Photo: Mazur Travel/Shutterstock

Urban Volunteering: Calcutta

by Reeti Roy Mar 4, 2010
In our Urban Volunteering series, writers highlight opportunities to make a difference in the cities they know well.

If you are looking to fight for women’s rights and gender equality, or help ensure that street children get adequate education, Calcutta needs volunteers like you.


CINI is an acronym for Child In Need Institute while asha literally translates as hope. Founded in 1974 by Dr. Samir Chaudhuri, a pediatrician, CINI started off trying to address problems of malnutrition in children. One man’s zeal turned into a comprehensive and holistic project when the government of India decided to back it and it received support from Save the Children.

CINI ASHA is the urban unit of CINI. Founded in 1989, CINI ASHA works towards the betterment of street children in Calcutta. They believe the first step is to establish familiarity between the CINI staff and street children; therefore, they have created 30 drop in centers in different parts of the city, including close to the Sealdah station and Park Street, where many children congregate.

CINI ASHA also works with schools in Calcutta to sensitize them about the special needs of street children and helps these children find jobs after they have finished school.

Volunteers with a background in medicine, education, psychology, law, and activism are especially welcome. CINI also needs English/ PR graduates to help them with their marketing/public relations and email and grant writing. Students are also allowed to volunteer. Volunteers can participate in fund raising events and can also engage in fieldwork.

To volunteer with CINI ASHA, email them at:

Disha Foundation

Disha Foundation began in 1992 to allow the slum children of Manoharpukur Road to explore and use their talent, skills, and potential through education.

At first, funds were hard to come by and classes took place in verandahs, garages, and stairways. In 2000 however, Disha acquired its own premises. In 2002, Disha was registered as a trust.

Teachers and people with a strong background in creative writing are needed, though students are invited to volunteer as well. Volunteers can teach and can also develop creative writing, acting, music, or painting classes after discussing their project idea with volunteer coordinator Ms. Neena Singh.

To volunteer with Disha, contact them via the form available at their website and get in touch with Mrs. Neena Singh. A working knowledge of Hindi or Bengali is helpful, although not mandatory.


Sanlaap is an organization working towards the eradication of gender injustice towards women and violence against women and children. Its core concerns are sexual trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation through forced prostitution, and sexual abuse.

Human rights lawyers, women’s rights activists, students of sociology, and academics working in related fields are ideal volunteers. School and college students are also allowed to intern. Applications are evaluated on a case by case basis.

To volunteer, contact or

Calcutta Rescue

Calcutta Rescue is a registered NGO formed in 1979 for the socially and economically disadvantaged of Kolkata (Calcutta) and rural West Bengal. Projects include an active outreach program which coordinates efforts like free medicine programs, a vocational training program including weaving mills, and a fair trade handicrafts workshop.

Doctors are vital for this organization because of its focus on health systems and improving the health of the economically disadvantaged. Overseas volunteers are asked to commit to volunteering for Calcutta Rescue for six to 12 months. In special circumstances, a minimum of three months is permissible.

Medical personnel, educators, administrators, and management consultants and sponsored; the financial support is enough to cover living costs. Non-sponsored volunteers are not supported financially.

To volunteer, send your CV and a cover letter to

Community Connection:

All of our international volunteering resources can be found on the Volunteering Abroad focus page.

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