Volunteering in India for humanitarian causes has a long history. Mother Teresa arrived in India in 1929! The needs are great in orphanages, women's empowerment, health, conservation and education. Your volunteer experience will introduce you to one of the world's most fascinating and rich cultures.


Most children who end up in Indian orphanages face a grim future of labor and poverty. As a result, more and more organizations are placing an emphasis on education to help alter this path. ELI works with orphanages in and around Chennai and in rural areas in Southern India that endeavor to provide opportunities for education and personal growth. ELI volunteers participate in a wide range of tasks including playing games, leading activities, assisting with classes for children not yet able to attend school, after school tutoring, feeding the children, assisting students with physical or learning disabilities, and bringing smiles and fun! These placements are a good match for participants who are adaptable, resourceful, upbeat and full of energy. Available to female volunteers only. Questions? Click here

"It exceeded my expectations. I didn’t expect to fall in love with the children at the orphanage but it was inevitable. I instantly felt like I was part of a family and miss the place that had so much become my home."  Yelena, 2010

Accommodations depend on the organization, as they are always provided on the property. The rooms are simple but cover basic needs - all volunteers have a single bed with sheets, pillow, and attached bathroom with western style flushing toilet and stand up shower. Some organizations can afford an air conditioner, and some cannot. Occasionally a volunteer will have his or her own room, but usually the bedroom is shared with at least one other volunteer. All meals and sanitized water are provided on-site by the kitchen staff, and the food is usually spicy and vegetarian.

Women's & Social Welfare in IndiaTop

ELI works with organizations in Chennai that are devoted to empowering marginalized women. The organizations have evolved from emphasizing relief/welfare to emphasizing development and empowerment. Volunteers can get involved in a number of projects during their stay, ongoing programs include:

This program began in 2004 to prevent incidents of trafficking in women and children through rescue, rehabilitation, providing shelter, skill training, employment opportunities, providing medical and legal assistance and creating awareness against this issue.

The Rag Pickers pilot project was stated in 2009 to create a safe night shelter for street children. These children are found working among the dumping yards in hazardous conditions with inadequate facilities. The goal is to eventually expand to include medical services, education, safety & hygiene and savings plans.

The objective of this program is to reduce the vulnerability of slum dwellers and youth to HIV/AIDS. A number of methodologies are employed to create awareness including street theater, individual counseling, blood camps, condom promotion and mass education campaigns. 

Women In Development (WID)
This program, launched in 2003, aims to promote leadership among women living in Chennai slums and to enable equal participation in the community structure. To ensure this, self-help groups for bank loans or micro-credits are established with 12-20 women. As more self-help groups are formed, they organize into federations and eventually a confederation encompassing more outreach, advocacy and education.

TopFamily Counseling Center (FCC)
This center provides professional counseling services, referral services and liaisons with police and legal systems. Some of the main activities of the center include marital and divorce counseling, employment assistance, shelter for women, girls and children, reintegration of runaway girls with their families and medical services. Family counseling has helped to promote better relationships and understanding within local families for the past fifteen years.

Short Stay Home (SSH)
In conjunction with the family counseling center, the short stay home reaches out to deserted, destitute, separated and harassed women. It is a temporary shelter for women who are physically and psychologically battered, giving them a safe environment to reflect and resolve their conflicts. Activities focus around enhancing concepts of sharing, group spirit and mutual acceptance.

Please note, volunteers and interns with this program are volunteering for the social services organization as a whole.  While you are free to get involved in any ongoing projects, you may also be asked to assist with other projects or tasks within the organization.

The volunteer flat is located directly above the adminstrative offices. It is a suite of shared rooms with single beds (some of which are bunk beds). It is recommended that volunteers bring sheets and a pillow. There are shared bathrooms with western style toilets and a stand-up shower. ELI volunteers are placed in rooms with air conditioning. Questions? Click here 

Volunteer Teaching in IndiaTop

Kerala is on the tropical southwest coast of the Indian Subcontinent, sandwiched between the Western Ghats and the Indian Ocean. Volunteers teach English and other subjects in schools near Munnar, Adimali, Varkala, and several other towns. Many of the schools have a long tradition of accepting children from all castes, and most are run by Catholic priests. Other schools serve underserved populations such as tribal communities, hearing impaired, and HIV+ students. Teaching in Kerala and the Ghats is a rare opportunity to experience the easy rhythm of community life in a stunningly beautiful setting.

Volunteers do not need any teaching experience, but they need to be fluent in English, flexible, excited about education, and able to independently lead a classroom in academic exercises and activities. It's a good idea to bring a few activity ideas with you! This placement requires at least a 4 week commitment in order to minimize classroom disruption. Also, please note that the schools in Kerala are on holiday April through June, and the number of volunteers on campus is limited during country-wide testing.

Accommodations are provided in on-campus housing by each school in Kerala. All volunteers have their own room with a single bed, access to a western style toilet, stand up shower, and electricity (please note that tribal school accommodations may not have all of these amenities, and accommodations are in guest houses or homestays with one of the school's administrators). Three spicy vegetarian meals are served each day. Questions? Click here

Medical Volunteer/Internship in IndiaTop

ELI works with a charitable hospital in Chennai to create unique internships designed for pre-med, pre-nursing, nursing, medical and dental students. Interns have the opportunity to shadow doctors and nurses, observe diagnoses and treatment schedules, and learn firsthand about the day-to-day practice of medicine in India. Pre-meds will not have medical responsibilities but may be asked to assist with some tasks if the staff feels the participant is capable and the assignment is appropriate. Medical students start out by shadowing and then complete tasks as they are assigned by their supervising doctor. Participants in this program are also invited to assist with public health education campaigns in the community. Questions? Click here

"It actually exceeded my expectations, really. Even though I was only doing the two-week session in Chennai, I learned so much about how the hospital works, I observed patients with doctors, I went out into the field several times to help spread awareness on various things like HIV/AIDS, TB, and so on. I even helped set up two eye clinics and it was a good turn out every time. This will definitely help me in my pursuit to become a doctor." Nausheen

Journalism/Travel Writing InternshipsTop

Print journalism has existed in South India for over 200 years since the Madras Courier, a weekly newspaper, began publishing in 1785. Today, Chennai has eight major daily newspapers and an ever increasing array of weekly and monthly publications. ELI works with several publications based in Chennai designed to give interns practical training while providing a unique, in-depth learning experience and insight into the fast-paced world of English print media in Chennai. By interning abroad, participants will gain exposure to diverse journalistic practices and learn about international issues facing the industry. Interns finish the program having developed a portfolio of published articles. Questions? Click here

"To experience India is to be with India, not tour it. There is plenty to see, but what really has made an impression in my experiences in Chennai is the interaction between the people with whom I have worked with at the paper... Being a very small American minority in South India most of the time has not hindered this whatsoever. Many people have given me acceptance into their ways of life, and I feel that I have repaid them by keeping a broad mind, and a healthy conscience. I would recommend anyone journeying to India, or anywhere abroad to do the same." Nicholas, 2009

Journalism internships require an 8 week commitment. A writing sample will be required in the application process.  Questions? Click here 


 Program Fees & Other Details


Where Can I Go?