Thoughts on volunteer travel in India with CCS
August 11, 2008 12:36 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I are planning a trip to India and we're strongly considering a volunteer/travel program like Cross Cultural Solutions. Anyone out there ever participate in such a program in India? Anyone ever volunteer abroad through CCS? Please share.
posted by thejimp to Travel & Transportation around India (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I have known some people who looked into programs with CCS and they concluded that it's more like a summer travel program for high school and college age people than a get-some-work-done volunteer program.

My personal opinion is that it's almost always better to go with a program on the ground. For one thing, it'll be cheaper, and the money you do pay will go to in-country staff and expenses. is a great resource for volunteer opportunities, as is Transitions Abroad.

However, if you haven't spent much time abroad, or are nervous, something like CCS might be a good way to ease in.
posted by lunasol at 1:38 PM on August 11, 2008

Also check out Go Make a Difference, here's a link to their India Projects page. As I understand it, this is a project to link grassroots development organizations with willing volunteers.

And what kind of volunteering are you interested in? Teaching English? Building houses? Do you have a specific part of India you're interested in? How long do you want to go for?

I just looked at the CCS website and see that 2 weeks of volunteering costs $2500. This is completely unconscionable to me. The per capita GDP in India is $977. So basically, you're paying three year's salary to volunteer for two weeks. Many volunteer programs do donate significant money to the host organizations, so there's that. But if it were me, I'd want to take a more direct route and set something up on my own, and then donate to the host organization when I was done.

For some perspective, I traveled in India 6 years ago. Granted, the economy has grown A LOT since then, and I'm sure everthing is more expensive. But I spent about $20/day, and that included everything: long-distance bus trips, three meals, guest house rooms, souvenirs, the odd rickshaw ride. If I'd been staying in one place, I'm sure it would have been even cheaper. You could probably do the whole trip (including airfare!) for $2500 each and have a few hundred left over to donate.
posted by lunasol at 1:53 PM on August 11, 2008

If you want to do volunteer work abroad, it's a much better idea to find an organization and go directly through them -- you'll get precisely the same care and handling, and have the added benefit of your time / money going directly to a good cause. CCS sets up homestay and travel arrangements with local organizations that are usually already doing the same thing -- and often charges up to $300 extra (at least) for the privilege of hooking you up with them.

My only experience with CCS was on a trip to Ecuador, when I briefly considered going through them rather than direclty with the Jatun Sacha Foundation. Without exception, all of the volunteers who did arrange through CCS said they felt like they had been gipped, and would have been better off negotiating directly with the foundation.
posted by puckish at 2:03 PM on August 11, 2008

I agree that many of the organizations that broker volunteering around the world spend the majority of it on "administration." Here's a family that volunteered in India. Maybe they have more information if you search their site.
posted by Bunglegirl at 3:05 PM on August 11, 2008

lunasol -- it looks like the link is broken.
posted by rmd1023 at 3:09 PM on August 11, 2008

I did a Morocco project through CCCS - only to discover that they were only one of the middlemen. They put me in touch with their Moroccan contacts, who assured me that I'd be doing some kind of internship dealing with my skills (IT). When I got there, they tried to convince me to teach English instead. I then found my own internships, which I would have done before, had I known it was possible.

So...yes, I felt like the program was expensive, and I ended up paying for connections which weren't of much use in the end.
posted by Liosliath at 6:44 PM on August 11, 2008

Sorry, here's the Idealist link.
posted by lunasol at 7:31 AM on August 12, 2008

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