Volunteer on community projects in Kochi, Kerala

Volunteer on child development, teaching, construction & women's empowerment projects in Mattancherry in the city of Kochi in Kerala, South India.

You can join for 2 weeks up to 6 months and we have places available all throughout the year.

Individuals, groups and students all welcome.

Cost for breakfast & dinner, lodging in a homestay, airport pickup & drop off, programme materials and support; from £880.

Local school childrenVolunteer teaching a classThe famous Chinese fishing nets in KochiChildren in the classroomBackwater weekend boat trip in KeralaHomestay accommodation for volunteersCommunity project installing a water system at a schoolBeach view in Fort KochiTraditional dance (Kathakali) performanceVolunteer teaching a studentOutside view of a homestayVolunteers can visit scenic Munnar during weekendsVolunteer giving a one to one lessonChildren preparing for classA neighbourhood in Mattancherry, where the project runs environmental cleanupsSpices at a local marketVolunteer taking tuk-tuk transportation to the projectLocal street mural in KochiA view of the Chinese fishing nets in action at Fort KochiA view of the beach at Fort KochiVolunteers on a weekend tour in MunnarHindu temple in Kochi

About the Project

School Children in KeralaVolunteers will work together with a local grassroots social enterprise in the community of Mattancherry in Kochi, Kerala, India, with the goal of creating sustainable livelihoods by supporting education, child development, women's empowerment and environmental sustainability. As a volunteer, you will work directly on community-led projects with underprivileged members of the community, helping to provide access to education and better life opportunities. The project also has a strong cultural element. As a volunteer you will be an active participant in the community, not just as a tourist, giving you an insight into the land, the culture and the lives of the people of Kochi. The project also offers safe, responsible travel tours in the Kerala region, allowing you to explore this fascinating region of India.

Volunteers can participate in one of several volunteer projects in Kerala, including:

  • Child Education & Development projects
  • Construction volunteering
  • Volunteering with Disabled Children
  • Women's empowerment volunteering

Child Education & Development Volunteering in Kerala

Teaching volunteer in KeralaVolunteer to help provide educational support to children in under-served areas. The project provides free education, educational resources, uniforms and play materials to local children. As a teaching and child development volunteer, you will help in providing both educational and extracurricular activities in local schools, including;  teaching basic math and science, spoken English, general knowledge, literacy, providing motivational sessions, holding creative courses for art, singing and dancing and participating in sports and games. As a volunteer, you will also help to develop educational strategies to help students improve their literacy, succeed at school and see a brighter future.

When you join our team, you will be part of an ongoing project, building upon the contributions of volunteers before you, and leaving your legacy to those who follow. You will work with children aged 6-16. On-site staff members will always be on hand to assist and guide you.

Typical Volunteer Activities & Curriculum;

  • Covering Basic English, Math & Science; colours and shapes, animals and sounds
  • General Knowledge
  • Creative exercises such as drawing, painting, music and dance
  • Providing motivational sessions
  • Storytelling
  • Basic hygiene awareness
  • Developing Writing skills
  • Sports and Games

Construction Volunteering in Kerala

Volunteers painting a school in Kochi

Many rural villages in Kerala lack basic infrastructure such as access to drinking water, proper sanitation facilities, electricity or proper roads, adversely affecting the quality of life of the people living there. By volunteering in our construction project in Kerala, you will play an important role in improving the infrastructure of the region and ensuring a better quality of life for the rural people. You can volunteer to help in many areas – from constructing houses, classrooms, storage facilities for drinking water and rainwater harvesting to repairing and building roads and sanitation facilities. Even the smallest of effort you make will go a long way in bringing about a change in the living standards of the people.

Our local team at Kochi will provide all the assistance that you will require throughout the project, ensuring that your time and skills are put to good use during the time you are volunteering. The construction tasks entrusted to you will vary depending on your skill set and background, so be sure to let us know in your application. You will be able to interact with the villagers and get an insight into their way of living and see firsthand how your contribution would make a difference in their lives. Our staff team will be at hand to provide the training you require to perform your tasks. Volunteers must also be physically fit and enjoy working outside as the project will require a reasonable amount of physical labour in a hot climate.

Volunteering with Disabled Children in Kerala

Backwater tour in KeralaWorking with children and adults with special needs can be a challenging yet very rewarding experience. Special needs children have the same needs as all children, the only difference is that a child with special needs requires a little extra attention, support and encouragement. This special needs volunteer project is our way of doing a small bit in improving the quality of lives of these children by providing them the support and care they need whilst also providing you an opportunity to discover and explore the culture-rich sights of Kerala.

As a volunteer, you will play an important role in assisting the caregivers of local children with special needs. Your work will depend on the age of the child and the disability he or she has. You will be working with children between 5 and 15 years of age. The main areas of work include helping out with the children’s daily routines, assisting at mealtimes, helping them with basic education or engaging them in simple games and activities that they enjoy. You can also provide assistance with their necessary daily exercise routines. Volunteer work will be done on weekdays. Evenings and weekends are your time to relax or take in Kochi and its culture. Our local on-site staff will be on hand at all times to provide the support and advice you will need regarding your volunteer work and your work schedule.

The special needs volunteer project in Kerala does not require previous qualifications, although a background in special needs caregiving will be beneficial. A caring, compassionate and patient nature are the qualities you will need for this work, which will go a long way in creating a positive difference in lives of these children.

Women's Empowerment Volunteering in Kerala

Tourist site in Kochi

Despite the advancements made economically in India, the idea of patriarchy is deeply embedded in Indian society, and gender equality is still in its infancy. It is an unfortunate fact that many women face issues such as domestic violence, dowry death, illiteracy, early marriage and a lack of employment options, particularly those from vulnerable social groups.

This women's empowerment project in Kerala believes that the road to equality begins with the right support and education. We have years of experience working with women in conflict in our local community of Kochi. Based on our field experience, we have developed a comprehensive programme for women’s social and economic empowerment, a project aimed to open doors for marginalised women, to build support networks, to help them learn critical skills, and to know their fundamental rights. This project's goal is to provide a steady foundation for each woman on her road to stability. We empower women with vocational skills and earning power in local markets, and connect them to cooperatives, and village associations. Health awareness is another huge factor, and we teach them to maintain their health, including reproductive health, and provide access to reliable health facilities. They learn the importance of civic participation and are hopefully motivated to pass on the message to others, creating an empowered sisterhood.

As a Women’s empowerment volunteer, your duties will include teaching basic language, computer skills, adult literacy classes and vocational skills, mentoring women to build their confidence, conducting women’s health care workshops and guidance on income-generating resources. Based on your skills and background, you can also provide informal training in creative skills such as beauty therapy, computing, sewing, embroidery and knitting. Our sessions are conducted in local community centers, women’s colleges or schools. Our bilingual staff will be present on-site to support you with language concerns and implementing course plans.

Women's Empowerment Volunteer Duties Include:

  • Teaching basic English
  • Fundamental Rights awareness
  • Vocational skills training
  • Health awareness
  • Computer literacy
  • Adult literacy classes
  • General Knowledge classes
  • Motivational and confidence boosting exercises

Volunteer Schedule

Backwater in KeralaPlease note that in general as a volunteer you will be spending your time on only one of the projects above that you have selected in your application, however, in some cases you can work on other projects as well, for example during school holidays. Volunteers will work on weekdays in the mornings and afternoons, with a lunch break, for a minimum of 4 to 5 hours a day. We will arrange Tuk -Tuk transport for your travel to the projects and back to your homestay each day. On evenings and weekends volunteers can visit local sights and do some local activities, some of which are included and some at your own expense. Our local staff can help you to organise your weekend trips.

Upon your arrival at Kochi airport, you will be greeted by one of our staff members and taken to your accommodation where you will get to meet the rest of the team who will be working with you on the project. After food and a bit of relaxation, you will be given a tour to help you get an orientation of the area. Your project coordinator will provide you with the project timings and the work schedule which you can discuss during your orientation meeting.

Dates & Costs

Volunteer painting in Kochi

10th to 24th March 2018
24th March to 7th April 2018
7th to 21st April 2018
21st April to 5th May 2018
5th to 19th May 2018
19th May to 2nd June 2018

2nd to 16th June 2018
16th to 30th June 2018
30th June to 14th July 2018
14th to 28th July 2018
28th July to 11th August 2018
11th to 25th August 2018
25th August to 8th September 2018
8th to 22nd September 2018
22nd September to 6th October 2018
6th to 20th October 2018
20th October to 3rd November 2018
3rd to 17th November 2018
17th November to 1st December 2018
1st to 15th December 2018
15th to 29th December 2018

Please note that the above dates are listed only as a guide, we are flexible with dates and you can join the project starting on any Saturday or Sunday throughout the year, as long as you are able to stay for at least 2 weeks. The minimum stay to join this project is 2 weeks and the maximum stay is 6 months.

The cost to join this volunteer project in Kochi is £880 for 2 weeks, £1080 for 3 weeks, £1280 for 4 weeks, and every extra week costs £210. For prices for any other duration not listed above, please email aaron@workingabroad.com

We can also accept families with children & large groups for this project, and you may be eligible for discounted rates - please email us if you are interested. To find out more about family volunteering abroad click here.

School children in Kochi

What is included:

  • Airport pick up and drop off
  • Safe and basic accommodation in a homestay
  • Breakfast and dinner meals each day
  • Pre-departure information and support
  • Training, orientation and health and safety briefing on arrival
  • 24/7 support from local staff and the on-site project manager
  • Local transportation when at the project (e.g. from your accommodation to your volunteer project sites each day)
  • Volunteer activities and all necessary project equipment and materials
  • Some weekend tourist/sightseeing activities

What's not Included:

  • Lunch meals each day
  • Flights to and from Cochin Airport
  • Visa costs
  • Medical and travel insurance
  • CRB (Police) Background check from your home country
  • Personal expenses
  • Extra local excursions/tourist activities you may wish to do during your free time in the surrounding region (trekking, tours, etc.), although we can advise you on this

Food, Lodging, Travel, Requirements

Volunteer Accommodation in KeralaAt our volunteer project in Kerala, volunteers will stay in homestay accommodation in Fort Kochi. The homestay accommodations are clean and simple, so you should be prepared to live in fairly basic but peaceful surroundings. The homestays include many facilities such as a Western-style bathroom, stable electricity, ceiling fans and wifi Internet. The accommodation is shared with ensuite bathrooms. You may be sharing your room with one other person. If you wish for more privacy, you can upgrade to a private air-conditioned room upon request at extra cost, please just ask us for more details. Food will be provided by your homestay and will include breakfast and dinner. You will need to purchase your own lunch during the day at the project sites. The menu will be mostly local Indian food, including traditional Keralan dishes. All food preparations and cooking are carried out under strict hygienic conditions.

Homestay Accommodation in Kochi

The homestay accommodations are in the heart of Fort Kochi, and as such you will also have access to many nearby shops, banks, medical facilities and more, and you can also contact the local coordinators or ask your homestay at any time if you need assistance with anything. A guide well versed in English will be with you throughout your stay to assist you locally.

During your free time on the weekends, local sightseeing trips can be organised for volunteers (some of which are included in the project costs). In addition, volunteers can visit different sites and can also travel to other popular tourist sites in Kerala & India by themselves or with a guide. These extra longer trips are not included in the cost, but our local coordinators are happy to advise and guide you on travel and tourism options in the region.

Volunteer tour in MunnarVolunteer Requirements
Volunteers in Kerala should be aged 18 years or older and speak fluent English. All nationalities are welcome. Volunteers do not need any specific skills or qualifications, however, any skills you do have such as teaching qualifications, construction experience or experience of working with children will of course be useful for the projects. Volunteers should also be self-motivated, calm and independent, and willing to help out with a range of different projects and activities when required. If you are not flexible, patient, or adaptable, you will probably not enjoy life in India. Volunteers are also required to obtain a police background check from their home country and both email us a scanned copy of this and also bring a printed copy with them to show to local staff on arrival.

Your health and safety as a volunteer, as well as the safety of our staff and the community members you are working with, are our foremost priority. We have therefore taken many steps to ensure that you and as those around you can work with peace of mind. They include:

  • Community development project in KochiIt is compulsory for us to receive criminal background checks for all participants and staff
  • It is compulsory for volunteers to have travel (medical) insurance
  • Health and safety training is provided upon arrival to all participants
  • We provide emergency contact numbers for all participants upon arrival (and pre-departure)
  • We select locations that are safe for our volunteers
  • We identify the risks and hazards involved in each project so as to educate participants and staff during their orientation

Fruit market in Kochi

The quickest and simplest option is to fly to Cochin International Airport in India (code COK). Please aim to arrive on a Saturday (your project start date). You will then be collected at the airport when you arrive by project staff and taken to your homestay accommodation, ready to meet the team and begin your volunteer project.

Volunteers will need to apply for a visa online in advance of their arrival to India, and volunteers have to cover any visa fees themselves. Most volunteers choose to join the project with a tourist visa. If you have any questions about visas please let us know.

Background & Video

Some General Information & History of the Region (Kochi)

Kochi fishing netsKochi, also known as Cochin, is a major port city on the south-west coast of India by the Arabian Sea and the Laccadive Sea and is part of the district of Ernakulam in the state of Kerala. Kochi city is also a part of the Greater Cochin region and is classified as a Tier-II city by the Government of India.

Kochi also known as the Queen of the Arabian Sea, was an important spice trading centre on the west coast of India from the 14th century onward, and maintained a trade network with Arab merchants from the pre-Islamic era. Occupied by the Portuguese in 1503, Kochi was the first of the European colonies in colonial India. It remained the main seat of Portuguese India until 1530, when Goa was chosen instead. The city was later occupied by the Dutch and the British, with the Kingdom of Cochin becoming a princely state. Kochi ranks first in the total number of international and domestic tourist arrivals in Kerala.

Kochi Skyline Kochi has been ranked the sixth best tourist destination in India according to a survey conducted by the Nielsen Company on behalf of the Outlook Traveller magazine. Kochi was one of the 28 Indian cities found to be among the emerging 440 global cities that will contribute 50% of the world GDP by the year 2025, in a 2011 study done by the McKinsey Global Institute.

Under the Köppen climate classification, Kochi features a tropical monsoon climate. Kochi's proximity to the equator along with its coastal location results in little seasonal temperature variation, with moderate to high levels of humidity. Annual temperatures range between 23 and 31 °C (73 and 88 °F).

Text & photos taken from Wikipedia. Read more at: https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Kochi

Information about Mattancherry

Jain temple in MattancherryMattancherry is a locality in the city of Kochi, India. It is said that the cheri (street) full of mutton butchers gradually became muttoncheri which then became Mattancherry. Mattancherry is a popular tourist destination, surrounded by the backwaters of the Arabian Sea. Mattancherry was an important trade hub of the region, and is populated by people from various walks of life and from various parts of India and abroad. There are people who have come and settled in Mattancherry from Goa, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and so on.

Historically, Mattancherry was the trade link to Ernakulam. The main trade was of spices such as pepper and turmeric, as well as tea. Mattancherry is also home to the Paradesi Synagogue (India's oldest functioning synagogue), the Mattancherry Palace Museum, Mattancherry Pazhayannur Royal and Palliarakkavvu temples, Ram Mandir, Gowd Saraswat Brahmin Samaj temples including the Venkatraman temple and a Jain Temple (known as Mahajan Wadi to locals) and several Mosques.

Text & photos taken from Wikipedia. Read more at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mattancherry

Please see below for a short video highlighting the volunteer programme in Kochi

Please see below for a short video by previous volunteer Mick Dunne, showing his experiences in Kerala

Volunteer Testimonials

Volunteer in Kochi, Kerala"I volunteered for 2 weeks in Kerala and did a week of traveling after. The project was very well organised. Pre-departure I felt comfortable that all was in order and I felt safe going to a country I never visited before on my own. When I got there, everything was well organised for me, airport pickup and orientation happened the day I arrived which made me feel comfortable straight away and Tuk Tuk transport was organised for me every day. Activities that suited my interests were also arranged for me whenever I asked. The staff and the homestay hosts were very friendly and were extremely helpful, and I could tell that they wanted me to experience as much as what India had to offer as they could give me. The staff even brought me to their family home for a traditional dinner. The family also brought me to family outings which I loved. They went above and beyond to help me and make me feel part of their family for my stay.  I have volunteered abroad a few times before and this programme is very well organised and fun in comparison to some others I have done."

Mick Dunne, Ireland

"I really enjoyed my experience as a volunteer, the best part was meeting the people, including the children I worked with as well as the friendly locals. People were so welcoming and interested to both teach and learn about culture differences. Because of this I got to understand about a new way of life in India. The area also has many opportunities to be close with nature, for example there are trips to the nearby Munnar, as well as the Kerala backwaters and tea plantations. The area is peaceful and friendly, and the coordinators are available when you need them, either to arrange transportation, to help you visit things, or just as emotional support."

Past volunteer Anastacie

Volunteers in Munnar"Even though I’ve been involved in peer tutoring/small group teaching for a few years now, I’ve never taught a room full of dynamic, eager and overly-enthusiastic children half way across the globe. I also hadn’t worked in an under-resourced area up until this point, so it’s safe to say that I was nervous-excited to venture outside my comfort zone. From the second I landed in Kerala, Fouziya's (the project manager) presence and help has been invaluable in making myself and the rest of the team feel at ease with our surroundings. I still remember the mini tour she gave us, taking us on a round trip across Fort Kochi, showing us the convenience stores, pharmacies and the one and only Princess Street.

It is incredibly rare to encounter an individual who is as hardworking and dedicated as Fouzi. The first few days of teaching were particularly challenging, as we had to get used to the new environment, getting used to the surroundings of Mattanchery, and trying to get a grip on communicating with the teachers when there was a significant language barrier. Fouzi was always present at the school, and always gave us a debrief before and after our rounds of teaching. Fouzi always made sure that everything ran smoothly, and made it a point to listen to our concerns and general feedback.

Fouziya is an incredibly friendly and an approachable individual who makes you appreciate Fort Kochi as your own hometown. I will still never forget how she called us over for food, and her cousins made us really tasty authentic Kerala-style snacks, even though they were all fasting! Speaking of food, her Mum’s cooking is really yummy!

Even though I spent only one month in Kerala, a part of me never left Fort Kochi. The month of July was life changing for me, and I still keep going on about the kids and it’s safe to say that I am definitely coming back!"

Past volunteer Brinda Lakshmi

Volunteer travel tour in KeralaHow to Join the Project

To volunteer in Kerala, India and secure a placement on our Community and Teaching volunteer project in Kochi, please complete and submit the form including your application payment of £180. If for some reason, your application is not accepted, we will reimburse this payment fully. However for those who are accepted, the final amount remaining needs to be paid two months before departure. Once you are confirmed on the project, you will receive pre-departure information with all details on your project, when to arrive, contact details, suggested items to bring, programme information and lots more.

Apply Now

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