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A split volunteer placement in Madurai, India

Geraldine Borg is a psychology graduate and psychotherapist who lives in Malta.  She recently completed a split placement in Madurai, India teaching in the morning and working in an orphanage in the afternoon.


Geraldine Borg takes a class during her teaching placement in India arranged with TravellersI'm not sure how my love for India began, but I do know that I had wanted to visit India for the past seven years. Finally, the time to realise this dream came this summer. I decided to combine voluntary work there, with some travelling during weekends and after my placements. Via the internet, I came across Travellers. Emails and phone calls ensued and everything was sorted!


Nothing I had read, watched or heard could have prepared me enough for the reality of India. India is another world, incredible in all ways. I soon accepted the fact that my feet and nails would never be completely clean, that the hooting is incessant and that I was to be awoken early everyday by squawking crows, cheerful chipmunks, and noisy sellers and prayers! This charming city I made my new home in, is a place without road signs or garbage bins; where men wear ‘skirts' and women do all the hard labour; where there are power cuts everyday; where people eat strange food, with their right hands; where people have time to stand around and stare; where no one grumbles; and where everyone welcomes you.


For one month, I taught conversational English at an underprivileged primary school every morning; and worked at an Orphanage every afternoon.


At the school I taught 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th standards everyday. Each lesson was approximately 40 minutes and through a variety of topics, the children would practise saying different things. I used to buy materials from the stationer in our road and the supermarket close by. I especially enjoyed topics that allowed me to introduce different cultures, such as the lessons on manners and customs; and lifestyles, with 4th and 5th standards; and those that allowed me to refer to India, such as when using famous Indian people to talk about different professions.


My placement at the orphanage was an eye-opener into the different standards of medical care Geraldines placement in the orphange in India was an eye openerin the East. As a psychology graduate and psychotherapist it was very interesting for me to observe the children's relational and attachment patterns, form of play, and milestones reached. There were other volunteers at the orphanage, and their company and their teaching me how to change 'napkins', bottle feed and burp the babies, made all the difference!


It may seem like a cliché, but in India, I forgot myself - my problems and the life I no longer recognised back home - and found myself; meaning that I embraced a new way of being and a new purpose to my life. For me there is nothing more rewarding than teaching children who are genuinely hungry to learn. My Indian students' politeness, respect and eagerness touched my heart everyday. The orphans taught me how one can have nothing and be happy, because indeed we don't actually need anything to be happy. Happiness is after all, an internal state of being. Furthermore, having the opportunity to travel both throughout my placement (with my kid sisters, the other three volunteers who lived with me :), and for two weeks after, on my own, enabled me to truly experience the awe-inspiring diversity and contrasts India is so known for.


Feeling joyful and peaceful inside, everyday; and being honestly happy with all that I am and have, was one of my main personal experiences in India. Returning to Malta was extremely hard for me and I believe part of me is still there, in South Street, Singarayar Colony - greeting the barefooted-children, admiring the colourful saris and absorbing every aspect of fascinating India.


I will never forget my warm host mother and the wonderful volunteers, who became my new family; the welcoming, friendly school principal and teachers; all the amazing students and resilient orphans; and the very helpful Travellers staff. It's these people who made my time in Madurai so very special.

Thank you, Travellers!


Geraldine Borg's placement was arranged with Travellers Worldwide.


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