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An elephant never forgets…
…and neither will you on this jam-packed tour! Aside from befriending elephants you will also be making some new friends of the human variety when you work with children and young people at a special needs school. Your weekends will be filled with stunning scenery as you float along Kerala’s famous backwaters by houseboat, spend time fishing with the locals and take a tour of historic Kochi.
- Cruising down Kerala’s famous backwaters by house boat
- Making a child with special needs giggle with joy
- Visiting an elephant camp
- Seeing the Athirapally waterfalls
- Braving the local cuisine infamous for its red hot spices
What's not included
Day 1 (Sunday): Arrive into Cochin International Airport (airport code COK)
Today you will be met at the airport and accompanied to your accommodation. It takes around 45 minutes to an hour to drive from the airport to your homestay so sit back, gaze out of the window and take in the sights, sounds and smells of Kerala. You’ll have some time to unpack in your new digs and meet your fellow travellers and in-country team before sitting down to your first Indian dinner.
If you aren’t able to arrange a flight to get you into Cochin on the designated arrival day then we’d recommend you fly in a day early. We can arrange an early airport pick-up for you including one night’s accommodation for an additional fee. Please call us for more information.
Day 2 (Monday): Explore Kochi
Today you’ll set off to explore Kerala’s colonial heritage as you take a tour of the historic Fort Kochi area. Be amazed by the Santa Cruz Basilica, one of the most impressive churches in all of Kerala. You will also take a walk back in time to visit the home of Vasca de Gama, a famous Portuguese explorer, as well as visiting the home of Kerala’s royal family and the Jewish Synagogue.
Make sure you don't miss the 'Chinese' fishing nets - one of the most easily recognisable symbols and attractions of Kerala set alongside a peaceful waterfront walk. If you ask nicely the fishermen will even let you have a go yourself! There is also the opportunity for plenty of shopping for colonial artifacts and souvenirs – get haggling!
Breakfast, lunch and dinner of traditional fare are included.
Day 3 (Tuesday): Meet the children
Today you’ll be up bright and early for your first day your project. Today is all about settling in and getting to know your way around. You’ll be accompanied to the project by a member of the i to i team who will make sure you know the way and introduce you to the staff and children. This is a great opportunity to ask questions about the work you’ll be doing so don’t be shy! Be prepared to be the centre of attention as the children will be very curious and keen to get to know you!
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are included.
Day 4 (Wednesday) to Day 6 (Friday): Time to get stuck in!
Your next few days will be spent actively working with children and young people with special needs. Enjoy every minute as you get to know these inspirational children and get stuck into activities including singing songs, playing games, arts and crafts and music. The overall goal will be to keep the children and young adults happy, healthy and to help them to enjoy learning. Your typical day will be working from 9.30am to 3.30pm but you’re welcome to stay longer if you have the energy. You’ll be working alongside staff at the project and working with children either on a one to one or group basis.
Breakfast, a packed lunch and dinner is included each day.
Day 7 (Saturday): Alleppey backwaters cruise
All aboard! After breakfast you’ll be off on your serene picturesque boat cruise. You will have a tasty lunch on the boat and then start exploring the scenic backwaters. You will pass quaint villages, fisherman hard at work, women washing garments in the water, giggling children playing in the canals and running along the canal banks to keep up with you. You’ll then spend the night drifting silently along the lush canals as you dig into a traditional tasty dinner.
This is one of the main attractions of Kerala and offers a great insight into a way of life that is rapidly disappearing. Whatever you do, don’t forget your camera!
All your meals are included today.
Day 8 (Sunday): Back to Kochi
After breakfast on the boat you will head back to your home stay in Kochi to relax and explore more of Cochin at your leisure. Home stays are a great way to get a unique insight into a different culture and to see more of a destination so spend time getting to know your hosts!
Later, it’s time to get dressed up in your finery as tonight you will be dazzled by traditional and theatrical Kerala dancing, martial arts and drama. Theatres of this kind are an important part of Kerala’s tradition so sit back and enjoy the evening!
All meals are included today.
Day 9 (Monday) to Day 11 (Wednesday): Make a difference
Make the most of your last few days at the project as you spend this time engaging with them as much as your energy levels allow. There is no such thing as being too creative; invent new games, teach new songs and have a ball playing with these very special children and young people. The old saying definitely holds true here; the more you put in, the more you’ll get out.
All meals are included today.
Day 12 (Thursday): Elephant Extravaganza and Athirapally waterfalls!
Today it’s an early start as you journey to an elephant camp in time for their morning bath! You’ll see the mahouts (elephant keepers) bringing their elephants to the water and washing them, and you’ll even be able to get stuck in yourself and help with the bath! This is a fantastic opportunity to get up close and personal with these surprisingly graceful long-nosed animals.
Please bear in mind that these very big animals live in the village and in order to control them they are sometimes shackled at the feet. However, there is no cause for concern as the elephants are very well looked after and the mahouts are dedicated and love their animals very much.
Your afternoon will include a trip to Athirapally which is located 70km from Kodanad. You make your way through the stunning landscape on a short but tiring walk before finally arriving at the Athirapally waterfalls where a cool down in a rock pool is a must!
Next is a short drive to a local restaurant for lunch where you can admire the views of the Athirapally waterfalls. After lunch and you have the choice of just sitting back and admiring the views or taking a dip in the infinity pool to round off the day. Bring your swimming costume so you don’t have to miss out!
All meals are included today.
Day 13 (Friday): Backwater tour and fishing village
Today you will have another chance to enjoy the gorgeous backwaters, as you cruise along them in traditional boats, soaking up the atmosphere and relaxing. Meet the locals and enjoy a traditional Keralan lunch in a beautiful village setting.
All meals are included today.
Day 14 (Saturday): Last chance to shop!
Today is the day to buy all those last minute souvenirs. You’ll travel to bustling Ernakulam, the commercial capital of Kerala, which is the perfect place to pick up some traditional gifts. Bring a sari home to your friends and be sure to stock up on miniature Hindu gods and bangle bracelets. Prepare to haggle!
All meals are included today.
Day 15 (Sunday): Time to say goodbye
Say your fond farewells to your new friends as today you will be transferred back to the airport for your journey home or on to your next adventure. Feel free to ask the in country team for some tips if you’re travelling on in India! A taxi back to the airport is a maximum of 1 hours ride and will cost round 700 rupees.
You are free to book your flight back at any point during the day, but we’d recommend an afternoon flight to give you enough time to get to the airport.
Meals can be included today if you need them before you head to the airport.
Please note that the order of the itinerary may vary slightly from trip to trip. All the explained activities will be included, although you may not follow this exact itinerary.
Note: Minimum numbers apply for this trip; please contact us for more information.
What does the project do?
The nuns at the Cottolengo Special School help educate over 70 children and young people with special needs in the Kochi area. The aim of the school is to give these marginalised children and young people a chance at independence by teaching them basic life skills. The majority of the students have loving families and only attend school during the day, although several older female students also board at the convent and live and study at Cottolengo full time.
The main aim is to improve the quality of life for its students and provide a happy and loving environment for them. Cottolengo aims to help the children and young people become independent, valued members of society and also gives individual care to them. They also aim to encourage the productivity and expectations of the children by boosting their confidence and praising them in all they do.
What’s the project like?
If you were expecting a dull and dreary atmosphere and sorrow for the children and young adults, then we’re afraid you’ve come to the wrong place! Cottolengo is full of love and laughter and the dedicated nuns and happy children will give you a warm welcome and embrace you as part of their extended family.
Cottolengo has a main hall, several classrooms and a playground and play equipment outside. There are also physio and speech therapy departments and living quarters, although you will be based in the main school area during your time volunteering.
Why does the project need volunteers?
The nuns work tirelessly to give the children and young adults the best care possible and do a fantastic job. However, the small number of staff is often overwhelmed by the high demands of the children. Volunteers are a huge help and play an active role in taking care of the children and getting involved in a huge range of projects. Your presence also enables the nuns to spend valuable time with children who need one on one speech or physiotherapy, as well as being able to concentrate on the administration side of running the school.
Who is this project for?
No previous experience of work with special needs children and young people is required, but you must be flexible, have self-motivation and openness to a new culture and a willingness to learn. If you love children and want to make a difference to these special little people and young adults, you’ll have a ball at this project.
Activities and schedule
Your working hours will typically be from 9:30am to 3:30pm with a break for lunch, and you will be helping out and getting involved in a variety of activities that could include singing, dancing, playing games, teaching basic English, arts and crafts and anything else you can think of! You’ll also be helping out at lunchtime, supporting the children and young people who need help feeding themselves.
The nuns will allow you to plan your own activities and are very flexible and accommodating – if you have a special skill you’d like to organise or an activity you’d like to arrange, then go for it!
Whilst no two days will be the same on this project each day will be an adventure filled with new experiences and challenges. Your main task will be to keep the children and young adults happy, healthy and learning.
Project resources and advice
The school is under resourced but it gets by on a daily basis with what it has. What it really needs is man power and someone to give lots of cuddles and support to the children and to offer help to the existing team. The staff love their job and are extremely dedicated but rely on volunteers who can give them some help to get even better at what they do.
If you do make the decision to give resources in any way to the project, we would encourage you to wait until you get to Kerala before making your decision. Buying resources locally is very easy and means you can wait and see what is most needed, and ensures sustainability rather than bringing toys from overseas that can’t be replaced as easily. It also helps the economy if you buy local, as well as saving space in your luggage!
Please remember that you are a role model and working in a religious environment and should dress and behave appropriately. Keep your shoulders covered and wear trousers or skirts that are knee length or longer, and avoid tight or revealing clothing, or t-shirts with slogans that could cause offence.
What type of accommodation will I be in?
You’ll spend the majority of your time in Kerala staying in a locally run homestay accommodation in Thoppumpady, a small town just a short bus or rickshaw ride from the bustling tourist area of Fort Kochi. You’ll also spend a night on a houseboat, which will have twin bedrooms with showers and western-style toilets.
The homestay accommodation is used by all i to i volunteers in Kerala. Rooms are shared by two people of the same sex (although friends and couples of different sexes can also be accommodated easily) and each room has its own bathroom. There’s also a communal area where volunteers can eat and relax together.
Bedroom facilities will be on a twin sharing basis, and there will be plenty of storage space and a ceiling fan to keep you cool! A lockable draw will be provided in the accommodation for each volunteer to use.
Each bedroom has a bathroom with western style toilet, running hot water and a shower. You’ll be surprised at how your priorities change whilst away – hair straighteners have no place in India!
The communal area has comfortable seating, a large dining table and there’s even a television with English language channels! In addition, there’s a fridge for keeping your snacks and drinks cool, a kettle, sink and kitchen area for your use.
You will be provided with delicious traditional Indian-style meals every day. Don’t worry if you can’t handle the spice because you can opt for the milder versions if you prefer (we won’t tell anyone!).Vegetarians are easily catered for since over 70% of Indians eat a mostly meat free diet. All you carnivores out there should prepare to eat a lot of veggies!
There is a laundry service at the homestay, and you can ask for your clothes to be washed for a tiny 5 rupees per item fee.
Where is the accommodation?
The homestay is based in Thoppumpady, a small town just a short bus or rickshaw ride from the bustling tourist area of Fort Kochi. Thoppumpady is a lovely town with all the facilities you need – internet cafes, shops and banks are within easy reach on foot.
How far is it from my project?
Your journey to work each morning will take a maximum of 45 minutes. There’s a 20 minute bus journey followed by a short walk through Fort Kochi, along the beach and past the Chinese fishing nets. You’ll be accompanied by a member of the in-country team on the journey until you feel confident making it yourself, but you’ll have the company of your fellow volunteers so don’t worry, just enjoy the views on your commute!
The bus journey costs just 6 rupees, and if you prefer to travel in style by auto-rickshaw you should budget a maximum of 100 rupees (or cheaper if you’re prepared to haggle!).
Things to bring from home
- Towel and toiletries (although these can be purchased locally if you prefer)
- Mosquito net and sleeping bag if you plan on travelling independently after the trip
- Light cotton clothes
- Insect repellent is a must!
- Basic first aid kit
- Sun cream and hat
- Umbrella and lightweight waterproof jacket if you’re travelling during the rainy seasons!
- Alarm clock – you don’t want to be late for your project or any of the exciting activities!
- A “day bag” for carrying your belongings safely
- Books, playing cards etc to keep you and your fellow volunteers entertained
- Ladies, when you are visiting religious sites it is respectful to cover your hair. Take along a lovely scarf or pashmina to cover your locks.
What you get
What exactly do i to i Volunteering provide?
It may seem like a strange concept to pay for your volunteer experience. You'd be right if you think you shouldn't and the truth is you actually don't! Your placement is free; it's the benefits around it that you pay for. It's important to note that i to i Volunteering is a travel company and not a charity. We provide a professional travel service. We are responsible for finding and assessing worthwhile projects across the world, preparing you for the volunteering experience and supporting you whilst you're there.
Project sourcing and assessment
We work with hundreds of locally run partner projects around the world and are constantly sourcing new opportunities. We visit all projects to check that they are worthwhile and legitimate and we also conduct a thorough safety assessment before we'll send volunteers there. More
Almost everyone who works for i to i Volunteering has traveled extensively or worked overseas. This means we're a goldmine of information; we're always available to offer support and guidance before, during and after your trip.
Thorough project briefing materials
Once you book on to a project you'll receive an online account that contains loads of general information about volunteering, about your chosen country and how to have fun and stay safe. We'll also give you advice on visas and inoculations.
It can be pretty daunting arriving in a different country for the first time - especially after a long flight! If you arrive on your project start date, there'll be a welcoming face at the airport to pick you up and take you to your accommodation.
Soon after you arrive you will attend a thorough orientation with our in-country team. This is to cover important safety and security information. You'll also get some tips about sight-seeing options for your time off and maybe even learn some of the local lingo!
Accommodation and meals
Accommodation is included with all projects and meals are even included with some. We only use locally-owned and operated accommodation so that part of your placement fee is filtering back into the local economy. Most projects offer homestay, guesthouse or shared volunteer houses as standard accommodation, but some offer the chance to upgrade to a more comfortable living standard. More
Local in-country coordinators
Your in-country team will arrange a pick-up for you at the airport and will conduct your orientation upon arrival. All coordination teams are English speaking and are locals of your destination country. They won't be at your project every day, but will be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week if you need them. More
24/7 emergency support
Aside from the local support from your in-country team you'll be given access to a 24/7 emergency phone line manned by our response team in case any problem should arise while you're overseas. We also hire crisis management professionals to be on hand in case of a situation that requires additional expert support. More
The safety and security of our volunteers is paramount. For this reason we provide ongoing crisis management and emergency response training to our local teams around the world. We also fly in our in-country coordinators to the UK regularly for thorough training to help them offer the best safety to the thousands of volunteers they support each year. More
Supporting our projects
We don't fund our projects directly from the project fee that you pay us. Instead we choose to support a number of projects through our Big Giving initiative to provide resources to those projects that really need it.
Recruiting people like you
We make no secrets of the fact that part of your placement fee is reinvested in to recruiting volunteers just like you! The volunteers recruited in one week will typically deliver over 2000 man-days of service. The difference this makes to projects overseas is immeasurable. Many of our overseas projects rely on assistance from international volunteers, so it's necessary for us to put together brochures and websites to find the people who can support them. This recruitment process is vital to ensure programs have a constant stream of reliable volunteers.
The intangible benefits
Volunteering through a company like i to i has a lot of intangible benefits to developing overseas communities and the individual projects that we work with. To find out more about our placements. click here
What we will do after you've booked:
- Once booked on you will instantly receive a welcome email confirming your booking with access to your online account
- Community Development and Teaching customers will be requested to complete a police check (where relevant)
- We will contact you if we require anything else e.g. CV/resume for some projects, doctors note for medical conditions etc.
- We will prepare for your trip and you will receive all information required to prepare yourself in your online account
- We will ask you to complete personal information and pay your final balance if they are still due when required
- We are available for any questions you may have on firstname.lastname@example.org
What you need to do after booking your place with us:
- Book your flights
- Arrange suitable travel insurance
- Fill out your personal details through your online account
- Complete your police check if requested
- Make final payment at least 90 days before you go
- Make sure you have a visa for your trip if it's needed
- Visit a nurse or travel clinic for advice on inoculations and malaria prevention
- Read all details and prepare as much as you can for your trip
- Take contact details of the in country team and where you're going in your hand luggage - just in case!
- Get on the plane!
Flights & insurance
It's important that you get adequate travel insurance for your i to i Volunteering experience and as many of you will be working this often means standard policies won’t work. The good news is that no matter where your coming from we have already found a policy to suit you.
The best time to get your insurance is when you book your project as this means you can get a fully tailored policy exclusive to i to i Volunteering, just ask your consultant for further details at the time of booking.
For prices, policies and key facts click here
As with insurance we advise you get these booked as early as possible to avoid high prices and to make sure you arrive on the right day. The i to i Volunteering team is right up to date with the best deals no matter where you’re flying from; their insider knowledge could save you some time and money.