India has always held a fascination for travelers. Some are drawn by romantic ideas of the British Empire, while others are inevitably drawn by India’s mystical culture, intermingling ancient religions and traditions with contemporary lifestyles.
Visitors to Rajasthan will never be far from the remnants of ancient civilizations and Mughal empires, with palaces and great forts dominating urban landscapes on the edge of the Thar desert. And it is in Jodhpur, home of the magnificent Mehrangarh fort, that Outreach support a range of projects. They focus on the disabled students of a special needs school, and the empowerment of women and girls, most notably those of the Dalit community who suffer from both social-economic and gender bias.
Volunteers assist in vocational training to women and girls, bringing them together in small social groups as the first stage of their empowerment, and providing the skills and resources required to provide alternative incomes. As well as teaching sewing skills, the empowerment centres provide a safe place from which to teach Hindi, English and maths, delivered in part by volunteers, together with workshops that expand the knowledge and horizons of women, boosting their confidence and self-esteem.
The trust has a range of additional activities, from micro-finance initiatives, to Helpline counselling and outreach services to deal with the issues of sexual abuse. Door-step schools provide supplementary education to the children of the community, some of whom go on to achieve scholarships in good schools. Girls from the rural district are able to use the boarding house to reach these schools and get an improved start in life. The success and growth of this non-profit organisation means there is a role for a volunteer to help administrate and manage the trust, helping develop funding initiatives and reporting processes for the trust; this is a great opportunity for a career break volunteer.
As well as working with the women’s empowerment trust, Outreach International support a residential school for children and young adults with physical and mental disabilities. A long established project helping the victims of polio, cerebral palsy and amputees, it nevertheless lacks the capacity of a therapist to improve the quality of life of these children. We are recruiting physiotherapy and occupational therapy volunteers for this project now.
Related to this is an innovative youth project that is using sport to bring disabled and able-bodied students together. The students with disabilities use sports and community events to help educate the wider community not only on issues around disabilities, but also on gender equality, hygiene and education. In doing so they are developing their own life skills and employability. Volunteers are needed to help in both the delivery of the project, and career break volunteers would be welcomed to support the ambitious growth plans of the project.
India is an assault on the senses; the colours, the smells, the cultural differences, the landscapes and the issues you face. It remains, however, an intriguing mixture of charm and beauty, with a warm, generous community who offer so much hospitality in a world where they have so very little.
Where can you volunteer in India to make a difference?
Kuldeep is an experienced tour guide, working with both foreign and Indian tourist groups across India. He has even led group treks up in to Nepal, so is an experienced traveller himself, as well as an excellent guide to those new to the culture and history of India. Kuldeep comes from Rajasthan and lives in Jodhpur with his wife and two young children. He speaks perfect English, has a great sense of humour and will make all volunteers feel welcome.
Govind is the founder of the Trust that we support in Rajasthan, supporting the women and children of the Dalit community through a range of empowerment centres, door-step schools, outreach and counselling services. Govind speaks excellent English and runs a professional team of local staff and volunteers based in Jodhpur.
...for me Jodhpur will now always be a second home in my heart. I have made so many memories and connections here that I cannot erase. Even if there have been times where I wish things were run differently, or that the attitudes were different.Women's Empowerment, India
Visit the magnificent 15th century Mehrangarh fort that dominates Jodhpur serving as a reminder of the intriguing hsitory of Rajasthan
Head to the famous clock tower and explore Sardar market, exploring the network of stalls and just taking in the everyday bustle of life in Jodhpur
Lose yourself in the back streets of the old town, exploring the maze of old buildings, discovering hidden treasures among the blue painted houses of the Brahmin houses
Visit the lake palace of Udaipur, the pink fort of Jaipur, ride camels in the desert outside Jaisalmer, or visit the famous camel fair of Pushkar. Rajasthan has palaces and forts to marvel at and a wonderful desert culture to soak in during your travels.