Choosing the volunteering path is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life because it makes me happy, thankful and grateful for each moment and person in my life. I don’t know if it exists a recipe to get ready for volunteering but I do know that in order to have a meaningful contribution, it’s useful to prepare yourself for this experience. I am going to volunteer for six months in India after three months of traveling in South-East Asia and I had to plan everything before, that’s why I would like to share some tips with you if you’ll ever decide to take this path in life.
The first step of my journey was to apply for Fighting with the Poor program of One World Institute Norway. This program is a very interesting combination of working, studying, traveling with the purpose of preparing you to volunteer in one of the most vulnerable communities in India or Africa. I’ve started this program in September 2018 with the working period designed to help us saving money to pay the costs of the whole experience. Nowadays, the idea of volunteering, slowly, became a trend and in some cases, you need to pay a big amount of money for doing it. This program is different because it offers you a job to pay for your travels and studies expenses transforming this period in a part of the whole process. If you’re interested to learn more about it, check this site https://www.oneworldinstitute.eu/programs/fighting-with-the-poor/ Of course, there are some challenges on the way that learn you to become more flexible but I will write more about those when I will finish this program and I will assimilate all the experiences of each period of this big plan.
Why I chose India? I have to recognize that I was inspired by stories and insights of other volunteers that were in India and came back totally transformed. I had the opportunity to learn more about the projects there and I became slowly fascinated by the idea of stepping inside the Indian civilization. The last reason is connected with the historical roots of Roma communities, I was a teacher in Romania and I had the chance to work with gypsy communities too. I think my experience in India could help me to understand more about these communities and in the future to be more prepared for working with them.
In order to volunteer in India for a longer period, you need to take care of the practicalities too like getting the visa, taking vaccinations and researching more about their customs and their society. The visa process was the most stressful from all these because it wasn’t the option to apply for a volunteering visa or another kind of visa than the working one so it wasn’t so easy to obtain it. Because this process is different from country to country, I will write another article specially for this to present how Roumanians could get a working visa for India. Concerning the vaccinations, you are not forced to take any but it’s better for your health to prevent getting sick so I would advise you to do some personal research and do what you consider that you need. You could find more information on this site https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/india. In my case, I took Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Cholera and the shot for Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Polio (also known as DTaP). My teammates took also Rabies but I prefer to avoid the animals as much as possible, anyway it’s good to have it too.
I received the advice to be ready for the cultural shock in Indian society. It’s hard to imagine how I would feel there but I’m preparing myself to enter a different world where traditions are religion are very important for the people and to set my mindset for being a guest and not an intruder in their system of values. As a woman traveler, it’s better to avoid unnecessary attention, by wearing clothes that cover your legs and your shoulders and by avoiding traveling alone by night. In some cases, maybe I will feel outraged as a foreigner woman in India, but I hope to have the right attitude to overcome each challenge that I will meet there. I don’t know what to expect from this beautiful and mysterious India but I will let myself free to explore and enjoy each step on the way.