December 17, 2012
Beware of the nepotistic and selfish India program. I don't understand why an organization with such a fantastic premise could have strayed so far. While the staff pays lip service to how the volunteers become family, they couldn't care less about the volunteering work itself-- some volunteers spent less than 2 hours a day at their placements. Also, the placements were restricted to two options in the three months I was there. The organization has control problems: they feel the need to dictate how clients spend their weekends while traveling in India, how much time they spend volunteering (despite the school day ending at 3, the driver would only pick us up at 1, leaving the students without teachers for a significant part of the day), and clients' activity during the week. At the beginning they seem wonderful, helping you adjust to India, but their help soon reveals itself to be counterproductive and sometimes lies. They are disconnected from the real India you are coming to see, and they recommend horrible restaurants and tailors simply because they are family or friends' businesses-- even if the service is poor and shamelessly attempts to rip the foreigners off. The Hindi lessons promised are just basic phrasing unless you are doing the internship program. However, the 'teacher' is just one of the regular staff, a guy who, while well-meaning, is impatient and is just a regular Hindi speaker who doesn't have grasp of the grammar. The people learning mostly learned from books on their own. I was treated disrespectfully by several staff members, and was blown off when I brought up my concerns. Furthermore, the rudeness did not abate. A clique problem arose, but the staff turned a blind eye because of a special relationship with one of the clique members, and instead criticized the excluded volunteers (anyone not a 20 something girl, mostly older women.) I felt constantly disrespected and controlled, and was very relieved to be free of the program. They charge an exorbitant amount, and it's a mystery where the money goes in the supposed "non profit." It is very easy to contact NGOs in Delhi once you get there, and living there is easy for much cheaper in a similar gated community like CCS uses as an office-- or better yet, live like the middle class Indians and integrate into a community. Indians (other than CCS) are generous and friendly to foreigners, and the NGO I was involved in, called the Earth Saviours Foundation, embraced me like family in a way that I had hoped that CCS would have. I completely recommend traveling to Delhi independently and finding NGOs like TESF, that would happily help you find a place to live and with anything else you needed for free, as a genuine grass roots non profit charity, or even spending your money on any other organization. An alternative if you are looking to volunteer or have an internship is http://www.aiesec.org/; I met many of their volunteers at my NGO and they found the organization invaluable. I worked at www.savearth.in, which I would highly recommend as well (though I don't mean to advertise at all.)
Would you volunteer for this group again?
For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?
Did the organization use your time wisely?
Would you recommend this group to a friend?
When was your last experience with this nonprofit?