South Asia Volunteer Programs: Nepal, India, Sri Lanka & Bangladesh
4 Aug 2016 · 10,069 Total reads
By Sarah Vandenberg
Director of Partnerships
Have you always wanted to travel to South Asia? We don’t blame you; for scenery alone, this area of the world – comprised of countries like Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh – is one of the most geographically diverse, with gorgeous beaches, bustling cities, and of course the Himalayas. Indian river valleys are home to some of the world’s oldest civilizations, and Hinduism – the world’s oldest surviving religion – was born here, as was Buddhism.
But rapid modernization and extremely high population growth (South Asia accounts for 3 of the world’s 10 most populous countries) means that this region also has dramatic levels of poverty and a growing demand for education, economic development, and community building resources. That’s where volunteers like you come in: by lending your time and skills to communities in need, you can make a real difference while exploring one of the most dynamic areas of the globe.
Teaching English as a second language, which is needed in many communities to support local tourism and business
Even though you may find yourself in a culture that’s very different from your own, the volunteer organizations below have your back and will provide you with all the resources you need – all while encouraging you to make a positive impact on people’s lives.
So, are you ready to find an adventure that will let you do good for a community in need in South Asia? Check out these great volunteer abroad programs – just a few of the many available to you right now!
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Since 2011, Plan My Gap Year has provided volunteer trips throughout Asia, with programs including conservation, childcare, teaching, and more in Bali, Cambodia, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam. Traveling with PMGY is also extremely affordable, with trips starting from only $225 for your first week overseas – and with recognition such as the Shell LiveWire Grand Idea Award, Thailand Green Excellence Award, and Special Recognition from the United Nations in Sri Lanka, Plan My Gap Year is a great choice for sustainable volunteer experiences.
Based in Ambalangoda, the Southern province of Sri Lanka, Plan My Gap Year has many different volunteer placements such as child care, English teaching, medical care, turtle conservation, and more. As PMGY’s most popular travel destination, Sri Lanka is a wonderful destination for travelers who want to explore a beach paradise while doing good for communities in need. This program starts from two weeks at just $400, and you can stay in Sri Lanka up to six months as a volunteer.
Another South Asia volunteer opportunity that’s available right now with PMGY brings you to India, where you will be able to help disabled children, teach English, volunteer in a hospital, work with women’s empowerment projects, or even take guided tours combining adventure with volunteering throughout India’s Golden Triangle and the southern city of Kerala. Plan My Gap Year’s India volunteer programs start from two weeks at $330.
Travel to Nepal and volunteer to teach English with Plan My Gap Year – on this program you will work at one of the country’s poorest communities, combating the low standard of education. Nepalese teachers are often overworked and under-qualified, and as a result, more than 40% of the country’s adult population is illiterate. Your assistance in teaching English can open doors for the young people of Nepal looking to work in tourism – Nepal’s biggest industry, and a major source of employment. Class sizes at the community education centers that you will volunteer in range from around 20 to 30 children. Program fees start at $375 for a two-week stay.
Ever wanted to visit the Himalayas? Well, GVI has an amazing chance for you to experience Himalayan life while helping the children of Nepal. You will travel to Pokhara with GVI’s international team to provide education and personal development to children, all while immersing yourself into the country’s culture. Unfortunately, Nepal is full of children who end up on the streets because their families can no longer support them – though by volunteering with GVI, you can help to create a nurturing and positive environment for these children. Plus, your program fee will help provide funding to numerous centers in Nepal run by GVI to give children a place to turn when they are out on the streets, fending for themselves.
Monday through Friday each week during your program, you will spend the mornings helping with homework or playing sports, while your evenings are free for relaxation at your homestay and getting to know your fellow volunteers. This project ranges from two to 20 weeks, and the price of the trip is dependent upon how long of a program you choose, starting from $1,700 for your first two weeks abroad.
If women’s rights is an issue you find important, check out GVI’s women’s empowerment program in India, where you’ll contribute to gender equality initiatives. GVI’s women’s empowerment program focuses on providing education, health care, life skills development, and income opportunities to help women become more independent financially while ensuring they know their rights. And your work will have a great impact on long-term efforts such as decreasing infant mortality, helping children stay in school, assisting women with finding better employment opportunities, and much more to help break the cycle of poverty. As with GVI’s other volunteer abroad opportunities, you will be able to travel and explore during your free time. You’ll stay in dormitory style accommodations along with your fellow volunteers, and have authentic dishes for lunch and dinner. This program starts from $1,700 for your first two weeks, and you’re invited to stay several months to gain the most from your placement in India.
If either of these programs sounds like the right fit for you, visit www.gviusa.com to learn more and to sign up.
What Volunteers Say: Review from Rosie
I was a 6 month intern on the Thailand elephant conservation project and it was just amazing. I got to live with a family and learned their language which let me communicate with them and see how funny and amazing they are. I got to actually make a difference and see beautiful elephants in the forest! I taught English and conservation at the school, played with the nursery children, make some amazing friends, and live in the middle of a beautiful forest! It was the best experience of my life!
Love Volunteers is an amazing organization that has a huge number of volunteer abroad opportunities worldwide. One of Love Volunteers’ many programs in South Asia invites you to India, where you can teach in schools, work in an orphanage, help promote women’s empowerment initiatives, support street children, and even take part in a medical internship. Depending on the placement, you can stay for at least one week, though some of Love Volunteers’ programs in India require a longer minimum stay to gain the most from your experience and to make the greatest impact in your host community. One-week volunteer opportunities in India through Love Volunteers start from just $310, and you’ll stay in a shared volunteer house throughout your stay.
Another meaningful volunteer option you may want to check out is a trip to Nepal, where you can teach in schools or monasteries, assist with childcare, help with school renovation, and take part in medical and healthcare initiatives. Love Volunteers invites you to stay one week or longer, with an affordable starting cost of just $195 for your first week in Nepal – this covers housing, orientation, some in-country transportation, and support throughout your stay. And of course during your free time, you’re encouraged to travel and learn all about the culture of your host country.
For more information on Love Volunteers and their trips to India, Nepal, or their many other volunteer abroad opportunities, visit www.lovevolunteers.org.
What Volunteers Say: Review from Delaney and Jordan
Love Volunteers is such an amazing organization. I can’t stress enough how kind and helpful they were doing the whole trip process. They were happy to answer any question I asked, and made the process as smooth as possible. I would recommend Love Volunteers to everyone. I can’t thank them enough for helping give me this opportunity. It easily was the greatest experience of my life, and I can’t wait to do it again.
Volunteer in South Asia with Projects Abroad and contribute to community development and conservation. The organization offers a range of projects in Nepal and Sri Lanka, perfect for if you’re looking to travel to South Asia and actively make a difference.
With the lofty Himalayas and lush jungles, Nepal is the ideal destination for nature lovers, but its citizens face many social challenges. Wildlife also is threatened by habitat destruction. You can help address these issues by providing much-needed support on volunteer projects. In the process, you’ll get to experience the rich cultures and majestic landscapes of this unique country. Here are some top project picks in Nepal:
Use your hands to contribute in a tangible way by building classrooms for schools damaged or destroyed by the 2015 earthquakes
Sri Lanka is known for its diversity. From white sand beaches to tropical jungles, the country is rich in natural beauty. Although the economy is growing, problems like poverty, inadequate access to medical care, and under-resourced schools persist. You can play an important role in making a difference while also gaining valuable skills on one of our projects in Sri Lanka. These are some of the types of work you can do in Sri Lanka:
“This trip, this experience, was without a doubt life changing for me. The independence of being away from normal support channels, the physical and mental challenge of it, the chance to meet some lovely and extraordinary people making wonderful friends from all over this beautiful world and seeing a most beautiful and richly diverse country all made this trip exceptional.”
Streamline your search for South Asia volunteer programs by using Abroadly, Volunteer Forever’s booking platform. In minutes, you can search across dozens of high-quality programs that match your preferences and budget.
There are many advantages to applying on Abroadly. First, all-volunteer projects in South Asia listed on the site have been inspected for safety and commitment to making an impact. Second, if you don’t get into the program of your choice, the application fee is fully refunded. And third, Abroadly applicants can use Volunteer Forever’s crowdfunding tools for free and they also get the chance to win a $500 scholarship.
Join Love Volunteers in Kathmandu, where you’ll teach some of the city’s most impoverished children. For this project, you’ll volunteer in a slum area at an under-resourced school. Your primary role will be to assist the teacher during classes, teach English and other subjects, play games and read to the children in English, and help the children complete projects. Your interactions with the students will be crucial in improving their English language skills, a skill that can help them break the poverty cycle and build a brighter future. You’ll also have a blast spending time with them!
During free time, check out the wonderful city of Kathmandu, which includes famous sites like Pashupatinath Temple, the happening neighborhood of Thamel, and Kathmandu Durbar Square. Program fees start at $558 for one week, with stays up to 11 weeks available. Read more and apply here!
Travel to Faridabad with Plan My Gap Year and join the women’s empowerment initiative. Through English classes, vocational workshops, and computer training, you can help empower women to find work and create a brighter future. You’ll also help them build the self-esteem and confidence necessary to pursue their dreams—which they’ve been held back from doing for far too long. Empowering women is essential to bridging the gender gap, breaking the cycle of poverty, and improving the futures of disadvantaged families and communities. You can be a part of that by joining this program.
Faridabad is a large city with a lot happening, so you’ll have plenty to do in your free time. Also, Delhi, with sites like the Red Fort and Humayun’s Tomb, is only 15 miles away. You’ll pay $579 for the first two weeks. You can stay up to 24 weeks. Read more and apply here!
Great for pre-med and medical students, as well as recent high school grads looking to pursue a career in medicine, this program offered by Plan My Gap Year takes you to Ambalangoda, Sri Lanka, where you’ll work in a private hospital. Depending on your education and experience, your role will be either more observational or hands-on. You may be placed with any number of departments, including outpatient, gynecology, emergency, labor room, and pediatrics.
When you’re off-duty, have a good time in Ambalangoda, a coastal town known its famous devil mask dancing and great beaches. You’ll pay $669 for two weeks. You can volunteer for up to 12 weeks. Sound like a great program? Read more and apply here!
A Broader View offers dozens of sustainable, meaningful volunteer placements worldwide, with many in South Asia. One volunteer opportunity to get you started in your search for the perfect placement: Construction and Renovation in Udaipur, India. On this project, you’ll work together with other volunteers and local counterparts to create a more positive and healthy environment within the community. A few tasks you’ll help with include:
Restoration and decoration of health care centers, primary schools or middle schools, and children’s homes
Artistic decoration of school interiors
Renovating sports facilities
Repairing houses for families that need urgent support
Developing recycling facilities
This project lasts from two to four weeks, and if you’re able to organize a group of five or more travelers, A Broader View will customize a volunteer project specifically for your group. Throughout the program, you’ll work Monday through Friday for four to six hours a day, and will be able to explore the area on weekends and in your free time. Your program fees are dependent upon the length of your stay – starting at $1,020 for your first two weeks – and includes accommodation in a shared volunteer house, meals, airport meet and greet, project overview and orientation, pre-trip written guide, in-country staff available 24/7, escorted airport transfer, and five days of Hindi lessons.
A Broader View also offers a unique experience in Kathmandu, Nepal for travelers interested in teaching: through this program, you’ll teach Buddhist Nuns. In Nepal, there is a high population of Buddhist families, and it’s tradition to send their daughters to the monastery to become nuns, allowing for better living conditions and education opportunities than they may have at home. In the monastery, there are about 50 girls between the ages of 4 and 18, with very poor English skills – and your help as a native or fluent speaker can make a real difference. This program is only open to female volunteers, and you are welcome to bring along books, maps, and any other materials that might help with your teaching. A Broader View recommends that all volunteers take Nepali language courses to help them communicate with the staff and students before traveling overseas. This program lasts one to 12 weeks, starting at $890 for your first week, and you’ll stay with a local host family throughout your placement.
I chose A Broader View Nepal with little knowledge of the country previous to this experience, but I am extremely glad because I was given the opportunity to embrace so many people, places, culture in short amount of time I was there. The coordinator was extremely helpful. I was never scared to ask a question, and he even provided me with a new perspective of the country. I had many people supporting & caring for me.
One of the many wonderful volunteer opportunities IVHQ offers in South Asia is a Medical Elective in Nepal, starting from just $350 for your first two weeks in the program. This is a great chance for medical and nursing students around the world to get experience working in their field, and see firsthand the contrast of Western medical practices to the realities of how it’s practiced in developing countries. That being said, you will be paired during your stay with experienced and fully-qualified physicians and nurses at hospitals in Kathmandu, Chitwan, or Pokhara.
If you’re volunteering for the short-term, your tasks may include:
Observing the operating room to become familiar with a variety of procedures
Working with children in the physical therapy department to move and exercise their limbs
Examining and changing the dressings on burn wounds
Participating in emergency room rounds, including shadowing the main emergency room physician
Learning about family planning and helping mothers with newborns
If you choose to stay longer or have a more in-depth experience with IVHQ’s Nepal medical elective, than you may be able to participate in more hands-on tasks, be placed in a more rural location, and take part in medical campaigns within your host community. And despite the busy work schedule during the week, you will have time on the weekends to explore the area or relax. To sign up, you must be able to stay at least two weeks, have at least two years’ training at a medical or nursing school, and be able to present a copy of your qualifications and certificates to IVHQ’s Nepal team.
Another impactful volunteer opportunity you can take on with IVHQ is the Temple Restoration program in Sri Lanka. Through this project, you’ll learn about Sri Lankan culture and basic construction methods while assisting with Buddhist temple restorations. This includes restoring paintings and sculptures inside the temples, repainting and cleaning the buildings, and more. And if wildlife interests you, IVHQ also offers a wild elephant conservation opportunity in Sri Lanka, where you’ll observe elephant behavior and help with research and activities in biodiversity, sustainable rural livelihood initiatives, and much more. And just like with IVHQ’s Nepal volunteer placement, you will have plenty of time on the weekends to travel and explore the area, even taking part in treks and tours arranged through IVHQ’s staff.
Global Nomadic offers career- and degree-related volunteer programs and internships to travelers worldwide – and one program you may want to take a look at right now is a one- to five-month medical internship in Nepal. With this project, you will have the opportunity to work right next to local doctors and support staff, have a flexible placement based on your own interests and abilities, and be able to learn about the Nepalese health sector and increase your own medical specialty skills. As a medical or nursing student or professional, you can work in an area that suits you best, such as gynecology, pediatrics, general medicine, nursing, emergency, pharmacy, occupational therapy, dentistry, and much more. And if you’re interested, you can be provided with more than one placement during your stay in Nepal in different areas of the country.
You must be between 18 and 65 to sign up, and you must be currently studying medicine or have a medical background. It’s also important that you be able to work at high altitudes (as you’ll be in the Himalayan Mountains), be reasonably in shape physically, have good English skills, and have travel and medical insurance as well as all required vaccinations for this program. During your stay, you’ll be placed with a local host family no further than a 30-minute walk from your project site, with two meals provided each day. This program starts from $910 for your first week, plus about $330 for each week thereafter, covering your project and placement fees, food, accommodation, airport pickup, orientation, in-country support, and project activities.
If you are interested in learning more about this medical internship in Nepal, or the other programs that Global Nomadic offers, visit https://globalnomadic.com.
Sarah has worked as a researcher and consultant in the volunteer travel world since 2004. With a BA from the George Washington University and background working with both public and private sector volunteer organizations, she enjoys exploring the world and collecting and sharing stories, trends, and advice with travelers who want to volunteer, intern, or teach abroad.
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