“Ants Among Elephants” is the memoir of an Indian woman, born a so-called untouchable, who is a New York City subway conductor. NPR’s Stacey Vanek Smith spoke with author Sujatha Gidla last week:
Our host organization for our travelers volunteering in Bangalore India is the Lovedale Foundation.
Cosmic Volunteers’ Director Scott Burke first visited the Lovedale Foundation in Bangalore in 2004 to establish our partnership.
Scott spent several days at the Lovedale Foundation with founder Jeny Verma. She gave Scott and his sister Susan (on her first-ever trip to India) a tour of her children’s home, office and the Bangalore area itself.
The experience easily convinced Scott to start programs here for volunteering in Bangalore India.
Miss Verma has won numerous awards in India for her work humanitarian work including:
- Woman of the Year 2015 by Awards by Garshom
- Iconic Woman 2016 by Eastern Group
- Educationist of the Year 2016 by the Wokhardt Foundation
The Lovedale Foundation is a not profit organization with a mission to “…unleash the potential of under-served children from stone quarry’s, orphanages, streets and slums since 2001.”
They are a first-class organization doing tremendous work for kids in India.
We hope to continue sending people to our volunteering in Bangalore India program with the Lovedale Foundation for many years to come.
For Mexicans volunteering in India with us:
Why is this a big deal? It means that:
Mexican citizens can now obtain their visa for India electronically — and within days of departure for India.
Previously, travelers had to send their actual passport and other visa materials through the mail to the Indian Embassy in Mexico City. This old process was not only time consuming but risked the chance of a passport getting lost in the mail.
More details from the Indian Embassy in Mexico City:
The step is aimed at facilitating travel of foreign nationals to India for tourism, casual business and other similar purposes and avoid problems in obtaining visas for travel to India at short notice. In particular, Mexican citizens residing outside Mexico City will not have to travel to or send their passports and visa applications to the Embassy of India in Mexico City.
Under the Scheme, the applicants have to apply online and make payment for the visa fees (USD 60/- only) electronically through credit/debit card at least four working days before the date of arrival in India. The applicants will then receive an ‘Electronic Travel Authorization’ or electronic visa (e-visa) within 72 hours at their registered email account, which along with a return ticket or onward journey ticket will enable them to travel to India.
The eTV will allow entry into India within 30 days from the date of approval of ETA and this will be valid for 30 days stay in India from the date of arrival in India. The facility will be limited to two occasions in one calendar year. The tourists will have to enter India from one of the following nine (9) international airports – Bengaluru, Chennai, Kochi, Delhi, Goa, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai and Thiruvananthapuram. However, they can leave India from any authorized Immigration Check Post in India.
In the video below, you can see our partner organization “Delhi Stay” recently celebrating the festival of Holi with volunteers in India.
Holi celebrates the beginning of Spring. Holi festivities mark the beginning of new year to many Hindus. It also has a religious purpose, symbolically signified by the legend of Holika.
The night before Holi, bonfires are lit, in a ceremony known as Holika Dahan. People gather near fires, sing and dance.
The next day, Holi, also known as Dhuli in Sanskrit, is celebrated. Children and youth spray colored powder solutions (Gulal) at each other, laugh and celebrate, while elders tend to smear dry coloured powder (Abir) on each other’s face.
Visitors to homes are served with Holi delicacies, desserts and drinks. After playing with colors, and cleaning up, people bathe, put on clean clothes, visit friends and family.
Holi is primarily observed in India, Nepal, and other regions of the world with significant populations of Hindus or people of Indian origin. The festival has, in recent times, spread to parts of Europe and North America as a spring celebration of love, frolic, and colors.
The Jama Masjid Mosque of Delhi is one of the largest mosques in India and a must-see attraction.
We take all participants on a tour of Old Delhi when they first arrive in India for their volunteer program.
The mosque is old — built in the 1600’s by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. The courtyard can accommodate more than 25,000 persons. There are three domes on the terrace which are surrounded by the two minarets.
On the floor, a total of 899 black borders are marked for worshippers. The architectural plan of Badshahi Masjid, built by Shah Jahan’s son Aurangzeb at Lahore, Pakistan, is similar to the Jama Masjid, Delhi.
The mosque has seen terrorist attacks in modern times — in 2006 and in 2010.
Shannon volunteered in India with women’s groups and health care programs:
Yuki is a management consultant in Tokyo and a USC alum. He just returned from volunteering at an orphanage in Tuni, India.
Yuki’s reflections on the trip:
My stay at the Orphanage in Tuni, India was an enlightening and eye opening experience.
Being a business person in Japan, I was worried at first if I could be at any help to the Orphanage or the kids who are there, especially with my schedule only allowing me to stay with them for about a week.
However, after arriving at Tuni, the BIG smiles on the kids blew away all of my worries. The kids (orphans) are not what you may expect in the States or Japan; they are totally energetic and hungry for learning!
Although my short schedule required me to prioritize issues to work on, I was able to give them all the love and education possible.
(My goal for the week was to have the kids understand roman numerals; I think they were able to get it on the last day).
My take-away from this experience is that, with India rapidly growing, education and care for children is becoming a large commodity but supply is not catching up with demand and every little bit counts; this is not just the case with the Orphanage but my impression of the general community.
The Orphanage is still in its baby stages and the owner is someone looking straight at the kids; doing everything they can for their welfare. Hopefully I can work around my schedule and plan another (and longer) stay there again to help out with the growth and sustainability of the orphanage.
Waverly Dolaman, from Arlington, Virginia, participated in our 28-Day Cultural Tour in Bangalore, India in August 2006. She wrote to us recently about her experience. There is a snippet below.
I had an amazing time on my recent volunteer trip to India. Below please find my responses to the volunteer questionnaire.
The pre-trip guide was extremely helpful. The most useful part of the guide was the packing list because it covered all of the important things to bring. W
While some of the activities of the program were conducted in a different order than listed on the website, the website outlined the entire program accurately.
The local project coordinator was great! She answered all of our questions and conducted a daily morning meeting to go over the activities for the day.
A large component of the cultural tour included visits to sightseeing sites in South India. The most enjoyable places that I visited were Hampi and Mamallapuram. Hampi had amazing ruins and Mamallapuram was great because I went to the beach and did some shopping.
Do you believe the experience of volunteering abroad changed you in any way? Would you volunteer again?
Volunteering abroad gave me a greater understanding of India. The conversations and one-on-one interactions that I had with people provided me with firsthand insight that I could not get from any book. I have a great sense of accomplishment after completing my volunteer project and truly believe that the people I helped appreciated my efforts. Finally, volunteering made me extremely grateful for all the gifts that I have been given in life and reminded me of how lucky I am. I would certainly volunteer abroad again with Cosmic Volunteers because it is a great way to gain exposure to another culture while helping those who are less fortune.
In November 2005 Cosmic Volunteers created and funded the Kengeri School Project in Bangalore, India.
The following is the project document written and distributed by Cosmic Volunteers:
To install bathroom and toilet facilities for students at the Kengeri Primary School in rural India. The school currently has only one toilet to serve over 700 students. The total cost of the project will be $2,500 which is being raised through donations.
The project is being organized by US-based volunteer organization Cosmic Volunteers and ARIVU (later renamed to Peace Child India), a non-profit organization in India that develops education programs for rural schools in India.
Cosmic Volunteers is donating $1,000 toward the project, with the rest of the $1,500 being raised from donors.
The Kengeri School
The Kengeri School is a government-run (“public”) co-educational school with 702
students and twelve teachers. The school is located in a rural area in south India, on the
outskirts of the city of Bangalore. The students are from Class 1 to 7. Sixty percent (60%)
of the students are from the Dalit caste, which is one of poorest, most marginalized and
oppressed groups in India.
The school currently has only one toilet to serve over 700 students. The situation is
extremely unhealthy and degrading for students. Furthermore, many of the female
students of menstruation age regularly miss several days of school each month because of
the lack of bathroom facilities.
Facts about the Kengeri School
Official Name: Kengeri Government Rural Secondary School
Town: Kengeri Hobli
Type of School: Government (“public”) school for Dalit children
Number of students: 702 total (350 boys, 352 girls)
Number of teachers: 12
Class range: Class 1 (age 5) to Class 7 (age 14)
School’s Founder: Kengal Hanumanthaiah
Year founded: 1820
Principal: Shivalingappa G.
Tuition per student: $50 per year
Who pays tuition? Government-funded; Parents pay for notebooks, pencils
Extra Staff: One Office Assistant, One Custodian
1. Installation of new toilets at the Kengeri School
2. Installation of heavy, lockable doors to ensure that vandals will not be able to access the toilets.
3. Install facilities for students to wash their hands.
4. Construct the entrance and exits of the toilets in such a fashion that, while the privacy of students is protected, potential dangers cannot hide in corners.
5. Establish proper water connections, guaranteed by the local utility authorities to
always provide fresh, clean water.
6. In addition to rebuilding the toilets, we will run a one-day workshop for all students
whereby they can learn about the importance of good hygiene in a fun and interactive
way. Our team of international volunteers is currently working with medics in Bangalore,
India to create a teaching method which is fun, informative and engaging.
It is hoped that the workshops will ensure that students will learn not only the importance of good hygiene in school but throughout the rest of their daily lives. We hope to create hygienic habits which students will take with them where ever they go.
The workshop will examine hygiene at school before teaching children how to be more hygienic in the household. Students will be encouraged to tell their family about what they have learned. Posters relating to basic hygiene will be displayed in the toilets as a regular reminder to students. The workshop will also be used to highlight the need for students to respect their new facilities.
We will be visiting regularly and monitoring the use and cleanliness of the facilities.
Cost in USD (Indian Rupees):
Construction Material and Labor
Cement x 55 bags: $215 (9,900)
Jelly Stone x 4mm x 1 lorry load: $217 (10,000)
Jelly Stone x 6mm x 1 lorry load: $239 (11,000)
Foundation Stone x 1 lorry load: $168 (7,750)
Sand x 2 lorry load: $196 (9,000)
Steel x 60 kg: $185 (8,500)
Industrial Water x 1 tanker: $109 (5,000)
Plastering x 100 sq ft: $65 (3,000)
Plastering Labor: $43 (2,000)
Foundation Labor x 60 sq foot: $100 (4,600)
Mixer: $65 (3,000)
Mason: $67 (3,100)
Bricklayers x 4: $96 (4,400)
Typical Ceramic Toilets x 14: $183 (8,400)
GI Pipes x 100 ft length: $26 (1,200)
Sewer Pipes x 40 ft length: $13 (600)
Chambers x 3: $5 (240)
Taps x 6: $16 (720)
Miscellaneous (angles, brackets etc.): $92 (4,250)
Doors x 7: $174 (8,000)
Door Frames x 14: $38 (1,750)
Window x 7: $68 (3,150)
Window Frames x 7: $15 (700)
Carpenter: $33 (1,500)
Electrical connection and lighting: $49 (2,250)
Electrician: $22 (1,000)
TOTAL: $2,500 (115,010)
The fundraising phase of the project was started in September 2005. Our goal is to raise the entire $2,500 by Christmas of 2005. The actual work to install the toilet facilities is scheduled to begin in January 2006 with an estimated time of one month to complete the work.
September 15, 2005: Begin fundraising
December 15, 2005: Complete fundraising goal of $2,500
December 20, 2005: Deliver funds to Kengeri School in India
January 02, 2006: Begin construction of toilet facilities
January 17, 2006: One-day hygiene workshop for students
January 30, 2006: Complete construction of toilet facilities
February 01, 2006: Toilets available for students
This project is going to be documented the from start to finish. This will include a formal project report, photos, video footage, and interviews with students and staff of the Kengari School. This material will be made available to all donors.
ARIVU was founded in 1999 by Jagan (“Joseph”) Devaraj. Joseph is a native of India who grew up in Bangalore. After working in IT for several years, Jagan decided to devote himself full-time to improving the educational experience for economically and socially marginalized students in rural India.
With the help of international volunteers, ARIVU develops programs in dozens of schools in south India including interactive reading sessions, first aid training, arts and crafts, and theater programs.
About Cosmic Volunteers
Cosmic Volunteers offers international travelers the opportunity to learn about and contribute to non-western cultures through volunteer programs, internships, and language study.
Cosmic Volunteers began by offering volunteer programs in Nepal in 2000, but has since established ongoing programs in Ecuador, Ghana, India, Kenya, Peru, the Philippines,
Cosmic Volunteers was founded in 2000 by American Scott Burke after spending three months in rural Nepal teaching English to primary school students.
Scott visited ARIVU and the Kengari School in September 2005 to meet with students and tour the school’s facilities. This was Scott’s third trip to India.
To make a donation to the Kengeri School Toilet Project, please print-out this page, fill out the form, and mail it to the address below along with a check or money order made out to “Cosmic Volunteers”.
Cosmic Volunteers will send all donors a receipt letter by post that will include the donation amount, the date the donation was made, and the name of the charity (“Cosmic Volunteers, Inc.”). The receipt letter is an acceptable record of donation for tax purposes. Donations are fully tax-deductible for U.S. taxpayers to the amount allowed by law. Cosmic Volunteers, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charity registered with the Internal Revenue Service.
All donors have the option of having their name and/or organization listed on the official
letter to be presented to the Kengeri School upon completion of the project.
Donation Form for the Kengeri School Project
City: _______________________ State: ______________ Zip: _________
How did you hear about this project? _________________________________________
____ Yes, please include my name on the official letter to be presented to the Kengeri School upon completion of the project.
Donation Amount: ___$5 ___$10 ___$25 ___$50 ___$100 ___$250 ___$500
c/o Kengeri School Project
P.O. Box 11895
Philadelphia, PA 19128