passion for climate science, responsible travel and community living. He aspires to make climate action easy to comprehend, and inspire change at the individual level. He’s currently pursuing a degree in Environmental Science, Law and Policy from National Law University, New Delhi. Connect with him on: Instagram LinkedIn

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One Comment

  1. Thanks for sharing these opportunities. Will you be sharing them for international travel as well? I would love to volunteer in Japan.

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