We frequently get requests of people who would like to come and do volunteer work at our Ashram. As this is very common, I thought I should dedicate a diary entry to this topic and once explain on this platform what the possibilities are and what one can do as a volunteer at our Ashram.
Nearly every one of the possible volunteers who contact us has the same idea and expresses the same wish to work: they usually offer to work in the garden or in the kitchen. Many times they also offer that they could teach our children in school. Our reply is always that we would love to welcome them but that we don’t offer our volunteers to work in the garden or in the kitchen and that they cannot teach in school, either. We offer them to help us by working at the computer. Let me explain you why.
As I told you just last week, we have employees at the Ashram who work for us. Some of them are cooks, work in the kitchen and prepare the food. Others help the gardener outside with our trees, bushes, hedges, lawn and cleaning the way from the Ashram building to the gate. They also clean, they wash and do whatever else is necessary. They know exactly where everything is in the Ashram and what needs to be done.
If we have a volunteer here for two weeks and that volunteer wants to do work in the kitchen, we first of all need someone to show him or her what needs to be done. As our employees don’t speak any English, this would mean that we would have to do that. We would spend time on training the volunteers, show them what is where and what has to be put where. They cannot speak Hindi so if they needed for example another knife, they could not ask the other people in the kitchen but would have to come until our office and then we would come and get it for them. The same happens with people who want to work in the garden. You can understand that this actually increases work instead of reducing it for us. And until the volunteers are trained enough to know what needs to be done and where the things are that they needs for that work, their time is over and they leave again.
Another point is that we cannot take any of our employees out of their job because of the volunteers. They earn their living and often also give important support to their families. We cannot lay them off for a month because a volunteer comes to do their job and then take them back in. They would simply search for another place to work at and after the volunteer leaves we would have to find a new employee, train him or her, just to fire that person again when the next volunteer comes. I think you can see that this would not only be unpractical but also unfair towards our employees.
As far as the work in school is concerned, the reasons are similar. The very first barrier is always the language. Our children have only started learning English and they still need a lot of translation during their classes. It is a primary school, not a high school, where the classes can take place completely without Hindi translation. So teaching in our school would require speaking Hindi.
We are aware of different approaches of teaching a foreign language for which you don’t need any translation. I appreciate it that people learn this way of teaching English and of course it may be a nice way to learn a language but again, if you only come for some weeks or even a few months, it is just not possible to interrupt the children’s normal teaching schedule and curriculum for you to try that. We want our children to get sound education and if they get another teacher every few weeks, it is difficult for them to properly learn for their exams. You are welcome to play with them after school or help the children who live at the Ashram with their homework but you cannot teach in school.
You may ask yourself what we offer our volunteers to do if all this work is not possible. We are actually very happy whenever someone comes to help us with computer work. We have a very large website in several different languages and there is always work to do. That can be translations, that can be creative writing or, if someone has more knowledge in the field, also other work with programming or designing parts of our website. This all is very valuable work for us and something that usually everybody who gets in touch with us is able to do. You need to be able to read and write English and you need to know the basics of how to use a computer. This is work for which we would have to search longer here in Vrindavan to find a suitable person and we enjoy working in this way with different people from different parts of the world who bring different ideas and input along with them. With our website, we directly and indirectly run our children charity projects. So by working on the website you support our charity projects – plus it is not monotonous work that is repeated every day but something that is new every day.
For some, this is not what they are looking for when they want to volunteer in India. For others however, who really want to contribute in a useful way and who enjoy writing, this is a great way to come to us, to stay at the Ashram and to get to know from the inside what we are doing.
So if, after reading this description, you would like to come to the Ashram as a volunteer, simply fill this form and we will get in touch with you!