Volunteering In India

Volunteering In India

by Farrah Schwab

You’ve landed in the great, magical India! Welcome! Namaskar! Hare Om!

Which winding bus route will you choose, which forests will you wonder through and which dazzling markets will you frequent and test out your soon to be refined haggling skills?! Some call it the land of opportunity, some a land within which the ‘spirit’ regenerates itself, but the most popular and modern local proverb states, and quite accurately, that ‘Everything is Possible in India’!

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Arguably the most inexpensive, and damnably addictive, way to get acquainted with a portion of Indian life, is to work on any farm or permaculture homestead around the sub- continent. The labour intensive workload on these plots of land could always do with more eager hands and curious minds. It was in Honey Valley, Karnataka, the South of India, where this became my reality for a short while.

Along with an assembly of intrepid travelling companions, I was determined to see what lay in the magic of the Western Ghats mountain range. Lo and behold, we landed at a cardamom, coffee & ginger plantation high in the hills. It took a wild bus ride packed with more than 60 school kids, a few crumbling bus stops and the steepest Land Rover drive I’ve ever experienced to reach the top of the valley. But there I was, in a sunset coloured house, wooden floorboards and the smell of freshly dried and roasted coffee beans permeating my senses, I couldn’t be more excited or simultaneously frightened about the unknown potential of it all! A home amongst the trees and a place to learn about Indian agriculture is definitely what I came out here for!

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And so we listened to instructions on how to pluck the peppercorns from their tightly wrapped vines; to the harvest and bottle the delectable and precious South Indian honey. We couldn’t have been happier or more intrigued! These are the places to that will lure you into the magic of India. These are the places where you brew a ‘richness’ inside of yourself and in others, as you work closely with the earth, immersed in a beautiful new world . These are the stories, the experiences and the skills to bring home with you.

So try something different and opt for routes ‘off the beaten track’ (to be precise: dusty dirt roads where tar is yet but a dream!). When you land in your town of choice, scout for the home stays on the outskirts of the main villages. A home stay involves staying with a local Indian family, almost always in the same house, sharing kitchen and ablutions and soon enough, sharing the workload if you stay there too long! Learn how to make chapatti, South Indian dosa’s or, indeed, how to brew the perfect batch of chai! (Or coffee!)

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The traveller (yes, that’s you!) must keep in mind that these are people’s homes. A certain degree of respect and a healthy, friendly attitude is expected and accepted very warmly throughout the Indian sub-continent. Once you have chosen a farmstead to help out at begin your negotiations with the family openly, expressing your full intention of being there. You are temporarily immersing yourself in a community that upholds certain values so you must be willing to accept a new way of living and give yourself over to the processes that the community/family follows.

There is no doubt that any place that you choose to help will teach you boundless things about humanity and our Earth. One thing that you can rely on to keep spirits high is a broad and genuine smile! Kids will flock to you, old women will laugh with (and at!) you, and soon, a few weeks will feel like a few months and your new worldly family will love you like their own, and you them!

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Here are some useful links to whet your appetite for a more immersive travelling experience:

To return home with a certificate and an incredible experience:

http://www.permaculture.org.uk/education/course/international-certified-pdc-south-india-2014-02-02

http://www.livingmandala.com/Living_Mandala/Upcoming_Course_Workshops_and_Events.html

To volunteer and meet your earthly family from all over the globe:

http://www.aurovillepermaculture.com/volunteers-opportunities-for-farming/

http://www.wwoofindia.org/home.htm

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