Information to help you set up an internship or
with a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in India
1. Approved NGOs: The AIIS is building a list of vetted NGOs based on our knowledge of their history and track record in India. Please click here to see the current version of the list, which will be updated regularly.
2. Additional information on how an internship would fit into the NGO’s activities: This list not only includes a column detailing the emphasis/focal point of the NGO, and how to reach their designated contact person. It also includes, in the last several columns, other important information you will want to know when designing a volunteer* opportunity.
3. Student visas: *Please note that the internships with which AIIS can assist you – including recommending you for a visa and writing you a letter that can be used at home – must be “volunteer” (that is, not receive paid compensation). Paid positions require you to get another kind of visa.
4. Language Learning: The other requirement for a student visa is that your volunteer work must be accomplished within a learning environment – that is, in which you demonstrate what you have learned about India’s culture and/or language. (Experienced interns recommend that you gain some language skills to make the most of your internship experience.) AIIS can assist you in tailoring language-learning classes prior to starting an internship, often with the same teachers who offer summer and academic-year instruction in an Indian language. Please raise this question with AIIS staff as you do your planning.
5. What will you do as an intern? Each organization combines advocacy (because it is working with people who have little or no voice in the system) with its efforts to target a particular group and address their issues. That combination of target population, advocacy, and fund-raising can provide internship opportunities:
→ either in the field (e.g., in a “home” the organization runs, or in a neighborhood or village being served), OR
→ work within the office (e.g., regular support office tasks; writing; data entry; etc) OR
→ both (eg ‘researching’ and preparing status reports on initiatives, etc.).
Be sure to discuss these possibilities at some length with the NGO’s representative (in e-mails, over Skype, on the telephone) in order to ensure that both you and the NGO have met your articulated needs. (See also number 11 below for more specifics.)
6. Design your own project? Some NGOs (because they have multiple branches and a broad range of activities and/or groups they serve) have the capacity to fit a project you design within their larger enterprise, and will make a place for you in one of their branches. Others are smaller and more focused and would need you to take up tasks that enable them to move forward on their mission. (See number 11 below.) Where possible, this difference is identified in the columns of the NGO list – click here.
7. How long should the program last? NGOs also differ by the amount of time for which they need a volunteer. Some can work with students in India for four months or less. Others need a commitment of 4-6 months. Still others want a commitment for even longer than 6 months. We have tried to indicate this difference in the “period” column, but be sure to raise this issue with the NGO representatives with whom you discuss plans ahead of time.
8. Flexible timing? Although the summer time is the least disruptive for a student’s academic program in the U.S., May and June have been identified as the least opportune times to volunteer in India. The reasons for this are many: the target population may not be around at that time; the weather is very demanding (not only very hot but also extraordinarily humid), which often leads to illness for those unaccustomed to the climate; the staffing at the NGO may be reduced, meaning you will not get the kinds of connections you need to succeed; if your program involves working with Indian faculty, they may be away from their universities at this time.
9. Other tips: (a) Work with the NGO representative to complete a “Needs Assessment” to help you and the NGO representative in articulating and spelling out clearly the expectations on both sides. You want to put down in such a contract what are the ‘deliverables’ the volunteer will take away from the experience, as well as what the NGO can expect to accomplish through the volunteer’s skills/energy/insights.
(b) Also make sure that there is a person at the NGO who is identified as part of the volunteer’s “buddy system” so you will not feel as though you are taking up a staff member’s time unnecessarily.
10. Housing: Perhaps the most difficult arrangements will relate to housing. Both AIIS and many of the NGOs will be able to help with this issue; be sure to bring it up with both. (See column on spread sheet.)
11. Making a difference – how to use your skills and talents: Here are some examples provided by NGOs to help you begin thinking about what you might do in an internship or service-learning opportunity:
– teaching English;
– teaching crafts, music, etc.
– delivering services around health issues; nutrition; employment, etc.
– documenting/researching on a target population, then writing report on needs; or completing an “impact report” to show changes/differences an NGO has made – these can be used by the NGO to measure progress, and/or for fundraising. Or these could be shaped to be “action reports” for future work.
– making films that document projects;
– More advanced students can bring disciplinary/professional training to bear (e.g., could help with Communication Plan; HR; Management; Social Work; Therapists (physical and other types), etc.
– IT: collecting or inputting information; fundraising; office management functions; website development/expansion (e.g. Crafts Revival Trust, where this is the main service provided and the meeting point of NGO and those served)
– Can work with faculty on some research-application projects, eg:
- TERI: environmental
- AIWC & Deepalaya: gender-related issues
- SVYM: health/medical and educational
- ISS, Prayas: community-based, civil society activism
– can educate about the issues central to the NGO – e.g., new behaviors to address environmental issues in a community (TERI, Center for Environmental Education which prepares materials for the schools, INTACH)
– library work (AIWC, TERI – also INTACH)
– work in ‘homes’ created by NGOs (with children; women; aged)
For more information see also