Voluntourism is the new thing in Kerala
Voluntourism, a mix of tourism and volunteering for a cause, is now gaining momentum in Kerala, one of the world’s most sought after tourism destinations. Students from various parts of the world, including US and UK, in their gap year, set aside time for voluntary work during their holidays here, according to a Times of India report.
Organisations focusing on this are being run by local people and even non-Keralites. Teach Kerala and Kerala Volunteer are two such organizations, founded by foreigners, that are focusing on the state.
“Most of the volunteers are students from European countries or the US,” says Wilson Kochukunju, who runs voluntourism projects through his BGM Social Service Centre at Neyyar Dam near Thiruvananthapuram. BGM Social Service Centre started their operations 15 years ago and now get an average of 10-15 volunteers annually. These volunteers spend a month or two there giving classes to students on topics they specialize in. “They also give spoken English classes,” said Wilson Kochukunju.
Teach Kerala, founded by Madeleine Wheare of the UK, offers volunteering opportunities at Sai Krishna Public School at Chenkal in Neyyattinkara. Throughout the year, the school have at least one overseas volunteer staying back to take classes. Kerala Volunteer is a similar venture founded by Daytona Barker of Greater Denver Area of US. Kerala Volunteer supplies volunteering teachers to RRUP School in Ullannoor, Pathanamthitta.
Though not solely focusing on Kerala, a host of foreign voluntourism organizations have operations here. British firm i-to-i brings in volunteers to Kerala to work in the schools of local diocese of Kochi. Irish non-profit Support Children Out of Poverty (SCOOP) supplies teaching volunteers to St Mary’s School, Puthuppally, Kottayam. Another UK-based firm Year Out India provides teachers to three schools in and around Munnar.
The expertise most of these volunteers offer is spoken English classes. A few give classes in other subjects too. “Your activities could include arts, sports, reading, drama or one-to-one sessions, giving you a well-rounded experience, while assisting children in many different roles. You can also give workshops on life skills or health,” says the website of Responsible Travel, a British firm that offers beach holidays in Varkala and adventure trips to Munnar along with teaching opportunities in local schools.
The impact of voluntourism is beyond school walls. Teach a Man to Fish is teaching students of Sai Krishna Public School to start small businesses during studies. “Some volunteers, who came to know of my project of digging wells for poor families, later supported us. Of the 421 wells we dug, nearly 80 were finished using funds from volunteers,” said Kochukunju. (Kochukunju had entered the Limca Book of Records in 2011 for constructing a record number of wells). The flow of volunteers is reported to be increasing every year.