Grassroots is based in the Himalayan region of Kumaon in Uttarakhand. Grassroots works with rural mountain communities in the Garhwal and Kumaon regions of Uttarakhand, and the neighbouring state of Himachal Pradesh. It focuses on the sustainable development of these communities. Grassroots lays special emphasis on the issues of drinking water, environmental sanitation, renewable energy and natural resource management. It also focuses on enterprise development, and is involved in training local people and providing them with opportunities for employment. Grassroots collaborates with other voluntary organisations in the region, and has been spearheading ‘holistic’ mountain development among rural communities in the central and western Himalaya for the last twenty years.

Website: http://www.grassrootsindia.com

Possible volunteering opportunities

Initially, volunteers will be involved with understanding the basic principles of mountain development. They will then assist the organisation in some relevant documentation work. Usually, this is work that gets neglected by the organisation due to lack of time. There are possibilities to get involved with research on areas that Grassroots is focusing on, and preparing reports based on field engagement and data that has been collected by Grassroots and its affiliates.

Examples of documentation work

  • Currently at Grassroots, there are over 1000 rural women who have networked to earn supplementary incomes through production and sale of hand-knitted woollens, fruit preserves and other handicrafts. The turnover of the women's cooperative is now Rs 13 million. Grassroots needs help to document the processes of empowering women, through self-help groups which evolve into well knit business groups.
  • There almost fifty ‘barefoot’ engineers’ who have joined together to form the Kumaon Artisans Guild. The Guild is involved with spreading the benefits of appropriate technologies in cross cutting sectors like drinking water, sanitation, renewable energy, rainwater harvesting, etc. The lives and times of these barefoot engineers as well as the impact of their work in fulfilling Millennium Development Goals could be understood and documented (see a recent report on Grassroots and the MDGs here, compiled with the help of Camvol volunteers in 2011).
  • Grassroots in also involved with the restoration of the Hydrological Cycle in the Gagas River Basin. A three tier institutional structure has evolved at the grassroots to tackle various issues towards improving the quality of life for the communities residing in the river basin. This process could be documented.

There are a number of other possible issues which will be discussed with the volunteers when they arrive.

Students interested in studying Livelihoods Improvement programs could look at the Umang website http://www.umang-himalaya.com and also opt to work closely with programs associated with Umang.

See Testimonials for feedback from recent volunteers.

Preferred Skills

  • Willingness and eagerness to learn about mountain communities in the Indian Himalayas
  • Be open to living a simple life, but in a beautiful environment

Approximate cost

You should expect to spend about £1400 for eight weeks - this covers costs for food and accommodation, as well as local travel. This includes the £300 programme fee payable for Camvol support and a Grassroots fee of Euro 200 (approximately £190, depending on exchange rates) to cover the costs of staff time and local costs associated with hosting and mentoring volunteers.

In addition to these local costs, volunteers will need to book return flights to India (typically about £600 if booked early), and apply for an appropriate visa, as required by the Indian High Commission (for visa charges, please check the Indian visa facilitation service website for exact fees).

Vaccination and other medical costs have NOT been included in estimated costs, and applicants should take this into account while planning their budgets. If you intend to travel for recreation and tourism, these costs will be additional, so please budget accordingly.

Financial support for summer charitable work and volunteering is available via Colleges and from the University. If selected, the Camvol Director can advise about funding opportunities.