Teaching and Cultural Experience - Volunteer Reviews

INDIA

Read what our volunteers say about their time volunteering

Find out more about the Under 18 Teaching and Cultural Experience project

Deepa – 2016 

“I have had such an amazing time volunteering! Going to the school to teach the children has been an experience and a challenge, with some of the kids not understanding much English. Some of the kids would be naughty and run riot, whereas there was one girl in particular who would know everything on the worksheet we gave her and she would complete it really quickly - we called her girl genius and really hope she does well in the future! I would look forward to each day. Going to the boys orphanage would be fun and I loved playing the different games with them. Ravi, Gaurav and Neha have been great hosts and really supportive. The food was lovely everyday. They've helped so much and I would love to come back another time on another project here. It's been fantastic and I'll go home with so many memories and have made some good friends! It's been good to get to know other volunteers on other projects and going out on day trips together when we've not been at school. I loved the Independence Day celebrations. I highly recommend coming to Udaipur and volunteering here.

What did you find most rewarding?
Everything - from teaching at the school to the boys orphanage!

What did you find most challenging?
Some of the children did not understand English as it isn't their first language and they were mischievous at times and it was hard to make them behave!

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
I would highly recommend coming to India on the summer camp project. You will experience so much and it's very rewarding.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?
I researched quite a few organisations before going with Pod. After reading some of the reviews of other people who have done voluntary work with them, they seemed like a good and reputable organisation to go with.

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer? Yes, Loved it and would love to come back again!”

Priyasha - 2016

“I had an amazing experience. Teaching those kids was literally the most amazing feeling, I have made amazing new friends and feel so accomplished after teaching those children. I would definitely go again! 

I had an amazing time, seeing India, teaching children, seeing how they progress everyday was wonderful. I wish I stayed longer!!

What did you find most rewarding?
Most rewarding thing was when the children at the school could memorise a song or something that I've taught them. It shows that they're actually learning and I helped them to do so.

What did you find most challenging?
Definitely saying goodbye! I miss my little children. They're all so enthusiastic and ready to learn. They're cheeky, adorable, smart.

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
Take lots of stickers for the children! They love it.

Were there any parts of the placement which you would like to see changed?
the weather!

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?
Pod came to my school on futures day and they made it sound amazing and I had a look at the website!

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer? Yes”

Connie - 2015

“ Teaching was extremely rewarding, the kids were adorable and full of energy, and Udaipur is a beautiful and vibrant city that was great fun to explore. Gemma and the local team ensured that our time was unforgettable, making sure we made the most of every moment and were also very supportive. Volunteering offered things that a normal sightseeing holiday wouldn't, it provided much more of an insight into India's cultures and values that I believe makes a great addition to a holiday. I would 100% recommend this project to anyone who wants an adventure and experience the real India!

How would you describe a typical day at the project? No two days were the same! But typically on weekdays: breakfast... teaching at school... Lunch... an activity such as Hindi, cookery, or henna lessons... visit to orphanage, ragpicker's community, or disabled children's school... dinner... lesson planning for the next day. In our free time we could take a rickshaw into town or relax in the common areas. The project also involved trips to the Taj Mahal, a boat ride, forts, temples, and a 5am walk to a viewpoint to see the sunrise!

What did you find most rewarding? Seeing the progress in the children as they began to develop their English words, often showing off the new words and phrases we had taught them on our arrival the next day! Being placed with the second grade class meant that the children had very limited knowledge of English and so their achievements were very clear to see, making teaching very rewarding.

What did you find most challenging? The food was my biggest challenge, but in saying that there was always something that suited my tastes and I never went hungry.

Were there any aspects of the placement which you would like to see improved? Everything was perfect!

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Throw yourself into everything and enjoy every minute!

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? To experience the real India and make it a much more personal experience. Seeing the children's faces light up when doing the simplest of activities will make you see life in a completely different way.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer? They are a non-profit, ethical charity organisation who provide great support.

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer to your friends? Yes”

Jaqui - 2015

“I chose to volunteer in India as I unexpectedly had a 3 week break and wanted to do something different to the usual holiday experience. I soon found out that there were many organisations offering volunteering placements abroad, but I was delighted to find that Pod seemed truly ethical; small enough to ensure that the whole team had first hand and extensive knowledge of their overseas projects, yet also professional and supportive.

The placement itself was so rewarding. Not only did we teach in a school (that felt truly in need of volunteer support) but we also worked with the local ragpicker community, disabled children's school and orphanage.

The local team were knowledgeable, informative, hospitable and I was so impressed by their personal commitment to the ongoing work in the area.

On a more selfish note, I loved my trip to India, and the sights, sounds and experiences were wonderful. These, coupled with the volunteering experience, made for a once in a lifetime trip.

How would you describe a typical day volunteering?

The placement was busy, but very well structured so we managed to pack in all the teaching and education activities, as well as the planning we needed to do, with cultural sessions and exclusions.

Breakfast was at 8:30, usually followed by a fascinating cultural insight session such as Hindi, India cookery or henna lessons and then we set off for the morning's teaching. The lessons lasted a couple of hours, and we returned back to the house for lunch, before heading out again to work with the disabled children's school, orphanage or Rag Picker community. After dinner, we planned the next day's lessons and activities, and also had some evenings where we went up to the cinema or to dinner. At the weekends we were able to experience the local sights such as the Monsoon Palace, Bagore ki Haveli, Ranakpur Temple and Kumbarlgarh Fort, and a once in a lifetime trip to Agra by train to see the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort.

What did you find most rewarding? Seeing the children take such pride in their work and achievements, whether they be in academic lessons or craft activities.

What did you find most challenging? The schoolchildren could be very unruly, and the large class meant there was a wide range of abilities. It was therefore challenging to ensure that every child received the appropriate level of support whilst still maintaining some order in the class.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Keep an open mind and embrace the whole experience. Remember that in school the children have virtually no teaching support, so any volunteer presence is valuable. Also, whilst the kids are very good at reporting words and their spellings by rote, they need more help really understanding the letters and how they fit together,

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It is so easy to get wrapped up in our every day lives and the trappings of comfort and affluence we have in the UK, however spending even as little as a week with this project will help anyone develop a broader perspective on life in India, how to contribute positively to it, and also how to work as part of a teaching team.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer? Pod seemed truly ethical, as well as personal, knowledgeable and professional.

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer to your friends? Yes”

Maria - 2015

“This has been the most rewarding, amazing and eye-opening experience of my life. I have learnt more than what I could have expected and thanks to the unique team in India as well as the great support from Gemma, I could enjoy my adventure and feel comfortable in all communities, school and activities in which we volunteered.

I definitely feel so lucky to have been overwhelmed by these children and their fantastic culture.

What did you find most rewarding? Lesson planning helped me discovering my little inner child and becoming suddenly very creative. And especially working with all the kids was absolutely fantastic and their enthusiasm was incredible.

What did you find most challenging? The local atmosphere was extremely different from what I have experienced traveling the world. India is incomparable and definitely special in the way it is.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Watching reliable TV documentaries and trying to understand some details about culture and daily life.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? Because it gives you the chance to discover a special part of yourself and especially sharing moment with people who are instinctively able to give you so many emotions you will never forget.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer? Because it pops up first on google once I was looking for volunteer abroad. Gemma was very professional and the price and projects list were interesting.

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer to your friends? Yes. Thank you. I am looking forward to join Pod once again in some other projects around the world.”

Isabelle - 2015

“Volunteering in India was an amazing experience and I am so glad that I decided to join the Summer Camp project. Within the two weeks that I was in India, we had the chance to worked with three different groups of children, as well as visited several of the fantastic cultural sights in and around Udaipur.

Initially I was fairly nervous about the first day of teaching at the school. However, I had nothing to worry about. The children were amazing, and although some were cheeky at times, they were all happy and excited that we were there. I will always remember my first day when we arrived at the school and we were greeted by around 20 children who were all cheering and running after our cars! We received a lot of support and help from Gaurav and Ravi as to the content and structure of our lessons. At the start we received the syllabus for our grade - I was teaching 2nd grade - which listed the subjects that needed to be covered. In the afternoons, we visited either the Ragpicker community or the school for disabled children. For these groups we organised craft activities usually followed by games for example musical statues or dancing the Macarena!

Gaurav and Ravi also organised additional trips and classes for us to attend, including a trip to the cinema, a boat ride on the largest lake in the city, a traditional dance and puppet show, Hindi lessons, Henna classes, cooking lessons and a talk about religion and the caste system in India. These were all really valuable as they allowed me to understand and get involved in the traditional Indian and Rajasthan culture.

How would you describe a typical day volunteering on the project? The day began at 8:30 with breakfast. Around 9:15 we would usually have an activity, for example Henna lessons, or lesson planning for the day ahead. We left for the school at 10:40 and it took us about half an hour to get there. We then taught at the school for around 1:45 hours, until 1pm. We then drove back to the house for lunch. After lunch, we would head down to the Ragpicker community to do a craft a play a couple of games with the children. We were usually at the community for around an hour and a half. After that, we had some free time until dinner, though on some days we would have a cooking class at 5:15pm. Dinner was at 7:30, followed by lesson planning at 8pm which usually took around an hour to complete. After this, we had free time until we went to bed.

What did you find most rewarding? The most rewarding part was during the teaching sessions. We often split our class into three smaller groups, with roughly 10 children in each group. This meant that you got to know each child by the end of the two weeks. Although some of the children were cheeky at times, all of them visibly improved in the two weeks that I was there. The most rewarding part was seeing the individual progress that each child made.

What did you find most challenging? The most challenging part was the cultural differences which impacted the teaching at the school, especially with regard to discipline. Although I was told beforehand what to expect, it was still very difficult to watch children being physically punished if they misbehaved. However, this for me made our work at the project even more meaningful, as the aim is not only to teach the children but also to educate the teachers about methods of punishment which do not involve physical violence.

Were there any aspects of the placement which you would like to see improved? No I would not improve anything about the placement!

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? I would advise anyone to go on the placement and to be open minded as to what to expect. With regards to the culture gap, potential volunteers could research into Indian culture and Hindi religion, although a lot of information on this topic is provided by Gaurav and Ravi once you are there.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? Volunteering aboard is a great was to really get to know and experience a different culture and way of life whilst making a substantial difference to some people's lives.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer? I chose Pod Volunteer due to the fact that it promoted ethical volunteering, which is an issue I care strongly about.

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer to your friends? Yes!”

Megan - 2015

“I was part of the summer trip to India and as a first time volunteer and traveller POD were amazing. As soon as I showed interest in the project Gemma from POD worked, sending lots of information and finding out about me, to make sure that this was the right project for me. I was so pleased with the amount of support I received leading up to and during my placement, it meant I really didn't have to worry about anything!

I was met at the airport by Ravi and taken to the volunteer house which was very comfortable. Some things I'd been warned about India were the toilets, food and mosquitos, none of which were a problem in the volunteer house. There are clean western style toilets, great showers, not to mention fans and mosquito nets on the windows in every room. Neha's food is second to none, it's really fantastic and she takes the cooking lessons too which means I got to make my own (not so good) version when I got home!

The volunteering schedule is really intense with not much free time. It's exhausting but it has to be.

Looking back I can't believe we did so much in such a short time! Teaching every morning, visiting Ragpicker community and sometimes disabled school / orphanage in the afternoon and then finding time for Hindi lessons, cooking lessons, henna lessons, discussions on religion culture and cast system, planning for the next day. On top of that we went on a boat trip, to the cinema to see the latest Bollywood hit, to the mall, to see the monsoon palace, to see a puppet show, to see Kumbhalgarh wall and fort and we spent a weekend in Agra visiting the Taj Mahal and Agra fort. I feel like I got a months worth of India for 2 weeks!

This was all only possible as a result of Ravi and Gaurav's careful planning and leadership. I can't describe how wonderful this trip was. What's more, I got to share it with fun, interesting, kind people. I loved being part of such a worthwhile project and I will treasure the memories.

How would you describe a typical day volunteering at the project? 8.30 - breakfast 9.15 - some kind of class (cooking/Hindi..) 10.40 - teaching at the school 1.30 - lunch at volunteer house 3.00 - chai time 3.30 - Ragpicker community 5.30 – Children’s Home/disabled school 7.30 - dinner 8-10 - planning for next day/ evening activity

What did you find most rewarding? I particularly enjoyed working at the Ragpicker community at the community outreach project. These families are very poor and make money by collecting recyclable rubbish and selling it in the city. The children, though, are the most loving, happy and full of energy that I've ever met. Playing games and doing craft activities with them was so rewarding. It was so special seeing how much of a difference we were making and how happy they were to see us every day.

What did you find most challenging? I found the teaching quite challenging as the language barrier was quite tough to get past. Learning key commands in Hindi is definitely worth doing!

Were there any aspects of the placement which you would like to see improved? Can't fault it.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Do it!

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? There's so much to see! I think volunteering is such a good way of really getting inside another culture.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer? Its a non-profit organisation that cares. This also means that they really look after their volunteers so you don't need to worry about anything.

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer to your friends? Yes"

Helen - 2015

“I honestly don't know how any aspect of the trip could be improved. I feel that the support provided by Pod Volunteer and team in India was consistently exemplary.

If you find yourself in any doubt about whether to join the team, then shelve them. From beginning to end this has been a superlative experience. First, there is India itself. Wow!! The privilege of visiting India has been humbling. It is difficult to do justice to the richness and diversity, the culture and history of such a kaleidoscopic country. Then, the Volunteer project itself was brilliantly organised both by POD and the partners in Udaipur. The volunteering was varied - including in our case; teaching in school, work in a disabled school and with a ragpicker community. In all of these aspects, all volunteers worked together and were very well supported again. This contributed to a very fulfilling and personally rewarding experience all round.

You do not need to have had teaching experience to undertake this project, so don't let not having any put you off at all. There is help and guidance readily available, and importantly on the Summer Camp you are not alone. We worked in micro groups in all work scenarios. In the disabled school and the rag picker community we did craft activities and games - again all planned as a group beforehand. We also travelled to and from work placements together. Our accommodation had everything you could need, and our hosts could not have been more welcoming. We were offered a thorough induction and activities to participate in; including Hindi, Cookery and Henna lessons!! These proved very popular!

The food was great - we had breakfast and then home cooked meals twice daily. We also had plenty of leisure time to spend as we pleased.

Over and above all of this there were weekend trips which were absolutely fantastic; notably to the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort in Agra and the Kumbhalgarh Fort and the Ranakpur Jain Temple. We had a guided tour of Udaipur itself, a boat trip on Lake Pichola, a trip to the Monsoon Palace (Siajjangarh) and to an evening dance show. Added bonuses included a trip to the cinema to see a Bollywood movie and a dawn walk in the local hills to a temple. All in all - there is no doubt that the trip is an extremely enjoyable experience and a wonderful introduction to India.

How would you describe a typical day volunteering in India? Weekdays were very well organised. A timetable was prepared and displayed the evening before and plans were discussed. Following breakfast, we had a couple of hours preparing for the afternoon placements; usually making prototypes for our craft activities. Alternatively, we had Hindi lessons, or Henna lessons. Then it was off to school. We were taken and collected each day and a Supervisor accompanied us at all times. Our lessons were an hour and forty five minutes duration and we were divided into micro teaching groups for grades 2, 3 and 4. Then it was back home for a communal lunch and then off to one of the afternoon projects. After returning home, we all enjoyed afternoon Chai time (tea) and then it was off to the ragpicker community for an hour or so. Our evening meal was served at 7:30. This may have been preceded by a cookery lesson and was always followed by lesson planning - again undertaken in groups in a communal prep area. Once complete - our time was our own.

What did you find most rewarding? All aspects of the volunteer project proved equally rewarding for me.

What did you find most challenging? Arguably, the ragpicker community - largely due to the crushing poverty of their daily existence, and the joy the children took from the activities we undertook with them.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Do your research thoroughly so as to understand what the placement actually involves; prepare yourself thoroughly in terms of inoculations and visa requirements, insurance and other necessary documentation. Read the detailed material that Pod send you and provide you. Be open minded and go with a positive and respectful attitude, and be prepared for a challenge.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? Volunteering abroad can prove a wonderfully enriching experience - it is an exemplary way to see aspects of a country and a culture that you simply couldn't as a tourist. You are potentially contributing to the well being of others who have not had the opportunities that you have had access to.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer? Because of the emphasis on ethical and sustainable projects, the quality of the website and the testimonials of other volunteers.

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer to your friends? Yes”

Laura - 2015

“Had an amazing time in India! There isn't anything about the experience I didn't enjoy, did so much in the 2 weeks in the summer camp and enjoyed every minute.

There wasn't anything I didn't enjoy about my time in India! My experience was definitely life changing and would recommend it to anyone thinking of doing it! Gemma amazing help and so are the local team over in India they all made my time in India even better. Experienced so many different things from learning Hindi, practising Henna and getting Indian cooking lessons to seeing Bollywood films! the best thing about the trip is seeing how happy the children were to have us there! the project is inspiring and makes me feel good to have been apart of it for the 2 weeks I was there.

How would you describe a typical day volunteering in India? Our days were packed with activities, we'd start with breakfast at 8.30 followed by either henna class, cooking class or Hindi class. We would the travel to school at 10.40 and go to our classes and teach the children! We would leave school for much at 12.55 and in the evening we wound go to the rag pickers or the disabled children school! And then finishing the night with dinner and some lesson planning!

What did you find most rewarding? The thing I found most rewarding was seeing how happy the kids were to have us there, always smiling. My favourite project was the 'rag pickers' the kids were so happy to have us and you could tell they really enjoyed themselves.

What did you find most challenging? The most challenging thing was probably seeing how little the had, even though they were really happy, it really does make you appreciate things and not be so caught up on having this like mobiles etc.

Were there any aspects of the placement which you would like to see improved? No, I honestly can't say there wasn't anything that I enjoyed! The days were always structured with the perfect amount of fun activities - henna class, cooking class or Hindi class and even going to see Bollywood films. I also really like the fact we got to visit different projects like the school the rag pickers, disabled children and the orphanage got to experience a lot while there!

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? To be open minded and enjoy!

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? I think go myself it's important to experience other cultures. The world is a massive place and if you have the skills and chance to help and volunteer we should!

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer? I volunteered with Pod last year in Thailand summer and had a really good time then that I wanted to go it again!

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer to your friends? Yes”

Jessie - 2015

"I found this program to be the most rewarding experience I have had in my life. Not only the placement in which I worked at, but the accommodations, the support and the friends I made were amazing.

If you are looking to broaden your horizon, learn the culture of a new country inside and out, live it, meet amazing people from all over the world who also offer great knowledge and friendship, I highly suggest joining this program.

How would describe a typical day volunteering  in India?

It was a very busy two weeks. Most of the day's started early and ended quite late, but this was all part of the experience in making it work. Day would start at 8:30 for breakfast then we would do some kind of lesson planning for whatever program we were working with later in the day. For example we'd work with the rag pickers, the disability school, or orphanage.

We also sometimes may have had Hindi lessons, cooking lessons, or henna lessons. At 10:15 we left for school and we'd work until 1. Then we would go home and have lunch followed by some more planning. We'd have to then go to whatever we had scheduled for that day like the placements I mentioned above. We also often had chai tea time around 3:15 if it fit in the schedule. Then we had the evenings free of we wanted to go to town for dinner or if we just wanted to go shopping. Or we stayed and relaxed with friends and had dinner served around 7:30. After dinner generally was the time for school lesson planning for the next day, which you would get together with your group to do so.

What did you find most rewarding? There was not one thing that I could pinpoint as being the most rewarding because the entire experience and all that was put into it is what made this experience rewarding.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Just to be open to everything. The more open you are, the more you will get out of the entire experience.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? Because your not only touching other lives, but you are also doing the same for yourself.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer? Because it seemed legit, organized and fulfilled my time frame to being able to go.

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer to your friends? Yes.

Just thank you to all who attributed to making this program a success.”

Find out more about the Under 18 Teaching and Cultural Experience project

AWARDS AND ACCREDITATIONS

  • Tourism Concern
  • Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust
  • Right Tourism
  • DOFE
  • theguardian
  • the independent
  • Sunday Times
  • Year Out Group
  • Best Volunteering Organisation
  • Wall Street Journal