Once again, Christmas is creeping up quicker than ever with hand-crafted fruit cakes, gorgeous window displays and twinkling lights making a comeback. The good news is that it’s not too late to make this festive season the best yet. Volunteering on a Christmas vacation is the ultimate way to give back and a hark to the true spirit of the holiday.
In India, there are few places that are as breathtakingly beautiful as Goa on Christmas eve. Christmas celebrations begin in earnest around mid-December with carol singing, concerts, street decorations, illuminated village nativity scenes and Christmas markets. This, combined with its sun-kissed beaches, cheerful people and fabulously festive local traditions, makes Christmas in Goa unlike anywhere else in India.
So, if you do happen to decide to spend Christmas eve in Goa this year, here are a few volunteer opportunities where you can lend a hand to those in need. Just remember—volunteers are needed year round!
1. Inspire Trust, all over Goa
The INSPIRE TRUST, an initiative by the INSPIRE PROJECT, works to encourage community cooperation and development by organizing learn-by-doing workshops (painting, pottery, theatre, photography, dance, films, yoga, recycling & waste management) for everybody. The Inspire Commune is an environment created to facilitate, motivate, nurture and inspire those who would like to experience, exchange, share and learn all forms of art and design. To realize this big picture, INSPIRE TRUST invites anyone and everyone who wants to share his/her knowledge and experience in any field that can transform the society for the better. Get more details on volunteering here.
2. Welfare for Animals in Goa (WAG), Siolim
On a visit to Goa in 2000, Atul Sarin, founder of WAG, was deeply affected by the sufferings endured by the stray animals on the streets. Consequently, he gave up his successful business in the UK, permanently moved to Goa, and set up Welfare for Animals in Goa. Other than humanely sterilising stray animals, WAG also rescues injured, abandoned and sick animals and provides them a safe home at their shelter. The best part about WAG is that they rescue all animals – dogs, cats, cows, goats, donkeys, snakes… you name it, they can do it! Check out their volunteer page for more information.
3. Mango Tree Trust, Mapusa
Founded in 2012, Mango Tree Goa supports and educates disadvantaged children from low-income backgrounds. Other than running a registered pre-primary school in Mapusa for around seventy under-privileged kids, the Mango Tree Trust also provides nutritious lunch to them, ensures that they receive timely vaccinations and assists in enrolling them in local schools by providing uniforms and stationery. The Mango Tree trust also run a children’s bank to encourage them to learn about the value of money and saving towards a goal. If you are a person who likes children and would love to teach this is where you should be volunteering. Read the volunteer FAQ here.
4. Panjim Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), Panaji
A NGO that works to rescue, vaccinate and shelter stray dogs in Panaji, PAWS’s efforts have led to many strays in Goa finding forever homes. Other than co-ordinating animal rescues and treating injured animals, PAWS also raises its voice against animal cruelty and organizes rabies awareness campaigns. To volunteer, contact them through their Facebook page.
5. Bethesda Life Centre, Panaji
Founded by Beena and Martin in 2001, Bethesda Life Centre started with the aim of providing education and care for children of HIV/AIDS victims and commercial sex workers. Today, the organization works to fight against child trafficking, runs a special school to educate children with learning difficulties and facilitate self-reliances among HIV-affected men and women by giving interest-free micro-loans and skill training. Over the last 15 years, the lives of hundreds of children and women have been transformed by love & care at Bethesda Life Centre. If you are passionate about the welfare of children and women in distress, BLC is where you should volunteer. Here are more details.
6. International Animal Rescue, Assagao
Since it was set up in 1998 by Jo and John Hicks, International Animal Rescue has sterilized more than 30,000 dogs, 11,000 cats, and vaccinated over 60,000 dogs against rabies in Goa. Their ambulances have collected thousands of road casualties, rescued dozens of animals from wells, and treated injured animals all over Goa. The IAR team has also made a major impact on mange, a disease which causes intense suffering and was endemic within the street dog community. Their centre at Assagao houses over 100 adult dogs, 50 adult cats, 50 puppies, 50 kittens and 30 cows/bulls and is one of the best equipped rescue centres in India. Here is all you need to know about volunteering here.
7. The Primate Trust, Camurlim
Founded by Jo and John Hicks (the same founders of IAR), The Primate Trust provides long term care to orphaned, abused and injured primates. This work is important because the loss of natural habitat as well as human conflict has led to an increasing number of injured and orphaned monkeys. It has been seen that baby monkeys, whose mothers have died, are either rescued by humans, or usually killed by other monkeys. Once rescued, they cannot go back to the wild. The Primate Trust takes care of such monkeys. Here are the details of the unique volunteering experience this NGO offers. Please note that one must be vaccinated against rabies to volunteer.