If you are volunteering in India now and looking for a fun event during your free time this week:
The New Delhi World Book Fair 2018 is running from January 6-14 at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi.
Held for the past 45 years, the New Delhi World Book Fair 2018 is a major calendar event in the publishing world. Continue Reading →
We at Cosmic Volunteers just received a heartfelt Greetings from Sri Ramana Matriculation School in Tamil Nadu, India.
The principal Mr. Karuna writes to us and our volunteers in India, “Wish you a Prosperous and Happy New Year Ahead!”
The children at the school staged the play of the Birth of Jesus Christ.
Santa Claus made an appearance as well !!
International House Philadelphia is hosting a Diwali celebration on October 11 featuring Indian food and sweets, traditional music and dance, and activities including henna, diyas, rangoli, games, and firecrackers.
Diwali is the “Festival of Lights” — the ancient Hindu festival signifying the victory of good over evil by commemorating the return of Lord Rama from his 14-year exile and his vanquishing of the demon-king Ravana.
International House Philadelphia is the region’s international center for arts, culture, educational and residential activities. Their overall mission is to encourage understanding, respect, and cooperation among the people of all nations.
Wednesday, October 11, 2017 – 7:00pm
International House Philadelphia, 3701 Chestnut St.
Tel 215-387-5125 or www.ihousephilly.org
Tickets are $15
Make sure you get the proper visa for volunteering in India.
If you land in India for your volunteer trip with the wrong visa, you might get sent home immediately from the airport by Indian Immigration.
This happened recently to 16 students and three staff from Poynton High School in England. They were all denied entry by Indian immigration staff because they had “tourist” visas.
What visa should they have gotten? An Employment Visa.
Yes, for unpaid volunteer work in India, foreigners must obtain an employment visa.
The explanation comes from the company Cox & Kings Global Services:
A ‘EMPLOYMENT VISA’ is available for travelling to India for the purpose of working in India, for an organization registered in India. An Employment Visa is granted to an employee or paid intern of an Indian company and to persons traveling to India for volunteer work with a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO).
Since 2014 India’s Immigration Department has outsourced the visa process to the private company Cox & Kings Global Services (in Canada it’s BLS International). If you need to obtain a visa for India, you must go through Cox & Kings — no exceptions.
The process for obtaining an employment visa for India is nearly identical to the tourist visa. You submit your passport, visa application form, a passport photo, and the visa fee.
However, with the employment visa for India you must also:
Submit a letter from the organization in India where you will volunteer indicating the nature and the duration of the visit and place of work.
The good news is that the organization you sign-up with back home, say Cosmic Volunteers, will obtain this letter for you (we do it after you sign-up and pay the deposit).
If you follow the process, you should have your passport returned to you in 2-3 weeks with the valid India visa sticker placed inside.
I really feel for the Poynton School:
1. The school had already made three identical trips to India.
2. They went through a reputable charity back home, called India Direct.
3. They have donated $35,000 USD for children’s homes in India.
4. And all of this on tourist visas — which were then rejected on trip number 4.
I can only think that they simply had the bad luck of meeting up with the crankiest Immigration officer ever at the airport in India (and that’s saying something for India! Although US Immigration isn’t always a good experience either).
In defense of India Direct:
For most of my 17 years running volunteer programs India, I also told my volunteers to get the tourist visa.
I even got tourist visas for all of my own trips to India. And every trip I’ve made to India was strictly to run my volunteer programs and to volunteer myself. (I am not big on tourist sites — I still haven’t visited the Taj Mahal!)
Neither myself nor any of my volunteers have ever had a problem entering India with the tourist visa.
The immigration officer in India rarely even looks at you. Just takes the passport and arrival card, stamps your passport and you’re on your way.
It has only been the last few years that I have insisted to volunteers that they get the employment visa for India. (I believe India established the employment visa somewhere around 2010. India changes its visa policies and procedures quite often.)
Reading about the awful experience of the Poynton School, I will continue to do so.
Today was butterfly excursion day at the Sri Ramana Matriculation School. The school is one of our volunteer teaching placements in India.
The school’s principal Mr. Karuna sends us updates regularly on the students’ activities and progress.
The school was founded in 1988 with only six children. Today the school has more than 350 students ranging from 4 to 16 years of age.
Butterfly Day in Tamil Nadu:
Kaitlyn Scott volunteered with us not only in Ghana but in India as well. Kaitlyn, from Springfield, Virginia, spent her spring break in 2005 volunteering at an orphanage in Ghana. The next summer, as a 17-year old, Kaitlyn traveled to Bangalore, India to volunteer at both an orphanage and school, teaching English skills and doing arts and crafts with children.
After Ghana, Kaitlyn wrote to us:
Thank you so much for organizing my trip to Ghana. It was such an incredible experience! I’m so glad everything worked out, even with such short notice. My host family was so nice, and I loved learning a new language and culture. I had such an amazing experience that I’m eager to do more international volunteering. Thank you for all your help!
While in India, Kaitlyn’s mother Ardyth dropped us a line:
Hi Cosmic, I just got my first email from Kaitlyn today, and she sounds very happy. She said she was going to start at the orphanage in India tomorrow and was starting her Hindi lessons. Thank you so much for checking on the details. We appreciate all that you have done to give Kaitlyn this incredible experience (She said she had ridden a camel yesterday…) Thanks again for all your work!
— Ardyth Scott (Kaitlyn’s mom)
Kaitlyn’s Photo Album from Ghana:
We take our volunteers in India to The Lotus Temple in New Delhi. The temple is a Bahá’í House of Worship, known for its flower shape and for serving as the Mother Temple of the India. At first glance it might remind you of Sydney Opera House!
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) in India has been providing free WiFi Internet services at five metro stations since 2016.
Part of our volunteer program in Delhi, India includes taking you and your fellow volunteers on the Delhi Metro. The experience is yet another opportunity to learn about the daily life of locals in India.
The DMRC will still have “Women Only” cars too:
You will also occasionally see a Sikh passenger carrying the Kirpan dagger. The dagger is considered an instrument of social justice in the Sikh faith:
When you go on your volunteering trip to India, it is important to learn some of the important milestones in the country’s history.
For example: Today, August 15, is India’s Independence Day.
70 years ago, Partition came into effect, dividing British India into two new, independent countries: India and Pakistan.
In the 1920’s, Mahatma Gandhi was established as the leader of the Indian independence movement. His belief in civil rights and non-violent struggle inspired a generation.
In 1942 India’s Congress launched the “Quit India” movement. Weakened by WWII, Britain could not resist Indian independence any longer.
Then in 1947 India finally gained its independence.
Here are some ways India’s Independence Day was celebrated today:
Google has a new Google Doodle on its Indian homepage. The doodle is a motif of the Indian Parliament, a symbolic wheel for the Ashok Chakra, the country’s national bird – the peacock – and making it all come alive in shades of colours from the national flag:
Habib Bakery in Dubai made a giant Indian Independence Day cake:
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi mingled with the people in Delhi at the Red Fort:
Back here in Philadelphia this weekend, The PECO Multicultural Festival Series featured the Festival of India at Penn’s Landing: