Alexandra’s Volunteer Experience in India – Priceless Gifts

Posted by: Alexandra O.

I have always been fascinated by India. Watching movies like The Little Princess when I was younger to blockbusters like Slumdog Millionaire a few years back definitely fueled this fascination. I was intrigued by the language, by the culture, and by the beauty of India as a country. When I was searching for opportunities to volunteer overseas and came across Teaching and Community Work in Goa project, I jumped at the opportunity without hesitation.

I will admit I was very nervous when I left the United States. This would be the first time I had really traveled outside of the US…and I was by myself. All of my fears melted away when I arrived in Goa, however. I was picked up at the airport by a project coordinator, who asked me if I wanted to listen to Western or Bollywood music. I chose Bollywood, (of course!) and enjoyed the myriad of sights and sounds as we made our way to the volunteer house.

One worry in particular that I had before I left was that I wouldn’t know anyone when I arrived. This turned out to be a nonsensical worry, because I made friends with everyone staying in the house, and enjoyed the company of people from other countries. The melting pot of different perspectives and personalities that came with so many people from different places being together not only kept my stay in Goa interesting, but it was one of my favorite aspects of my entire trip. I now have friends in eight countries!

I was so excited to begin my volunteer work. Volunteers can choose a morning project and an afternoon project. I chose to work with Kindergarten-age children in the slums in the mornings and the afternoons.

Having both of my projects there really allowed me to develop relationships with the kids, and I can honestly say that I enjoyed every minute that I spent with them. One day, I designed a scavenger hunt of numbers and letters that I hid beforehand that the kids would have to find and match to a board I made with the same numbers and shapes. The kids were so excited when they would find one, and would jump up and down and yell “Teacher! Teacher!”

Ultimately I realized that even though I came prepared with lesson plans every day, the kids probably ended up teaching me more than I taught them. I left India with gifts I couldn’t possibly buy in any market: unconditional love, kindness, and gratitude. Coming to Goa was the best decision I ever made.