My experience volunteering in India.

I was lucky enough to hear about Sambhali-Trust while I was staying with Carolin (one of my readers, now friend) in Hamburg. She had spent a few months volunteering there and told me all about it. I knew I was going to be coming to India so knew that this would be a perfect opportunity. Even if I hadn’t heard about this from her I knew their was many volunteer programs in India that I could have picked from. Fast forward about 7 months and I have now been in India over a month with Val and we spent 15 of those days volunteering at Sambhali-Trust and it turned out to be one of the highlights of my trip around the world.

We spent 15 days in “Setrawa a small desert village, 110km from Jodhpur, with a population of 3000 people. Ranging from Dalits to Brahmins, and extreme poverty to comfortable living, it is a diverse community that often requires everyone in the family to work, cook, or study in the hopes to continue everyday life.”

The organization we volunteered for “Sambhali School in Setrawa was opened in October 2007 and is a Centre that allows hardworking girls and women to have a place not only to work and learn, but also to relax and play. It provides both an after-school program for girls who go to school, but also a centre for uneducated girls to read basic Hindi, Math and English, and a chance for them to wash and clean themselves.”

Our days volunteering were simple and a nice routine for the children and us. Our schedule was to teach the Butterfly Class from 1-3:30pm and then the Peacock class from 4:30-6pm.

The Butterfly class consisted of children who did not have any opportunity to go to school. It is a class to give some of the children of Setrawa a second chance at some type of education. This turned out to be my favorite my favorite class of all. These kids were always so happy and in good spirits to learn. We would spend the first 30 minutes taking care of their hygiene. Val & I would make sure they brushed their teeth, washed their hands, feet and shampooed their hair. We then would begin class with “CIRCLE TIME”.  We would all get in a circle and each recite the following (every child’s was different).


My Name is Jaime I am 26 years old.

My favorite color is red.

My favorite animal is a monkey.

My favorite fruit is mango.

My favorite vegetable is broccoli.

Today my feeling is happy.


It was your turn and you could only speak when you had the bear in your hands.  Some of the children were spot on and knew how to recite this every day with out any problems. However some of them always had a harder time. We would watch some struggle, but with our help they would get through it everyday. After circle time depending on the day of the week it was time to teach them English or Hindi. I taught them English twice a week while one of the other employees would teach them Hindi on the other days.

We would begin with the date and then I would teach them the colors, months or shapes. Before I had arrived there they had never gone over shapes. I began by teaching them two shapes Circle and Square and slowly taught them more. It was amazing to watch how fast the children learned those two shapes and would begin to point out things that were circles or squares to us everyday.  One of the most amazing feelings ever was to call on the students one at a time come to the board and tell me what something that I drew or wrote on the board was. While they were up there if they couldn’t say it immediately I felt that I could hear their brain working and gears turning until they would open their mouth and say the right answer.  We would then end the class everyday by playing a game or two and then handing out 5 cookies to each student.

An hour later the Peacock class would start and this one was always a bit more chaotic because it wasn’t just 10-15 children. The Peacock class consisted of about 40-60 children who were already going to school, but come to the center to learn more and get help with anything they may need help with. They are broken up into 4 different classes depending on the level they were and in the respective class learn things that were in their learning level. I took turns teaching the different classes depending on the day.  We would end the day playing games and then as a group reciting poems and then finally with prayer.

The following occurred Monday through Thursday with Fridays being test days. Saturdays are used as workshop day where the volunteers are in charge of putting up a workshop from 4:30-6pm. Val & I were not sure what to have the children make, but then realized as our room was getting filled with empty water bottles we could recycle them along with other things laying around the school to make butterflies out of them.  When Saturday arrived we divided the children into groups of 4 and before they began we taught them the life cycle of a butterfly. In the end many beautiful butterflies were made, that are now hanging around the school.

Sadly the 15 days came and went very fast. The final day was a Friday (test day) and after everyone was done all got together to take one last group photo. It was a bittersweet day. I loved everything about the volunteering and discovered that giving children the gift of knowledge is one of the most amazing things one can do for another. I also discovered that maybe I could teach children at some point in my life. I know it had it’s ups and downs… like when you are up at the board and the children are not paying attention to you or when you are trying to teach a child, but he/she is just not understanding it. It was times like those when I realized how much more respect I have for every teacher in the world.

It’s now been about two weeks since our time volunteering in India was finished and you know what we miss the most? We miss the children… I know I shared a few images from my time there, but just look at them? I mean really… how could we not miss them.

You can find out what Val thought about our two week volunteering here.

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  1. well,good job mr.HI_ME lol!
    i love that you said”I felt that I could hear their brain working and gears….”
    and yes,we all have to respect every teacher in the world(or every honest teacher)
    oh,you would be a good teacher….

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Thank you Waheed. I forgot to mention that the students would call me “HI-ME” and then laugh. Thanks for reminding me about that. Yeah every honest teacher deserves respect.

  2. What a cool experience! They look like such sweet kids.

    I teach English (though in slightly different circumstances) and I love that look they get when they finally “get it.” It’s so priceless and makes the struggle to get there all worthwhile.
    Erica recently posted..Cherry Blossoms at Night

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Thanks so much Erica, it really was an amazing experience that I will never forget. The look they get when they finally “GET IT” is priceless and more rewarding than anything else.

  3. This sounds like an amazing experience, Jaime – I’d love to do some volunteer work teaching at some point. You’re right that teaching has its ups and downs – the positives (usually) outweigh the negatives for me. It’s always great when you have a class full of kids who are eager to learn and really get into things!
    Waegook Tom recently posted..An Interview with Breakaway Backpacker

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Yes WT, the positives do outweigh the negatives big time. It’s just an amazing feeling. I hope you do get a chance to volunteer teaching at some point. If you ever feel like doing it in India I can pass on the contact.

  4. Wonderful to learn about this.

    We taught English in Ecuador. It was an awesome experience but exhausting. We had no idea what an energy zapper it would be. Like you said… mad respect to teachers around the world.
    Kent @ No Vacation Required recently posted..The Washington DC Must-Do You Know Nothing About

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Kent I agree with you… teaching is very very exhausting and that is why yes we must respect teachers all around the world.

  5. Sounds like such an incredible experience. What a humbling story. Hope the rest of your time in India is as rewarding!
    Adam recently posted..How to use @GetAmen as a travel guide

  6. This will stay with you for the rest of your life, what an incredible experience.
    Ayngelina recently posted..Food Friday: My first meal in Maui

  7. The photo post you did with the children was so wonderful and sweet, and I loved these images too. You’ll never forget them, especially the Butterfly class. What sweethearts!
    Heather recently posted..Ordering a special meal on a flight

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Thanks Heather, it really was a special moment of my travels & something I know I will never forget. The butterfly class was the most amazing ever.

  8. Jeremy Sandel says:

    HI ME. That is so cute and sweet!!!! So cool that you got to volunteer, and to boot in another country and with children that really appreciate it!

    • Jaime Davila says:

      I know I loved that they would call me “HI ME” & then laugh. Yes I am so glad I was able to volunteer it was an amazing experience that I will never forget. The children were amazing & loved their smiles.

  9. You should have a great and worthy experience! A freind of mine did the same in Tanzania! He volounterred there for around six months teaching in a school ( he can speak shuaili). I’d like to be a volounteer ina poor country and work with children…but think I should be trained a bit before leaving!
    Vincent recently posted..The Best Time to Visit Athens

  10. I still need to spend some time volunteering. Each place we’ve tried requires much more time than we can give. 🙁 Looks like it was life changing. <3
    Erica recently posted..Reflections of Salta

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Oh y’all should have at some point… it seriously is life changing and just makes you think a bit differently while you are on your RTW.

  11. Sounds like such a great experience! And I think you’ve found your way to keep traveling, just find a job teaching English!
    Ali recently posted..Queenstown at Christmas

  12. Hi Jaime,

    My name is Ankita and I am on the Volunteer Abroad Team at Go Overseas. I found your post through a Google search and it seems like you had a great time volunteering abroad!

    Do you have 20 minutes this week or next to answer a couple of basic questions via email about your time volunteering in India ? Your answers would be featured in the form of a short interview on our website and would provide invaluable assistance to others thinking about volunteering abroad.

    Let me know if you are interested, and I will send the questions along. You can contact me on ankita@gooverseas.com . Thanks for your time!


    • Jaime Davila says:

      Hi Ankita, glad you found my post through Google search. I really did have an amazing time volunteering. I have more than 20 mins this week and next. I will email you soon so we can get in touch and I’d be more than happy to be interviewed to share my experience with more people.

  13. Hi Jaime,
    I am loving all your blogs. My boyfriend and i are backpacking as well… Right now we are 2 months in and in Germany but will soon go through eastern europe then to India. We have the time to volunteer and would love to do it in as many places as we could. How did you go about finding such places? Other than this school in India, did you volunteer anywhere else? Any help you can give would be amazing!

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Hi Kelly, glad to hear y’all are on a #RTW. I hope y’all are enjoying it. This was the only place I volunteered during my 2 years traveling. I know it sounds bad, but finding good volunteer opportunities is actually harder than it seems. You learn real fast that most companies are more interested in the money than anything else. Anyway I wish I could give you more details and help you, but honestly I don’t have any. I found this one through a friend and was so lucky they needed someone for just 15 days. Let me know if you need anything else and if I can help I will.

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