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India is an exhilarating assault on the senses: the sights, smells, and sounds. The country is incredibly diverse in terms of geography, religion, languages, art, cuisine, and customs. South India, in particular, has a strong sense of culture and tradition, especially Hindu tradition. Tamil Nadu is the cradle of Dravidian culture. The Tamil language is India's (and one of the world's) oldest surviving language. ELI operates throughout the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka.

Kerala is the southwestern-most state in India. For primarily geographical reasons, the culture in Kerala developed in realtive isolation from the rest of India, and many unique customs are still practiced on a daily basis. Karnataka, in turn, bridges the north and south of India and is home to the hi-tech capital of India, Bangalore. In part because of this range of diversity, South India has generally avoided some of the more violent clashes that have occurred elsewhere in the country. Travelers in this region can explore ancient temple cities, soak in cosmopolitan Chennai, float through Kerala's backwaters, sunbathe on sandy beaches, trek through the Western Ghats, and maybe catch a glimpse of a wild tiger or elephant.

ELI partners with many organizations in India to create diverse volunteer and internship opportunities. Participants can teach in the hill town of Munnar surrounded by tea plantations, help out in a village orphanage outside Chennai, study at one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in India, help plan an HIV awareness campaign in the poor neighborhoods of Chennai, plant trees in the Palani Hills, and much more. Each program offers an unforgettable cultural experience in a civilization that has been a center for art and learning for thousands of years.

Volunteer & Internship Programs

Children's Home


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

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.

Apply Now

After you fill out the Application Form on our website, our Application Advisor will be in touch to help you with the next steps.

Women's Programs

Women's & Social Welfare in India

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.

Family 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

Apply Now

After you fill out the Application Form on our website, our Application Advisor will be in touch to help you with the next steps.


Volunteer Teaching in India

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 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

Apply Now

After you fill out the Application Form on our website, our Application Advisor will be in touch to help you with the next steps.


Medical Volunteer/Internship in India

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

Apply Now

After you fill out the Application Form on our website, our Application Advisor will be in touch to help you with the next steps.



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

Journalism internships require an 8 week commitment. Questions? Click here

Cost & Details


Length of Program Orphanage Social Welfare
& Internships
Teaching in Kerala
2 Weeks US$400 US$1150 N/A
3 Weeks US$450 US$1228 US$850
4 Weeks US$500 US$1305 US$850
5 Weeks US$550 US$1383 US$850
6 Weeks US$600 US$1460 US$850
7 Weeks US$650 US$1538 US$850
8 Weeks US$700 US$1615 US$850
9 Weeks US$750 US$1693 US$850
10 Weeks US$800 US$1770 US$850
11 Weeks US$850 US$1848 US$850
12 Weeks US$900 US$1925 US$850


Application Fee: $200
The application fee is a separate administrative charge for all programs. It does not apply to the program fee. (Please see our application fee refund policy here)

What's Included/What's Not

Program Fee Includes:

*Pre-departure Materials
*Airport Pick Up by Taxi in Chennai or Kochi
*City Tour
*24/7 In-country Support

Program Fee Does Not Include:

*Round Trip Airfare to India
*Return Trip to Airport
*Required Travel and Medical Insurance
*Visa Fees
*Food is not included in all programs. Please inquire with us whether food is included in your program.

Apply Now

After you fill out the Application Form on our website, our Application Advisor will be in touch to help you with the next steps.

Start Dates

Start Dates

The programs in India have completely flexible start dates most months of the year. It is generally suggested that participants arrive between Sunday and Wednesday to go through orientation and then jump right into their project.

ELI volunteers take a taxi to a hotel for their first night in Chennai. Orientation starts the next morning.· During the orientation we will help you set up a cell phone, exchange money, and take you sightseeing in Chennai before you settle into your program.

Accommodation & Orientation

Orientation and Accommodations

Most participants spend their first night in the YWCA International Guesthouse in Chennai. Orientation starts the next morning. During the orientation we will help you set up a cell phone, exchange money, and take you sightseeing in Chennai before you settle into your program.  Accommodations for the remainder of the program vary by project.

Notes & Useful Links

Notes & Helpful Links: 

Check the time in Chennai with this Time Conversion Tool, and Check the Weather.

ELI's Director blogs about eating his way through India in Hey Vegetarians!

Participants need to visit a travel nurse before their arrival in India.  For immunizations, we defer to the recommendations from the Center for Disease Control.


Where Can I Go?