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A festive volunteering experience

September 2017

Kerala

Shirley Redpath from Haslemere in Surrey volunteered in India for two weeks with Volunteering Journeys over Christmas and New Year in 2016.

She chose a project in Fort Kochi, Kerala, South India, called ‘Yoga and Volunteering’. This gave her the chance to indulge her passion for yoga, at the same time as supporting people in the local community with a focus on teaching English.

A typical day on the programme started with a 75-minute yoga class on a roof terrace with the sounds of the city waking up in the background – something Shirley describes as a mystical experience. After breakfast at the Volunteering Journeys’ accommodation, she and the other volunteers travelled by tuk tuk to their projects. Shirley split her time between working with children in the local school and supporting women with their English skills in a women’s empowerment project. As her visit coincided with the holiday period, a lot of the time spent in the school was playing games and doing crafts with the children.

Shirley Redpath

One of the highlights for Shirley was being able to take part in the children’s Christmas party. In the run-up to the party all the volunteers spent time wrapping presents for the children and she says it was fantastic to watch their faces as they opened them. The volunteers were then treated to a wonderful show of singing and dancing by the children.

Another highlight was the strong connections she felt with the people she met. Shirley now counts the local staff and several of her fellow volunteers as friends.

Volunteering Journeys organises its programmes so that volunteers have the ideal balance of exploring the local area alongside their volunteering work. Shirley particularly enjoyed trips to see more of Kerala, including a weekend in Munnar. Found to the east of Fort Kochi, Munnar is in a stunning setting in the mountains where Shirley spent her time exploring the tea plantations and watching wild monkeys. She also enjoyed a trip to the backwaters of Kerala, spending Christmas Eve on a houseboat with three other volunteers.

dinner

Shirley did a lot of research when planning her trip. She found the programme with Volunteering Journeys through Responsible Travel and, as a woman travelling to India on her own, was reassured by both the fact the programme was approved by the Duke of Edinburgh Award and the knowledge and helpful nature of the staff she booked the trip with.

She also sings the praises of the staff in Kerala. Nothing was too much trouble for them both in helping her and the other volunteers make the most of their stay and also in making sure that all the volunteers approached their project in the right way, giving much needed support to the local people.

Reminiscing on her experiences in India, Shirley says: “An experience like this in India can change your life if you let it and I am so glad that I went. I have always wanted to visit India and I fell in love with the way of life, the sights and the sounds. From a personal point of view, I now have a better understanding of what I can and can’t do to make a difference in what is an ever-confusing world. This, combined with a better understanding of different cultures makes the experience one I will never forget and would recommend to anyone!”

 


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