Putney Student Travel: Community Service India

Putney, VT

Overview

Volunteer on construction, education, and agricultural projects on this community service program for high school students. Spend time upgrading community facilities or teaching English to local children while absorbing the rich colors, sounds, and scents of village life from our unique base in a renovated castle.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Organize lessons and games for grade school children in rural Rajasthan.
  • Meet with an organization that is working with residents of New Delhi’s slums.
  • Ride camels over the high sand hills of Jaisalmer’s Western Desert.
  • Sample curries, naandaltandoori, and other specialties of Indian cuisine.
  • Climb the ruins of an immense, intricately decorated Moghul fortress.

OVERVIEW

Village Life and Service

This project affords you the opportunity to volunteer alongside local people in rural areas of India. It also allows you to enjoy the colorful culture of Rajasthan, explore the desert on camelback, climb through immense Moghul fortresses, and experience the wonder of wildlife in India, including camels, elephants, and monkeys.

Our students have the opportunity to help build or repair needed facilities in our host community. In past summers, we have constructed a basketball court and playground, planted trees, built sanitary facilities, and refinished a school assembly area. We have also worked extensively with students at a local school, teaching English, playing games, and conducting musical and theatrical enrichment activities. We spend late afternoons hiking in the surrounding mountains, riding bikes, or relaxing with new friends. Upon successful completion of this program, students can expect to receive certificates recognizing between 80 – 100 hours of community service work.

On weekends, get out and explore the surrounding countryside and the region’s many forts and temples. Visit Udaipur, known as the “White City” because of the white marble used in local architecture, and take in its bazaar, monuments, palaces, and stunning lakes.

Independent Projects

Engage in an independent project to better understand life in the village.  Possible topics include: farms and how they work, the education system, politics and government, religion, gender roles, cultural events, local folklore, or music. Students also have the opportunity to undertake a village internship. Shadow local weavers and study their craft, learn from tailors how traditional Indian clothing is made, or work with an expert potter.

Final Adventure

During a short travel period at the end of the program, we visit the vibrant city of Jodhpur. Here, we explore the Mehrangarh Fort and catch an impressive glimpse of the city below. The blue hues of its buildings are associated with the region’s priestly Brahmin caste and earn Jodhpur its nickname, the “Blue City”. We move on to the “Golden City” of Jaisalmer deep in the Thar Desert and set out on camels to experience this lunar landscape. Then we return to New Delhi, and take a trip from there to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. Visit imposing Moghul palaces and explore maze-like bazaars. Experience some of the spiritual traditions of India in temples and village ceremonies. Drop in on weavers and other artisans. Visit farms, factories, and NGOs that are working with the residents of one of New Delhi’s slum neighborhoods.

Accommodations

Group accommodations are carefully selected by Putney Student Travel to emphasize convenience, a positive group environment, and wholesome interaction with local people and fellow travelers. While we work on the volunteer project we stay in an 18th century haveli, a traditional private mansion, that is still the home of the descendants of the feudal family that built it generations ago. While the buildings show the effects of their age, they retain a nostalgic air of past glories and a noble lifestyle. The haveli is quite large, with hidden interior courtyards, beautiful arches, and a quiet shady terrace. Work in cook crews along with our hosts at the haveli and lend a hand with preparing traditional Indian dishes. Meals are full of delightful flavors thanks to the many spices found at local markets. On excursions and in New Delhi and Agra, accommodations will be in small hotels.

Physical Challenge Level

Our programs are active. Days are filled with movement — working on community service projects, playing with local children, exploring our host community on foot, going on a hike, or preparing our group’s meals. Pick-up games of frisbee or soccer with our new friends are often organized by leaders and students.

A Typical Day

7 a.m. — Breakfast
8 a.m.–12 p.m. — Work
12 p.m.–2 p.m. — Lunch and Rest
2 p.m.–4 p.m. — Work
4 p.m.–6 p.m. — Help prepare dinner, play soccer, relax
6 p.m. — Dinner
8 p.m. — Group Meeting and/or group activity

During the week, we wake up between 6-7am, eat breakfast together as a group, and then head to the work site from 8am-12pm. Work may include mixing cement, painting, planting seedlings, or teaching local kids. We’ll break for a long lunch and rest time, then return to work for a few hours in the afternoon. After work, relax, play soccer with local friends, help cook dinner, or pursue independent research or short internships with village artisans. After a group dinner together, participate in a meeting to discuss the day, plan for upcoming excursions, or simply play a game together. Weekends are a time to explore. Visit a wildlife sanctuary, local market, or palaces and temples in nearby towns.

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