My hubby and I spent about two weeks in India towards the end of July, beginning of August, working on a research project with a professor and a dozen other students from Brigham Young University-Hawaii. There is this non-profit organization, called Food for Life, that we performed a statistical analysis for, to see how effective they were. Well, six weeks and 500 pages of analyses later, we have finally finished up the project.
Being in India was truly an indescribable experience. The children that attend the non-profit school are some of the happiest, most grateful kids I have seen in quite a while. What is most amazing to me, is that these kids have absolutely nothing, and they are still so incredibly happy. The majority of the families we encountered did not have more than a couple changes of clothes, had no indoor toilets, and made less than 30 US dollars a month.
Food for Life, the program that we worked with takes the kids off the street that are considered too poor to receive an education, and gives them just that. Not only do the kids benefit, but the whole family does. Food for Life tries to employ as many of the parents as possible, whether the position be a bus driver, a farmer, or something else. They also teach skills classes, such as sewing to the widows. They then sell their products, and give the money back to the widows, so that they can sustain themselves with an income that wouldn't have received otherwise. It really is an incredible organization. There are always volunteer opportunities at the school. Their website has more information: http://fflvrindavan.org/index.php?S=1&Folder=1
A few pointers about India though:
1) Be careful what you carry, the monkeys LOVE to steal things from people (glasses off your face, cameras, watches, etc.) If you get something stolen however, be sure and have crackers or something on you. Surprisingly the monkeys will barter with you.
2) The cows are considered holy. Be respectful.
3) Rickshaws are great ways to get around, but be knowledgeable about your money, don't get ripped off.
4) Offer help when you can, but understand that you won't be able to help everyone. That was the hardest part for me.
5) Just embrace the culture. It's extremely different, but the majority of people I met were very kind. Plus, the clothes are beautiful.
6) Drink BOTTLED water wherever you go.
7) Be smart in what you eat. Stay away from produce, unless it has a thick skin (bananas, coconuts, etc.)
8) If you hear "Radhe," pronounced "Raw-day," it either means hello, or get out of the way.
9) If at all possible, wear a seatbelt, the roads can be quite scary. And by scary I mean terrifying. Red lights and stop lights were considered suggestions. Suggestions that no one took notice of.
10) Be adventurous, stay smart, and have fun!