I’d been spending my spare time volunteering back home in England for a while, but I wanted more, I wanted to travel, to have a big adventure, to challenge myself and make a difference to the lives of people living in developing countries. I knew I didn’t want to pay alot of money to volunteer for an NGO where I might not have a big impact, I wanted to be supported by a reputable organisation. I did lots of internet research and went to the Volunteering Centre near my house in Bristol and VSO, or Voluntary Services Overseas, was the best I could find. VSO has a strategic alliance with the UK’s Department for International Development and work in over 40 countries, sending volunteers to share their skills rather than money. All placements with VSO are fully funded and each country has its own programme office supporting volunteers.
We've just added a fantastic certified review of Cross Cultural Solutions, sent to us by one of their previous volunteers. Thanks, Jean!
"I volunteered with Cross Cultural Solutions for a 7 week trip to Dharamsala in Northern India. It was a dream come true for me as I had wanted to do something like this all my life and then at the age of 64 I had been accepted, raised my program fee and was on my way. Also for me CCS accepted me although I had no medical or teaching skills. The information given before departure corresponded exactly with the placement and I feel it was better than I expected.I felt, right from the date I registered with CCS, that I had continued support from them in emails and telephone calls and they were able to answer all my stupid little questions with patient understanding. From the moment I arrived in Delhi and was met at the airport at midnight by two CCS reps I felt safe and at home and knew it was going to be a good experience. The short stay in Delhi was informative, well organised and fun. My arrival in Dharamsala was fantastic starting with the views of the mountains from the airport. The staff were friendly, helpful and great fun. We were transported to various different places to learn about their culture, scenery etc always accompanied by staff who were very informative.The accommodation was good and the food local and excellent and plenty of it. I have coeliacs disease and they catered for my special needs very well and happily."
India has a population of about 1.17 billion people and has diverse demographics, with more than two thousand ethnic groups and with every major religion represented. It is a country of not just many people but many adventures – an ideal place to investigate on a gap year, or a break from a career path, where even small tasks can become adventures. The cities tend to be overcrowded, and are riddled with all sorts of sights and sounds and smells that blow the senses. Not only is there a glowing cultural heritage that comes from five thousand years of history, but there are fifteen official languages to go with the array of religions, and many spiritual practices. The colour continues to be blasted at the travelling visitor in the colourful festivals that happen all year round, and then just through the tradition that pops up in every aspect of the everyday. Though India is large, there is a strong sense of community wherever you go, wherever you stay, especially if you are staying with a family – tribal Indian society remains strong, particularly in the uplands and woodland areas. Once into this colourful country, you can peruse the streets and different cities like the shelves in an antique shop – you can visit the Taj Mahal in Agra, or the magical city of Jaipur, which is located in the desert lands of Rajasthan, the largest state in terms of area, in the north of India. It lies in the Great Indian ‘Thar’ Desert and holds the ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur, the first planned city of India, which is now a thriving hub of business and is painted pink. It lies 260km from the capital of India, Delhi. Delhi is rich in agriculture and history, with all sorts of monumental buildings to visit, such as the Swaminarayan Akshardham complex, with the main monument, built completely from pink sandstome from Rajasthan and Carrara marble from Italy, standing magnificent in the middle of the complex, 43 metres tall and 96 metres wide, carved from top to bottom with flora and fauna, dancers and musicians and an assortment of deities. It also reflects the importance of the elephant in Hindu culture and the history of India because it holds 148 scale sized elephants. The breathtaking Himalayas pick up the Indian border in the north, but the whole of India is flecked with all sorts of wonder, all the way through to the south – there are deserts and tropical rainforests, old temples and scenic national parks, beaches and then there is the quirky wonder that comes from observing the infrastructure of the country, with the complex train network, the chaos of city roads, and also the rickety buses that wriggle around from village to village in the whole of India not just the cities. Visitors must be careful though – there are some areas that should not be travelled through, such as through rural areas of Jammu and Kashmir, and all travel directly in the area before the border with Pakistan – and there is a high general threat of terrorism through the whole of India, with recent attacks in Ahmedabad, Delhi and Mumbai. Attacks in the future may be targeting public places where Westerners and expatriates can be found.