Photo: McKay Savage

India is an exciting place for social change and development work, and a lot of people from abroad join local organizations to get involved.

Many of the people who come here, come with the intention of staying on, and eventually start their own organizations, while many expat Indians come back to start sustainable development projects.

Real, concrete, and visionary social change initiatives are going on in each state. Areas of focus include rural development, ecology and conservation, animal welfare, women and children’s rights work, health awareness, treatment and relief camps, pedagogy and teaching, community development, and poverty reduction.

If you’re interested in volunteering here, getting started can be overwhelming. For the volunteer living outside of India, wondering what to choose from among the many options online, it can be tempting to sign up for a readymade volunteer program that charges tons of money, promising you a convenient “volunteer experience” ranging from a week to a few months.

“If you’re interested in volunteering here, getting started can be overwhelming.”

These programs are hardly the only option–or the best. It is one thing to have your volunteer project pre-arranged for you – from the plane ride, to the accommodation, to the place you’ll be volunteering. And it is quite another thing to arrange all of this independently, exercising your own confidence and judgment, talking to organizations directly, and not having to spend a single penny on super-expensive pre-arranged volunteer “experiences”. All you have to do is cover your own expenses.

Here are some free online databases to get you started with finding a volunteering opportunity in India:

Let Me Know — The Social Innovation page of this website lists many opportunities for both Indian people and those from abroad, along with the contact details of organizations accepting volunteers, and a countdown to the last day for applications.

Karma Yog – This is a very extensive database of organizations, separated into categories depending on the focus of the work they do. The site gives you the opportunity to create your profile as a volunteer, though checking out organization profiles and contacting them directly should be a faster route.

IndiCorps – This organization provides leads to several ways in which volunteers over the world can get involved, for example via the Indiserve listings, which list opportunities from all over India.

Photo: brian glanz

Teach for India – This is a long term opportunity and requires a two year commitment; it’s a great opportunity for cultural immersion and closely understanding India while being a leader and making a difference.

Idealist – This is an amazing database not just for India, but the world over.

Independent Volunteer — This is also a global network, with the goal of bringing together independent volunteer travelers with similar interests.

GiveIndia –This site lists volunteer opportunities by state, which may be useful for volunteers with location preferences.

Charities In India – This site has a blog style approach, with each post dedicated to a volunteering opportunity.

Photo: c0t0s0d0

To give you an idea of the kind of opportunities you can find with a simple Google search and some patience, here is a list of some very specific places (not a representative sample at all):

For the Free Tibet movement, in McLeod Ganj:
Contact Mag

For photographers:
FairMail

For organizers/management professionals:
Nanubhai Education Foundation

For health care, education, child rights, community development:
The East West Foundation of India

For aid to displaced communities in north India:
Tong-Len

For women’s empowerment:
Prime Trust

Community Connection:

Read more about India on our India Focus Page.