Friday, June 21, 2013

Volunteer in India

 Experiencing a different cultural reality

Anastasia left her job as a journalist for a while, to travel in spiritual India as a volunteer in a children teaching program. Having explored the Indian daily life, its bright and dark side, she came back with strong impressions and beautiful pictures, some of which she shares here. 

  Name:  Anastasia-Areti Gavrili
  Age:     24
  From:   Piraeus, Greece
  To:       Bangalore & Calcutta, India
  For:      Volunteer Program: 
            Street Children Teaching

      1. Your motivation to go in India as a volunteer.

“While working as a journalist over the past four years, I have written dozens of articles about poverty, human rights and all kind of social and economic problems that less-developed countries face. But my work was always done through a computer in a safe and comfortable office. 

I suddenly realized that I wanted to open my eyes and see the real world, discover a new culture and a different -and definitely more simple- way of life. I wanted to change my attitude in life, appreciate what was given to me and do something meaningful.”

2.     How long did you stay?

“I spent two months in India volunteering in two different programs. My visa was only valid for three months so I could not stay much longer. But there are volunteering programs that last over a year. And there is always need for help back there.”

3.     Where did you stay?

“During my first month I lived with a host family in a small house in Bangalore. I had to live as a true Indian… Sleep on the floor, eat with my hands and take a “bucket” shower, as I used to call it. When I moved to Kolkata I shared a room with other volunteers at a University facility, next to Mother Teresa's house. Being able to share and adapt is really important while in India.”

       4.The most impressive thing about India.

The colors! India is like a huge colorful canvas. Every corner looks like a unique work of art.”

5. The hardest thing to get used to.

“The images of children sleeping on the streets, walking barefoot and playing on piles of garbage. Eating rice and spicy carries for every meal was a big challenge as well.”

6.     What was your job?

“My job was to help children from the streets return to the regular schooling system and stay away from exploitation.  I used to spend 6 to 8 hour a day with 4-12 years old children, teach them English through creative methods and keep them occupied with art activities. I also undertook some simple renovation work in the schools like painting and tree planting in order to make their environment more welcoming.”

  7. How was the communication with the children?

“Like an imagination game. The children did not speak English so we had to be creative and find new ways to teach them.”

8. Some of the activities you did with the children.

“English lessons, games, drawing etc. One of the best days in my life was March 27th. It was the day we celebrated Holi Festival with the children and welcomed spring by throwing tones of color to each other.”

9.     The best memory of you as a “teacher”.

“One of my strongest moments there was my last day at school when some children wrote me beautiful goodbye notes.”

      10. The best way to spend the day in Kolkata, when not working.

“Get on a local bus and get off on Howrah Bridge. Follow the people carrying huge baskets full of flowers on their heads. At the East end of the bridge, the Mullik Ghat riverside you can see Kolkata's unbelievable lively and amazing Flower Market. When you manage to walk through the chaotic alleys find your way to Victoria Memorial monument. Walk in front of the Writers’ Building and end up at Mother Teresa's house. Don't forget to taste some delicious mangos! Enjoy!”

Flower Market


11. Is it really a different reality as they say?

“It feels like it is a different world. A spiritual and crazy place at the same time. You experience new tastes, sounds, religions…”

     12. Something that “we” think about India which is not true.

“Not all Indians are bad and dangerous. They might stare at you for hours and try to take pictures with you like you are the world’s biggest celebrity, but they are usually harmless”.

     13. The taste linked to India.

“Mango ice creams and freshly cut pineapples! I am not a big fun of curry…”

     14. People of India in 3 words.

“Religious. Curious. Calm.”


  15. What you will keep forever?

“My students' drawings, my love for India and Gandhi's quote: “Poverty is the worst form of violence”.

[Photos by Anastasia]


  1. These photos are fantastic, very inspiring!

    Teaching kids in the poorer areas of India is a wonderful achievement.

    Teaching help and support can be found on TES India. A teachers network with over 500,000 free teaching resources and lesson plans online.

    I think this will help:

    ( )

    Good luck :)

  2. Thank you for the information! Good luck with you too :)