I was working as a Construction Engineer/Manager for a large company, I had always wanted to travel and experience other cultures but I felt that starting work and building a career was more important. By the time I turned 30 I started to question if my chosen career was right for me and the desire to travel arose again.
I wanted to do something for other people that needed it most giving a rewarding experience in return. There were many barriers to leaving, namely approaching my boss, leaving my flat and life behind and I also felt that at 34 I was a little late to go off and see the world!
I chose the Himachal Pradesh programme due to its location in the foothills of the Himalayas and I knew India would provide a rich cultural experience.
The enthusiasm from the GYFGU travel advisor definitely spurred me to book as an added bonus my boss was very positive and offered me a sabbatical with the opportunity to return to work in 12 months time.
My volunteer project was teaching English in a local school to children aged 3-8 years old. It was very challenging since the children didn't speak any English and my Hindi was still basic after only a 2-hour language class. Furthermore I had no previous teaching experience so it was certainly in at the deep end.
The schools were very basic and teaching aids were virtually non-existent, I produced much of the materials myself bringing out my creative talents!
The children were very happy and appreciative but like all kids they were also quite mischievous and a handful at times.
In addition to the teaching element we also undertook some improvements at the schools such as painting signs, whitewashing and providing additional blackboards.
I found the experience to be extremely worthwhile and rewarding. In spite of my lack of teaching experience I felt that I had made good progress during my time and certainly provided a good grounding from which future volunteers can build on.
Dedicate your skills and energy to villages with little money but lots of spirit. Help repair and decorate schools, day centres and homes, organise children to help clear up their village and teach them about hygiene.