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Two Weeks in the Field

By Riva Japaul 3 weeks ago
Categories Kerala

I’ve just finished my penultimate day volunteering with GVI, and it has definitely been an amazing experience! I spent most of my time at a school that supports children and young adults with special needs and mostly worked with the younger children there. The sensory room, where we carry out most of our sessions, is an example of the amazing work that GVI have done. The GVI team had turned a previously plain room into a room with a huge amount of toys and activities which encourage the children to engage with their senses. The work we did in the sensory room was extremely important because sensory engagement helps the children’s social and mental capabilities advance.

I quickly learnt that it’s not realistic to expect to see change from just one session. As you get to know the children, you realise that an achievement such as making it through the session without crying or being able to respond to their name being called is actually a huge moment for them, even if it may not seem like a big deal! One session we had involved a child who usually doesn’t socialise with other people. During one particular session however he played with another girl for ten minutes, and for us that was a really heartwarming sight. We also played sports with some of the students, which is really fun because they’re all so excited.

Volunteering ensures that you’re being active for a large part of the day. This also means you become super sweaty! Trying to play cricket in 35 degree heat with ten excitable children is exhausting! The heat has definitely been overwhelming, but most of the indoor rooms have fans so it doesn’t impact too much on your volunteering. At the weekends though a trip to the pool or beach is necessary!

The thing that I love about the partner school I worked with, and also about the volunteer work I’ve done in India, is that although the situations of the people we work with may not be positive, they all have such an amazing outlook on life. The children I worked with are always smiling, laughing and ready to work with you! When I started I was worried that the schools and centres would be depressing atmospheres, but it’s been the complete opposite. Most of the schools and centres are colourful and full of noise. We had a school disco at this school recently and it was one of the most hectic but hilarious experiences of my life. I lost a dance competition to a 6 year old, which definitely says something about my dance skills!

My advice to people is, if you have time, volunteer with GVI in Kerala India for as long as possible! I could only volunteer for two weeks and it definitely wasn’t enough. I wish I could’ve stayed longer. Being able to stay longer means you can form long-term bonds with the people you work with and also the volunteers that you live with. Although I do feel like I made a difference to some of the student’s lives on a minor level, the chance to stay and volunteer for a few months would make the experience so much better for me.