“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.
Mike Reeder, a secondary-school teacher from Minnesota, joined our volunteer program for orphans and street children in Mumbai, India in the summer of 2006.
Mike recently sent us some thoughtful comments and photos about the experience:
Was our Volunteering Handbook for India helpful in preparing for the journey?
The guide was extremely useful and very detailed. It gave a thorough insight to what I could expect when I arrived. The “miscellaneous tips and information” section was very practical information to include. A section I thought was unique but a great idea to include was the “recommended reading” section. The last page with its closing thoughts I enjoyed reading several times.
Did you find the local Project Coordinator to be helpful?
She was extremely helpful, and I would add helpful to the point of being indispensable. I appreciated her checking in with me to see how I was doing and if there were things I needed.
How was the experience of living with a host family?
I thought it provided a genuine way to experience Indian life and culture. They were helpful in showing me parts of the neighborhood and where I could get things I needed.
Were you able to do any sightseeing on your recent trip?
Whitewater rafting at Karjat; flying to Delhi and then taking a train to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and other monuments there.
Has volunteering abroad changed you in any way? Would you volunteer again?
This is the third time I have volunteered abroad. Each time brings new experiences and new things I learn about myself as I push myself beyond my typical comfort zone. I absolutely would do it again.
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.