- Summer in South Asia Undergraduate Fellowships
- Undergraduate Foreign Language & Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships
- South Asian Languages
- Undergraduate Courses
Identify your interests
The first step in finding a volunteer opportunity is to identify topics or themes that you are interested in pursuing. These can be related to your personal or academic interests, e.g. public health, economic development, human rights, art, religion, etc.
Next, you should research whether and how your interests are related directly to India. For example, what public health and human rights problems are most prevalent in India? This will narrow your interests and give you a better idea of what type of organizations exist and where to start.
How to ﬁnd organizations in India where you might volunteer
As a first step, you should conduct an internet search including your topic of interest and the location you would like to work. For example, you might search for “NGOs in Mumbai, India - Primary education; or “India NGO Art Therapy.” Several options should come up, and many cities or towns have databases/websites with a list of non-governmental organizations in the area along with their contact information.
Next, review the organizations in India that relate to the topic you are interested in pursuing. Check to be sure it is a legitimate organization and not simply a group seeking “interns” who pay for the opportunity. Once you have found an organization that interests you, explore programs the organization may offer, for instance on a “What we do?” or “Our Work” page. Identify programs or areas you would like to work in.
Create a list of several organizations you are interested in volunteering with, along with the speciﬁc programs or areas you are interested in working with within each organization. Try to identify the top three organizations you are most interested in working with. Once you have a list, begin reaching out.
Reaching out to Organizations once you locate them
If applicable, follow instructions listed on the website pertaining to volunteer work. If instructions are unavailable, send an email to the organization. When you send an email to the organization, think of your message as a condensed cover letter. Introduce yourself (major, University of Michigan student, relevant past experience, etc.), state that you would like to volunteer with them in summer 2019, and what makes you interested in the organization (see sample below).
In your initial communications, avoid talking about housing. Some NGOs misunderstand and think they must play a role in the planning process for your fellowship. In all of your communication with Indian organizations, be sure to spell out “University of Michigan,” and use the word volunteer instead of intern. Be sure to attach a polished resume to your communication.
Sample email message
My name is_______. I am third year student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA and am studying Public Policy and Sustainable Food Systems. I am writing to inquire about a volunteer position with _______ during the summer of 2019. My time in India would be funded by a fellowship program at the University of Michigan Center for South Asian Studies, and I would not need any funding from your organization.
I plan to pursue a career in _______, and I believe I could learn so much from the innovative initiatives _____ is undertaking. Furthermore, as someone interested in ____, I admire your holistic approach in the way that you consider education, health and community empowerment as integral to providing sustainable food systems.
I am a passionate, hard-working and motivated person, and I would be honored to work with your organization, assisting in _____. I have attached my resume to this message.
If you have any questions, I can be reached by email at_____, and I would also be more than willing to set up a time to speak on the phone or Skype. My Skype ID is ______.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you!
Dealing with unresponsiveness
Many times organizations in India will not respond to emails. If you email organizations and they do not respond, do not be discouraged. Here is what you can do if you face this problem:
- First, send a follow-up email about a week after not hearing from them.
- If you still do not get a response, call the phone numbers listed on their website or Facebook pages. A cheap way to call is via Skype. If you add Skype credit to your account, you can call any number in the world.
- Think outside the box. Find contact information of speciﬁc staff at the organization and reach out in that way. CSAS can also help you by sending an email to the organization.
Accepting a volunteer position
You may be able to get an organization to accept you as a volunteer prior to your finding out whether you received the fellowship or not. If this is the case, then please be careful to say that your ability to volunteer with them is contingent on receiving the fellowship. You may also secure an agreement to volunteer at an organization after you have been selected to receive a fellowship. Funding is contingent on your receiving written confirmation from the organization that they agree to have you as a volunteer. A written conﬁrmation can be as simple as, “We would love to have you as a volunteer next summer.”
Once you have received confirmation, you can discuss your role within the organization in more detail, including where you will be based, and housing options in the area. It is important to stay in touch with the organization regularly prior to your arrival.