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Volunteer Abroad in Kerala, India with International Volunteer HQ

Volunteer in India - Kerala

Volunteer in India - Kerala with International Volunteer HQ, Australia's most affordable and trusted volunteer organisation. Volunteers are based in the tropical and laid-back South Indian city of Kochi, which is one of Lonely Planet's top cities to visit in 2020. You can choose from 6 volunteer project options in Kerala, including Teaching, Medical, Dentistry, Kindergarten, Women's Education and Special Needs Care.
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Watch IVHQ volunteers abroad in Kerala, India

At a glance…

  • Available year-round
  • 6 meaningful project options
  • Projects based in the popular port city of Kochi
  • Accommodation in a volunteer house
  • Between 10 and 15 volunteers start in Kerala each month
  • Program fees include airport pick-up, orientation, accommodation, meals and 24/7 in-country support
  • Program fees from US$360 (approximately AU$520) for 1 week
Incredible people, teachers, students and overall community. Great vibes! I made many new unforgettable friendships. Southern India is definitely different from the northern part and is astoundingly magical.
IVHQ Volunteer - Francisca Matias
Francisca Matias
Nationality: Portuguese
Age: 18
Destination: India - Kerala
  • Most affordable fees - as the world leader in affordable volunteer travel, we’re able to keep our fees low by partnering with a local organisation in India to support meaningful community projects and local employment.
  • Superior support - your experienced IVHQ Program Manager, teamed with our local team in India will ensure you feel supported every step of the way - from planning to volunteering.
  • Responsible projects - we’re dedicated to ensuring that our projects are responsibly run and have sustainable positive impacts that are supporting local needs.
  • Online training - as soon as you register on an IVHQ program, you will gain access to our interactive volunteer training to ensure you’re well prepared for your program.
  • Safety-first - volunteer safety is a top priority for IVHQ and we have clear standards for risk management on each program. You can feel confident that you are placed with trustworthy institutions, organisations and families that have been screened by our local teams.
  • New friendships - as an IVHQer, you’ll always be in the company of friendly locals and like-minded volunteer travellers who will quickly become your life-long friends.
  • Epic weekend adventures - you’ll have your weekends free to explore India with your new-found friends.

The India - Kerala volunteer program is located in the city of Kochi (or Cochin) on the south-west coast of India in the state of Kerala. Volunteers are required to fly into Cochin International Airport, which is a 9 to 10 hour flight from most major airports in Australia. Volunteers live and work in the Fort Kochi area, a popular tourist spot that is famous for small boutiques, colonial buildings, excellent regional cuisine and its unique Chinese fishing nets. Kochi is a safe and welcoming city and volunteers can enjoy an abundance of activities in the surrounding areas, including visiting the hillside tea region of Munnar, cruising the backwaters, or staying in surf and yoga retreats on the coast.

This program is perfect for volunteers who want to experience the rich culture of India, but at a slower pace than you would expect in Delhi. IVHQ also offers a separate volunteer program in Delhi, so if you would like to experience India from its buzzing capital, you can learn more about the India - Delhi volunteer program.

The IVHQ India - Kerala volunteer program starts every Monday. Volunteers can choose to volunteer for durations ranging from 1 week to 8 weeks. The Medical and Dentistry projects have a minimum project duration of 2 weeks.

Teaching

The aim of the Teaching project is to promote greater literacy, support opportunities that can assist in gaining a higher education, build vocational skills and enhance career prospects among students.

Kerala is known to be one of the most progressive states in India with very high reported literacy rates of almost 95%. However, literacy in Kerala is measured in the local language Malayalam, rather than in languages that are useful for education or employment outside of the state. School dropout rates after primary school are also very high, particularly among low income groups. As a result, many local people find it difficult to find employment because they lack qualifications in English literacy.

The Teaching project is well suited to volunteers who have strong English skills and a passion for education. Volunteers on this project will work in schools throughout the Fort Kochi area to build the English language ability of children between the ages 6 and 12 years-old and provide an important support to under-resourced local teachers. Volunteers work alongside local teachers and project coordinators and may also be required to assist with math and science lessons, as well as English lessons. Classes are typically small, with one volunteer working with no more than 10 students and volunteers are guided by competent local teachers and teaching guides.

The presence of volunteers helps to build the students’ confidence in English from a young age, giving them a valuable head start in life, and enables local teachers to focus on students who might be struggling in other areas of study.

The influence that international teaching volunteers have in Keralan schools goes beyond the classroom. Crossing boundaries to work side-by-side with students and teachers from different cultures fosters a two-way exchange, building cross-cultural understanding and global awareness.

You are not required to have previous Teaching experience to participate on this project, however we encourage volunteers to come prepared by completing some relevant training, such as a teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) course. Visit our Online TEFL Course page to learn how to gain an internationally-recognised TEFL certification at a discounted rate.

Women’s Education

As a volunteer on the Women’s Education project in Kerala, you will work on local initiatives that support and educate women and girls in the Fort Kochi community to develop their English skills, build their confidence and grow their leadership capacity. Women in India face a wide range of social inequalities and many women do not have the opportunity to complete their education or enter the workforce because of an early marriage and a very conservative family environment.

The aim of the Women’s Education project is to work with these women and girls to improve their English ability so those that wish to, are in a better position to gain paid employment and secure a better future for themselves. This volunteer project primarily supports women aged 20-60 years old and occasionally younger girls in the community. It is important to understand that the project is open to all women within the community, this includes women from low and middle class families, as well as anyone who wants to learn.

You will be working with the women to improve their spoken English, and build literacy. The lessons are held in small groups in a close-knit, comfortable environment with various teaching resources available (whiteboards, books etc.). There is a significant amount of preparation expected from volunteers to plan for these sessions. The local team will help you with lesson planning, suggest topics for the lessons and provide ideas for creative ways to teach. However, Lesson planning and teaching are ultimately the responsibility of the volunteers.

This project is well suited to volunteers who are compassionate and have the ability to communicate well with women. We ask that you come with realistic expectations about what you can accomplish during a short duration on the project and an understanding that the main focus is to improve the level of English and conversational skills of these women.

You are not required to have previous teaching experience to participate on this project; however, we expect volunteers to have a good grasp of the English language and we encourage volunteers to come prepared by completing some relevant training, such as a teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) course. Visit our Online TEFL Course page to learn how to gain an internationally-recognised TEFL certification at a discounted rate.

Kindergarten

The aim of the Kindergarten project in Kerala is to give young students a good start to learning the English language. Kindergartens are typically associated and housed within primary schools and you will be working in the junior classrooms of schools throughout Kochi.

As a volunteer on this project, you can expect to assist local Keralan teachers with basic teaching and caring for children aged from 3 to 6 years-old. Classroom activities include; familiarizing children with the English alphabet, playing word and picture association games, art-based learning, leading exercises based on songs and rhymes and supporting teachers with sports and physical games.

Previous experience or qualifications in early childhood education is advantageous but not required to join this project, as you will be working under the guidance of local teachers and project coordinator.

Medical

Kerala is recognised for having the best healthcare system in India and doctors in South India are well known to be among the best in the world. Medical and Nursing volunteers on the Medical project will shadow a medical professional, either a doctor or nurse, in their chosen department and will observe all aspects of their work, including patient consultations and surgery.

As a volunteer on the Medical project, you have the unique opportunity to work under the supervision of practicing medical professionals within modern private hospitals. You can choose from a wide range of specialities and have first-hand access to the daily duties of leading doctors and nurses working in that field. Departments that volunteers choose from can include paediatrics and neonatal, imaging and radiology, emergency and critical care, oncology, cardiology and cardiac surgery, neurology and neurosurgery, gastroenterology, urology, gynaecology, transplant surgery and one of the country’s largest and most advanced dialysis practices.

Volunteers must be medical students, nursing students or students of another relevant medical field. The majority of volunteer work on this project is observational but medical students may have the opportunity to do basic tasks, which is at the discretion of the doctor you are working with. Nursing students can expect more hands-on work, including blood pressure measurement, helping with bandages and other basic tasks. Community-based health camps can also be arranged for groups of volunteers. In the past, medical students have also conducted first aid workshops in school.

Please note that only breakfast and dinner are provided on this project and lunch needs to be purchased at the hospital or clinic volunteers are placed at, for a very affordable price.

The Medical project has a minimum duration of 2 weeks and a surcharge of US$50 (approximately AU$73) per week applies to this project, which covers the supervision, materials and the logistics required for the project. This amount will be included in the Program Fee quoted to you by IVHQ when you apply.

Dentistry

The aim of the Dentistry project is to offer volunteers the opportunity to work under the guidance and mentorship of a leading dental professional within small dental clinics. Kerala is well known for having a good depth of leading cosmetic and general practice dentists and this project provides current dental students with access to observe a dental professional in a local clinic.

Volunteers are required to be current dental students with the project offers a unique opportunity to be exposed to working conditions that may be very different from your home country. Volunteers on this project can expect to take a shadowing or assisting role, as regulations mean that independent patient care is very restricted. It is therefore important that volunteers have realistic expectations with regards to the work they will be doing.

When volunteering as a group you may also have the opportunity to work alongside local dentists to conduct large-scale dental check-ups and occasionally campaigns in schools.

The Dentistry project has a minimum duration of 2 weeks and a surcharge of US$50 (approximately AU$73) per week applies to this program, which covers the supervision fees to local clinics and any materials required. This amount will be included in the Program Fee quoted to you by IVHQ when you apply.

Special Needs Care

As a volunteer on the Kerala Special Needs Care project, you will play an important role in providing people with special needs an opportunity to learn new skills and a level of care that they otherwise would not have access to.

Having a child with a physical or mental disability creates negative social stigma for families in India and low income families find it very difficult to diagnose and support disabled children with the care they need.

This project is best suited to volunteers with a caring and compassionate nature who are patient, hardworking and willing to offer support with a range of duties.

Volunteers work with disabled children aged between 2 and 22 years of age in schools and care facilities, working in small groups or providing one-to-one care. Disabilities range from severe to mild and many of the individuals supported by the project have both mental and physical disabilities. In addition to their disabilities, they only have a very basic understanding of English, therefore volunteers are supported and guided by passionate and expert carers at all times. As a volunteer on the Special Needs Care project, you can expect to get involved with basic sensory activities, life skills learning basic English education, physical movement, or with vocational activities.

You are not required to have any previous experience to join this project, however any volunteers with skills or experience in special needs education and learning is welcomed.

The program begins every Monday and the program orientation begins on the Sunday prior to each start date. Volunteers need to arrive in Kochi on the Saturday prior to their orientation.

After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive at Cochin International Airport (COK) in Kochi. Your airport pick-up on the Saturday is included in your Program Fee.

When you arrive, you will be greeted at the airport and transported to the volunteer accommodation in Fort Kochi, where the program is located. If you are arriving in the day time, a staff member will be there to greet you at your accommodation. Your accommodation is covered in your Program Fee and includes the Saturday night before your program orientation.

If you are travelling in India prior to your volunteer program, you will need to make your own way to the volunteer accommodation where you will be greeted by our local team.

Orientation in Kerala starts on the Sunday prior to your selected start date. Orientation will cover everything you need to know for your volunteer program including an Introduction to India and Indian customs, local language training, rules and expectations, safety and risk management, travel opportunities in India and a detailed introduction to your project and placement. The orientation will also give you a chance to meet other volunteers and explore the beautiful local area.

First Day: On your first day of volunteering, you’ll be escorted to your placement by a local coordinator and introduced to the placement staff you’ll be working with.

Weekdays: A typical volunteer day would be as follows:

8.30 AM - 9:30AM Breakfast at the volunteer house.

9.45 AM - 12.00 PM Volunteers leave home and travel to their placements. Work and hours are dependent on the project and placement that you are volunteering at.

12.30 PM – 2.00 PM Lunch break either at the placement or volunteer house. Volunteers can also take this time to lesson plan their sessions for the following day.

2.00 PM – 3.00 PM Work at the placement. Afterwards, volunteers are free to travel back to the volunteer house, go sightseeing or relax in one of the artsy cafes in town once their project is over.

6.30 PM – 7.30 PM Dinner at the volunteer house.

There is a group meeting held once a week on Thursdays that all volunteers are expected to attend to discuss their program with staff and other volunteers.

Please note, this schedule may vary depending on the particular project the volunteer is participating on.

Volunteers in Kerala are accommodated in Kochi in a volunteer house run by local coordinators. Living is basic but comfortable and you will have access to electricity, WiFi and western-style toilets. There are fans provided, however, it is important to be aware that there is no air-conditioning at the volunteer house. Your showers are cold but being a warm climate almost all year, it’s never a problem. All bedding is provided and you can expect to be sharing a room with 1 to 4 other volunteers of the same gender. You will be required to bring your own toiletries and towels and private room upgrades are available.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner is provided at the volunteer accommodation each day, excluding dinner on Sunday evening. Please note that only breakfast and dinner are available to volunteers on the Medical and Dentistry projects and lunch needs to be purchased at the hospital or clinic you are placed at, for a very affordable price.

Breakfast is different on each day and would be either Indian Breakfast or on some days eggs, bread, fruit and tea and coffee. Lunch and dinner features local curry dishes made with a base of coconut, rice, roti or chapatti. Meals are typically vegetarian and include potatoes, okras, brinjal, gourd, carrots, beetroot and various pulses and lentils.

If you have any special dietary requirements, please let us know well in advance of your program so our local team can make arrangements for you. We will do our best to see that your that dietary requirements are catered for, but please keep in mind that as a volunteer, there is a need to be flexible and you should not expect to eat the same food as you do at home. If you want western style meals you can easily get this at the local cafes and restaurants in the area.

India - Kerala

Length of Program Program Fee $USD
1 week $360
2 weeks $470
3 weeks $580
4 weeks $690
5 weeks $800
6 weeks $910
8 weeks $1,130
  • All programs attract a Registration Fee (from US$299) on top of the Program Fee (partially refundable until 60 days before your program start date*). A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment.
  • To see prices in your local currency, use this currency converter.
  • The Medical and Dentistry projects have a minimum duration of 2 weeks and a surcharge of US$50 per week for training and resources used on these projects.
  • * Terms and Conditions do apply
What extra costs will I have?
  • Visa, flights, travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check, souvenirs, transport to and from placement, in-country trips or tours.
  • Transfer back to the airport at conclusion of the program.
  • Spending money - Volunteers in Kerala generally find US$30 to be sufficient for weekly expenses
Registration Fee
What it covers
  • Most affordable program fees
  • Expert support from a program specialist
  • Full MyIVHQ account access
  • Online volunteer training
  • Comprehensive preparation tools
  • Deals on flights and travel insurance
  • $50 credit from IVHQ Flights
  • IVHQ alumni rewards
Program Fee
What it covers
  • 24/7 in-country support
  • Airport pick-up
  • Program orientation
  • Volunteer placement
  • Accommodation
  • Meals

Kerala is a gorgeous part of India and your weekends are free for you to explore the incredible beaches, stunning backwaters, serene tea plantations and amazing culture.

Some of the absolute must-dos are the backwaters of Alleppey, where you can stay for a night on a houseboat and meander through the waterways surrounded by coconut trees. Munnar Tea Plantations are simply breathtaking in terms of views and often compared to the Scottish Highlands! If you are wanting some beach time, head to the beaches of Marari or Varkala in the South of Kerala. It’s easiest to take a train which is also an experience in itself! There are also great surf spots near Varkala.

If you need more suggestions on how to get around or to book anything, you can always talk to the local team.

See our India - Kerala Travel and Tours page for more volunteer travel options in India!

Capital New Delhi
Population 1.237 billion
Languages Hindi, English and Malayalam
Currency Indian Rupee (INR)
Time zone UTC+05:30

Weather and climate: Kochi has a tropical climate with an average temperature of 86°F (30°C) throughout the year. There is a rainy season from May through until September and the temperatures typically drop a little at this time, however you can still expect it to be humid. The hot and dry season is from November until May, with April and May being the hottest months with 90% humidity.

Volunteers need to be 18 years or over to participate on this program, unless volunteering with a parent or guardian. If you are under the age of 18, IVHQ offers a Supervised Youth Adventure program in India - Kerala. Visit our Supervised Youth Adventure page to to learn more.

All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance and provide a criminal background check, and this must be uploaded to your MyIVHQ profile prior to arriving in India.

Volunteers on the Medical and Dental projects must be medical or dental students, or students of nursing or another relevant medical field.

Free Interactive Volunteer Training - All volunteers are encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training, which is available exclusively to registered IVHQ volunteers. The training is designed to build an understanding of important aspects that need to be considered before embarking on an IVHQ program. It helps volunteers to prepare in the right way by providing advice on what it takes to be a safe, responsible and valuable volunteer. Try a sample of the training here.

How to get started

Pick a destination + project and apply for free
Meet your personal volunteer travel expert
Pay the registration fee to secure your place and upgrade your MyIVHQ account
Get ready to volunteer abroad, we’ll support you every step of the way!