We had considered working in an orphanage for one of our many volunteer projects as we were taking a career break after all, so considered not just filling it with yet more teaching. However, the stereotypical image of an orphanage from childrens’ aid charities through mass media had put us off. We didn’t know how we would cope seeing children living in such poverty and were unsure if we had the necessary skills or experience to be of much help. Travelling to Nepal and India changed our opinion of orphanages and luckily we were still able to get involved in India even though it wasn’t our original plan.
Do you need any specific qualifications?
No. Anyone with a willingness to work with young people can be a vital part of the orphanage project. There are certainly those who may possess useful skills or experience which would be of great use in this project especially when it comes to supporting them in their homework, playing games with them in the park or carrying out arts and crafts projects.
What is the orphanage like?
It’s a collection of three rooms (with bathroom separate) consisting of a small kitchen; a bedroom with two bunk beds (where some of the boys sleep); and a large main room with two more bunk beds (for the rest of the boys to sleep), a single bed (for the ‘mother’ that takes care of them) and their few belongings. All of the volunteer time will be spent in the main room which is essentially where the boys spend all of their time when they are not at school or visiting the park.
It might not seem like much but it does have everything the seven boys need, is very clean and well kept. The boys themselves are very used to having volunteers and are welcoming, friendly and very curious. They have excellent English which they love to practise, great personalities and really appreciate the time spent with them.
What is the role of the volunteer?
The main way that the volunteer can support the orphanage project is by working with them on their homework each afternoon/early evening when they get home from school. This usually takes around two hours to complete and involves a range of tasks such as listening to them read; testing them on work covered in class (usually in preparation for a short test or exam); setting simple maths problems; and explaining new English words and their meaning. Experience in teaching would be beneficial but by no means a necessity.
Following the completion of homework, the boys want what any other child wants, to play and have fun. This will usually mean going with them to the nearby park as they are not able to go alone. They often take a badminton set, volleyball and sometimes cricket set with them so a willingness to get involved or any coaching skills would also be of great benefit. After a break for dinner at 7 pm (for the volunteers) it is possible to return to the orphanage if you wish where the boys are often engaged in playing board games, completing jigsaw puzzles, doing arts and crafts, or watching a film. They will never get sick of you being there so the more time you have the better.
The weekends are free for the volunteers, however, if you do find you are around and have spare time then the boys will always be happy to see you. They will never say no to a visit to the park and it might also be possible to arrange a trip for them (depending on your time and money).
For up-to-date information about the volunteer opportunities at the orphanage please visit www.planmygapyear.co.uk. If you have specific questions about our experience then please contact us via our contact page.