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.
- Programs start every first and third Monday of the month
- Affordable fees from $420 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
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
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
- 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
India photo gallery
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 Tuesday and the program orientation begins on the Monday prior to each start date. Volunteers need to arrive in Kochi on the Sunday 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 Sunday 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 Sunday 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
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.
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 - 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 - 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.
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 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 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 with the warm climate almost all year, it’s not likely to be 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. If you would prefer to be accommodated in a private room with air conditioning, you can pre-arrange this with your IVHQ Program Manager as soon as you have registered for the program.
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 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 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.
Due 30 days before you start, or within 48 hours if you register inside of 30 days. Covers the cost of hosting you.
|1 week||$420 Equivalent to $60/day|
|2 weeks||$565 Equivalent to $41/day|
|3 weeks||$710 Equivalent to $34/day|
|4 weeks||$855 Equivalent to $31/day|
|5 weeks||$1,000 Equivalent to $29/day|
|6 weeks||$1,145 Equivalent to $28/day|
|8 weeks||$1,435 Equivalent to $26/day|
- 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
- Certificate of International Volunteering
- All programs attract a Registration Fee of $299 in addition to the Program Fee. This covers all pre-departure support services.
- 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.
Recommended activity & tour add-ons
Here are just a few of the India add-ons we offer:
Want to experience the various flavors of India’s coastal paradise, Goa? Dotted with picturesque beaches, a blend of Indian and Portuguese culture, this region on the southwestern coast of India is an ideal getaway for those who are seeking sun, sand, food (especially seafood!), and culture.
Goa is a much-loved destination located on the banks of the Arabian Sea, with beachside forts, bustling bazaars, and unique Portuguese colonial architecture and heritage. This is an amazing way to spend a long weekend while volunteering on the IVHQ India - Kerala program or you can take some time after your program has finished to explore Goa and the rest of what India has to offer!
Highlights include, visiting the Church of St. Francis of Assissi and Basilica of Bom Jesus, Calangute Beach, Anjuna Beach and Dona Paula Beach.
The 4 day tour costs $715 and includes:
- 3 nights at a 3 star hotel - up to 2 volunteers per room (a private room can be arranged for an additional cost, please contact your IVHQ Program Manager to book this)
- Sightseeing as per itinerary below
- English speaking guide
- All transfers in a private vehicle with chauffeur and AC
- Daily breakfast at hotel
- Mineral water X 1 bottle per day
- All government and local taxes
- Airport transfers
You will be responsible for:
- Entrance fees to monuments/sightseeing places
- Personal expenses
Day 1: Arrive to Goa Airport and receive a transfer to your hotel. You can spend the remainder of the day relaxing, hitting the beach or exploring nearby.
Day 2: After breakfast, you will be transported to South Goa for a day of sightseeing, with the first stop being the Se Cathedral Church. This is one of the most ancient and famous buildings in all of Goa and is dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria. Commissioned in 1631, the construction of this building took more than 62 years to complete.
Next up is visiting Basilica de Bom Jesus; constructed in 1605, the Basilica is famous for containing the tomb and mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier, who is believed to be one of the patron saints of Goa. Constructed in Portuguese Style, the Basilica is eminent for its architecture.
Panjim Bazar is next on the itinerary and is the perfect blend of old and new and you can find both modern and exotic items. It is a shopaholics paradise with many things to buy like nuts, wine, local spices, handicrafts and after a long day from all the shopping you can sit down and gorge on some local food as there is a wide variety of eateries close by.
In the afternoon you will be transported to Dona Paula beach, a stunning beach resort with water sports being the main activity. Beachside stalls and seafood restaurants make this beach another great place for shopping and eating!
In the evening you will head to Calangute Beach and relax at one of the many beach shacks after a long day of shopping and water sports. This is the perfect spot to watch the sunset and enjoy some dinner and drinks.
Transport back to the hotel will be provided at the end of the evening.
Day 3: Breakfast at the hotel, followed by a day at your leisure. We recommend joining a Yoga Class, more beach time, exploring the old Portuguese quarters (Fontainhas), or the Mahadeva Temple!
Day 4: After a leisurely breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport to board your flight
How to book IVHQ’s recommended add-ons:
When you apply for an IVHQ volunteer program, make a note of which tours and add-ons you’re interested in on your application form so we can check availability and prices for you.
Once you’ve paid your registration fee, your Program Manager will be able to book your place on the tour(s) you have chosen and help you organize your trip.
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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.
Protecting against COVID-19:
Volunteers tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours of travel
Health & safety information provided during orientation
Strict disinfecting standards for programs & accomodation
Greater physical distance between volunteers
Essential country information
|Languages||Hindi, English, Malayalam|
|Currency||Indian Rupee (INR)|
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.