The world is a big place, and when I made the decision to go travelling during my summer break, India was the last place I thought I would find myself. I spent endless hours online exploring the different websites and considering the endless possibilities before making the final decision to email volunteering solutions and inquire about the opportunities they provided. I decided to volunteer in India as the combination of volunteering in a street children project with some travel seemed like a good option.
Arriving in New Delhi, culture shock and adjusting
Arriving in New Delhi was a welcomed relief, but it was also pretty scary too. I was glad that the flights were over, and after thirteen hours of travelling I was looking forward to crawling into some sort of bed. However 4PM in India was clearly the equivalent to London rush hour, and I was finding the whole cultural scene passing my taxi window overwhelming. I made the choice to extend my trip for the week before my volunteering program was due to start – looking back it might have been a more sensible idea to have done that the week after.
Once settled in my accommodation and getting some much needed rest, I was all ready to explore and make the most of my free week before joining the volunteering group.
I managed to bag myself my very own Indian tour guide, provided by a tourist company and found myself stumbling into a variety of flea markets, getting measured for my very own handmade sari and eating traditional southern Indian cuisine in the local restaurants. Although all of this was amazing and I was having the experience of a lifetime, I should also mention that during this first week I was completely overwhelmed with the Indian culture and lifestyle. I had done my fair share of travelling previous to this trip and was more than familiar with being away from home, but there was something about India that made me feel very detached from life. This feeling I should also add, turned out to be one of the most educational and best parts of the trip.
The First Week In India and Joining Volunteering Solutions
During this week I also, thankfully, managed to make time to visit the abundance of temples that New Delhi had to offer. The color and architecture of these buildings was incredible and each building provided a peaceful and tranquil environment away from the chaos of the city. I felt extremely mindful and spiritual as I made my way between Gurudwara, Birla Mandir and the Lotus temple, just a few of my personal favorites.
I joined the volunteering program the following week. I got picked up from my accommodation and taken straight to where I would be staying for the rest of my time in India. The best thing about staying here was the people I met. For the two weeks you become almost like a little family, and I met some really awesome people who I was lucky to spend the two weeks with. After settling In, volunteering solutions organise an introduction day. This is where you find out where you will be going on your placement and some other very useful information about India, the country and the culture – most of which I could have done with during my first week but I guess it was an experience having to figure it all out for myself.
Agra, Jaipur and Delhi
During the two weeks we also got the opportunity to travel, visiting some of the most amazing buildings and sites that are between New Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. Many of the sites in New Delhi we discovered for ourselves. Auto rickshaw is New Delhi’s most popular and convenient way to travel, just be prepared to barter to get the best price. The Metro is also a quick and cheap alternative, although I wouldn’t recommend avoiding the women’s only carriage unless, like us you have male company. We received some very strange looks as we piled into a carriage full of men in a bid to keep our male friend from travelling solo.
Akshardham is one of the most amazing and incredible buildings in New Delhi which echoed in spirituality. I would definitely recommend taking some time to go and visit, making sure not to miss the spectacular water and light show that they perform every evening. The use of live actors, multi colored lasers and water jets provides the most breathtaking 30 minute performance.
A six hour drive, south of New Delhi took us to the city of Jaipur also known as the pink city. The Amer fort constructed of red sandstone and marble was such a pleasure to visit. An adventurous elephant ride took us to the summit of the fort and meant we were able to take in the unbelievable views of the city and the impressively beautiful scenery.
The fort was home to many of India’s monkeys which added to the character and was also full of history and religion as we made our way through the buildings and around the cobbled streets and gardens.
Another six hour drive, east of Jaipur, meant we were able to visit one of the Seven Wonders of the World located in Agra. The Taj Mahal. At first the idea of getting up at 6.00 AM and making our way over to the palace seemed a little unreasonable, and as you can imagine none of us were particularly thrilled making our way out of our hotel at that hour. This feeling suddenly diminished as we entered the palace and made our way around the grounds. There was already a sea of people flooding through the gates and we quickly realized that this was easily the best time of the day to make our way around. The whole structure was a work of art and easily one of the most magnificent things I have ever seen. It was an absolute pleasure to visit and well worth the numerous hours of travelling and the early start.
Volunteering In India – The Highlight of the trip
The main point of this whole trip and the most important part was of course the time I spent volunteering in Delhi.This was the most amazing and educational experience of my life so far. The street children shelter was full of inspirational and amazing people. NavJagriti (also known as small family in English) was founded by Dalia Kar a truly incredible woman who ensures, along with the help of her family that children are taken off the streets and given the opportunity to develop an education. The children are fed and clothed and most importantly given love and support. One of our roles whilst we were at the shelter was to help the children with their maths and English skills. As a trainee teacher this was an absolute delight and it was my privilege to work with these children watching them learn and develop their skills. It was also a great test for me, finding different ways to teach and ensuring that the activities and concepts being taught would be understood and useful for the children.
Being part of the environment at NavJagriti went much further than teaching the children maths and English and really was something so special. My role was tiny, and in comparison to the bigger picture and the role that the other teachers played, I really did not do that much. I am just so thankful to have been given the opportunity to meet everyone involved, I got to experience the real Indian culture and way of life and have never felt more educated about the world than I do right now. It is definitely an experience I will carry with me throughout the rest of my life.
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