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Special Needs Care Volunteer Program in India - Kerala

Special Needs Care Volunteer Program in India - Kerala

Inspired to be a Special Needs Care volunteer in India - Kerala? International Volunteer HQ’s Special Needs Care project empowers volunteers to assist in schools and care facilities for people with a wide range of disabilities. In India, families of children with physical or mental disabilities are often stigmatized and find it difficult to give children the care they need. Volunteers can help provide individual support, attention and mentoring that can make a significant difference to their education and lives.

Highlights:
  • Programs start every Monday
  • Affordable fees from CA$632 for 1 week
  • Includes accommodation, meals, airport pick up, orientation and 24/7 support
  • Help with education and sensory activities for people with disabilities

  • Try India’s incredible variety of delicious food

  • Stay with other volunteers in vibrant Fort Kochi, Kerala

Key information

Provide care & play for those with disabilities
Based in schools and facilities in Kochi
Volunteer house accommodation
Volunteers aged 18+ and families
Fully hosted experience from CA$632 for 1 week
Durations from 1 - 8 weeks
Tour the beautiful beaches and bazaars of Goa
Up to 5 hours volunteering a day

This program is ideal for:

Volunteers with a caring and compassionate nature who are patient, hardworking and willing to offer support with a range of duties associated with caring for disabled young people. You’ll be supported by local staff so no experience is necessary, but an understanding of special needs education and physical therapy would be beneficial.
Who is this program suited to?

What to expect and how you'll make an impact

Having a child with a physical or mental disability can come with a negative social stigma for families in India, and low-income families can find it especially difficult to support disabled children with the care they need. For people living with special needs, extra attention and mentoring can make a significant difference to their education.

When you volunteer in Special Needs Care you’ll play an important role in providing individual educational assistance that students would not otherwise have. Volunteers will be placed in schools and care facilities that cater to the needs of people with disabilities aged between 2 and 22 years old. In addition to their disabilities, students only have a very basic understanding of English, so you’ll be supported by expert local carers at all times.

Special Needs Care volunteer duties can vary but generally involve:

  • Basic sensory activities
  • Teaching life skills
  • Educational support
  • Teaching English
  • Help with physical movement

There is a significant amount of preparation expected from volunteers to plan for their lessons. 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. As such, it is highly recommended that volunteers come with ideas of teaching and activities they may like to incorporate into their lessons.

Although no experience is required to join this project, volunteers who have experience in physical therapy or special needs education may also have the ability to assist the local therapists and special needs teachers during rehabilitation and therapy exercises.

Contributes to United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #3: Good Health and Well-Being

Contributes to United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #3: Good Health and Well-Being

Good mental and physical health is key to sustainable development and building healthy and happy communities. Now more than ever, we must increase access to free healthcare and health education across the globe to achieve an acceptable standard of living and wellbeing for all.

Why do Special Needs Care volunteering in Kerala with IVHQ?

As a Special Needs volunteer in Kerala you’ll be adding value to the local community, while also developing personally and professionally by:

  • Improving care and education for disabled people
  • Helping students develop life skills in a safe place
  • Developing your communication skills
  • Gaining experience caring for people with disabilities
  • Immersing yourself in Indian culture
  • Exploring the charming area of Fort Kochi

Volunteer requirements

  • Volunteers under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian to participate in this program.
  • All volunteers aged 13+ are required to provide a criminal background check to IVHQ prior to departure. Those aged 13-17, if unable to obtain a criminal background check, can provide two character reference letters instead
  • All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance
  • All volunteers must speak fluent English
Are you eligible to volunteer?

Submit a free application so we can confirm your eligibility and check availability for your preferred dates.

Apply For Free

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What recent volunteers said about their IVHQ experience

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Donna Brown
07 Nov 2023

Within days of arriving in Fort Kochi, India and beginning my volunteer work as an English teacher in the Women's Empowerment Program, I absolutely fell in love with my students and I was mesmerised with India! The women I encountered, and learned to cherish as beloved sisters, were as different from me as I could imagine yet so incredibly similar to me in so many, many ways. My interactions with the caring local staff in Fort Kochi, and with the IVHQ staff member were for the most part very professional and much appreciated. Am I glad I chose IVHQ? Absolutely!!!! Would I recommend IVHQ to others my age who want to experience a different culture in a meaningful, way? Absolutely!!!! In fact, I'm presently planning two more "adventures of a lifetime" through IVHQ.

...
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Apolline Charpentier
04 Aug 2023

My IVHQ Program Manager has been amazing, she answered all my questions and helped me prepare this trip in confidence. The website was also very well thought through, with the VISA application directly integrated, the possibility to buy add-ons such as airport drop-off and short courses to help prepare. Overall really great!

I want to thank the local support team again, including Ridhi, who went out of their way to make me discover as many things as possible and really contributed to making this trip unforgettable. Tasty meals, a mix of local and occidental food for all tastes, so good as a whole. Thanks again to the cooks!

The volunteering is organised in a way to help us have an impact. I had an unforgettable experience, both in terms of culture discovered and impact in volunteering. IVHQ is a wonderful way to volunteer abroad, get out of your comfort zone and meet incredible people (the locals with whom I volunteered, the local team and the other volunteers)!

...
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Núria Antoja Hollenstein
06 Jul 2023

I already volunteered with IVHQ in 2017 and was happy about the support given and the professionality of the planning. The fees are also relatively affordable compared to other projects I checked. The preparation guide and all the website to prepare is very clear and with all the steps easy to follow.

The local team were really helpful for any request personally I needed, from tips for local places to helping me to wrap a sari! The food was very nice and loved to try local food, and even accommodating to my needs (dairy intolerant). The cooks were really great and willing us to enjoy the meals.

My favourite moment was connecting with all the different women in the project from a broad variety of ages, I learnt from their culture and felt really welcomed, and I hope I could also contribute a little to make them feel more confident and empowered for the future. The biggest impact this volunteering trip had on me is giving me perspective of different cultures and approaches in life. The experience of living in a new country in a volunteering house is a completely different way of travelling, getting to know its food or traditions, but also connecting with all the women in the project and finally meeting all the other volunteers in the house, all coming from different parts of the world, with completely different backgrounds but working together for a common purpose.

Volunteering abroad has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. It is not only important because I wanted to make time for giving back, but also how much I learnt from myself and the possibility to immerse yourself in a different culture not as a tourist, but being part of the way people live instead. This is my second time doing it, and I would definitely do it again!

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Melodie Stairs
16 Jun 2023

I was astonished at how safe I ended up feeling. Despite initial fears once I realized that the team was literally calling my driver's cell and asking to speak with me to ensure I felt safe and was enjoying my trip, that spoke volumes to me. Thank you!!!

My heart overflows with gratitude and love for the team that enabled me to meet such a lovely group of ladies in Kerala! They were willing to let down their guards and allow me into their conversations and homes which far exceeded any expectation I had. They were truly a blessing to me and my personal growth. One of the ladies in our second class of the day shared with us that several women of Kerala are now business owners as a direct result of taking the grammar classes through this program. Even now, I get goosebumps when I think of something that sounds so fixable.

Overall, I couldn't be more thankful for this opportunity and very much look forward to scheduling another trip!! This trip reminded me yet again that life is all about perspective and one's willingness to embrace it.

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Eva Chaux
29 Mar 2023

The project coordinators were amazing. They were so kind, calm and always willing to help. I loved them. I came thinking I wouldn’t be able to actually give anything to the women but I leave with my heart full-filed, knowing that I had an impact on them. Maybe it was the longer time that I stayed but I am sure that we made an amazing connection. They are amazing and I will never forget them.

The accommodation was very clean, big, comfortable and perfect location.

I had so many favorite experiences with the rest of the volunteers, the staff and the women. It’s really hard to choose, but one of them might have been a trip we made to a waterpark for women’s day. It was so exciting to see all of the women that happy. There was a specific moment that I will never forget. In the waterpark there was a “Rain disco” that consisted in a place outside with water falling from the roof while there was very loud music. We danced and jumped and laughed.

It is impressive how in totally different parts of the world, everything is actually very similar. Human will always be human that want to love and be loved. Doesn’t matter where, woman stick together.

It can be scary to go out from your comfort zone. It can be scary to leave your home and get to a random place on earth with totally new people but I assure you it will be amazing. This is an experience that will stick with you for the rest of your life. Go for it and bring the best out of it. It is okay to feel a little ignorant, that’s why you’re there: to learn.

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Rob Williams
04 Aug 2022

My entire week with the special needs classroom was special and it reminded me what’s important in life. Go for it! Be a traveler, not a tourist.

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To read all reviews, visit our reviews page.

Academic course credit through International Volunteer HQ and Intern Abroad HQ.

Academic course credit

Gain course credit from your college or university and meet your academic requirements when completing a volunteer abroad program with International Volunteer HQ!

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Volunteer Abroad in India, Kerala with IVHQ

Location

The city of Kochi (or Cochin) on the south-west coast of India in the state of Kerala is home to IVHQ’s India - Kerala program.

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 the capital city of Delhi.

Arrival and orientation

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 start date.

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 traveling 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.

Volunteer schedule example

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

Work and hours are dependent on the project and placement that you are volunteering at, but a fairly typical volunteer day would be as follows:

8:30 - 9:30 AM Breakfast at the volunteer house.
9:45 - 12:00 PM Volunteers leave home and travel to their placements.
12:30 - 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 - 5:30 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.
6:00 - 7:30 PM Dinner at the volunteer house.

Weekends

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. The 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 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 wish to stay in Fort Kochi during your weekends, then there is plenty to experience. Within walking distance of the volunteer house, you may like to take part in the following: local sightseeing, rent a bicycle, go for a swim in a swimming pool, join yoga classes, walk along the beach, see a local Kathakali show, participate in a local tea experience, check out Jewtown, take pictures with the Chinese Fishing Nets, get some henna, look at the museums, eat at the local cafes, join a local cooking class, visit the many markets, go souvenir shopping, and much more.

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

Accommodation and WiFi

Volunteers in Kerala are accommodated in a volunteer house run by local coordinators, and the rooms are shared with bunk beds. All bedding is provided and you can expect to be sharing a room with up to 3 other volunteers of the same gender.

Living is basic, but comfortable, and you will have access to electricity, WiFi and western style toilets. Your showers are cold but being a warm climate almost all year, it has never a problem. There are ceiling fans in each room; however, it is important to be aware that there is no air-conditioning at the volunteer accommodation.

Typically mattresses in Asia are a lot firmer than what you may be used to, so please be prepared for that and if you feel that you need more comfort, then you can choose to bring a mattress topper with you (or buy one in-country). Although the majority of the windows are fitted with insect screens (to stop insects), if you also wish to use a mosquito net, you will need to bring a pop up net with you that fits in a bunk bed. You will be required to bring your own toiletries and towels.

Private room upgrades, as well as private air-conditioned upgrades, may be available (subject to availability and at an additional cost) and you can add these to your file once you have registered onto the program.

Meals

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are 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 Physical Therapy projects and lunch needs to be purchased at the hospital or clinic you are placed at, for a very affordable price.

Breakfast is different each day and can include:

  • Idli and chutney - a savoury steamed rice cake served with coconut sambal or chutney
  • Kerala pancakes - thin pancakes filled with jaggery, coconut or bananas
  • Idyappam and curry - string hoppers (rice noodles) served with a chickpea curry
  • Puttu and curry - steamed rice flour with coconut served with a potato curry
  • Eggs, bread, fruit, tea and coffee.

Lunch and dinner feature local curry dishes made with a base of coconut, rice, roti or chapati. Meals are typically vegetarian and include potatoes, okra, 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 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 these at the local cafes and restaurants in the area.

Pricing

  • USD
Duration
Program Fee
Due 30 days before you start, or within 48 hours if you register inside of 30 days. Covers the cost of hosting you.
  • USD
1 week CA$633 Equivalent to CA$90/day
2 weeks CA$839 Equivalent to CA$60/day
3 weeks CA$1045 Equivalent to CA$50/day
4 weeks CA$1252 Equivalent to CA$45/day
5 weeks CA$1458 Equivalent to CA$42/day
6 weeks CA$1664 Equivalent to CA$40/day
8 weeks CA$2077 Equivalent to CA$37/day
  • Accommodation
  • Meals
  • 24/7 in-country support
  • In-country program orientation
  • Pre-departure support from your Program Manager
  • Airport pick-up
  • Personalized preparation tools, guides and check lists
  • Access to IVHQ’s preferred insurance and flights partners
  • Discounts on travel and tour add-ons
  • Certificate of International Volunteer Service

Learn more about what's included in your IVHQ Registration Fee and Program Fee.

  • All programs attract a Registration Fee of US$329 (approximately CA$467) in addition to the Program Fee. This covers all pre-departure support services. IVHQ fees are priced in USD but you may elect to pay in CAD.
  • A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment.
  • Additional things to budget for include: Visa, flights, travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check, public transport to and from your placement each day and return to the airport when your program finishes.
  • Recommended spending money: Volunteers in Kerala generally find US$50 - US$100 to be sufficient for basic weekly expenses.

Free-time experiences & tours in India

Take your volunteer experience to the next level with IVHQ's affordable activity and tour add-ons in India! Explore your options below and learn how to book them once you've been accepted onto the IVHQ India program.

Backwaters Boat Trip (1 day)
Backwaters Boat Trip (1 day)

Ready for Deeper Exploration of Fort Kochi and Kerala? Consider This Day Trip.

CA$109
Goa Tour (4 days, 3 nights)
Goa Tour (4 days, 3 nights)

Once your volunteer duration has completed, you can visit Goa - a much loved, picturesque destination located on the banks of the Arabian Sea.

CA$1158
Munnar Tea Plantation Visit (overnight tour)
Munnar Tea Plantation Visit (overnight tour)

Unearth the scenic treasures and rich culture of Kerala with this unforgettable Munnar Tea Plantation Expedition.

CA$298
Backwaters Boat Trip (1 day)
Backwaters Boat Trip (1 day)

Ready for Deeper Exploration of Fort Kochi and Kerala? Consider This Day Trip.

CA$109
Goa Tour (4 days, 3 nights)
Goa Tour (4 days, 3 nights)

Once your volunteer duration has completed, you can visit Goa - a much loved, picturesque destination located on the banks of the Arabian Sea.

CA$1158
Munnar Tea Plantation Visit (overnight tour)
Munnar Tea Plantation Visit (overnight tour)

Unearth the scenic treasures and rich culture of Kerala with this unforgettable Munnar Tea Plantation Expedition.

CA$298
Taj Mahal Visit (1 day)
Taj Mahal Visit (1 day)

If seeing the iconic Taj Mahal is on your bucket list, this visit is your dream come true.

CA$170
Introduction Week
Introduction Week

A great way to meet other volunteers and settle the culture shock you can face when arriving in India.

CA$353

Check what's required to visit India

Safety and support with IVHQ

Safety and support

IVHQ follows best practice and industry-leading health and safety procedures, which are regularly reviewed and optimized as part of the B Corporation recertification.

  • All volunteers encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training.
  • All local teams trained on best practice volunteer management & First Aid.
  • All IVHQ programs are required to adhere to IVHQ's Risk Management Policy.
  • All volunteers have access to 24/7 in-country support from our local team.
Learn more about IVHQ's safety

Essential country information

Capital New Delhi
Population 1.366 billion
Languages Hindi, English, 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.

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How to get started

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