I have loved every minute of my trip volunteering in Fort Kochi. From the beautiful, ornate churches to the Chinese fishing nets, it’s nothing short of idyllic. This friendly, historic, charming city will look after you and feed you well.
Arriving at Cochin airport I was terrified. I’d never been to India before, I don’t speak the language, I wasn’t sure what to expect and my flight was 4 hours late! Fortunately, the taxi driver was there to greet me and gave me a really helpful information pack. A quick breakdown of what to expect and reassurance that I was in the right place quickly eased my nerves as we headed out to Fort Kochi.
Any remaining nerves I had instantly vanished as we reached the homestay. The women at Volunteering Journeys were so warm and welcoming, I instantly felt at home. Jessy, the best chef in Kerala, had prepared lunch so we eagerly tucked in as Midhu reassured us there would be time for a nap before exploring Fort Kochi. Midhu’s walking tour of the local area is invaluable. A local herself, she makes sure you gain some idea of your surroundings and introduces you to café with the best cake.
It takes a few days to get used to the traffic and gain enough bravely to try out the street food, but you soon learn to settle into the Fort Kochi culture and feel like a local yourself.
The second day we met Geetha, the Programme Manager. Geetha is so supportive and encouraging that any reservations you have about volunteering quickly vanish. I ran Women’s Empowerment sessions in the morning and helped in a local school in the afternoon.
hey recommend doing whilst in Kochi, they know all the best restaurants or places to visit and are so eager to share their culture with you.
After the morning session we’d return home to eat to eat more of Jessy’s delicious food. (Her banana pancakes, fried fish and chicken curry have to be my favourites. Have I mentioned how good the food is yet!?) Before being whisked off in a tuk-tuk to the second project. The first lesson I wasn’t sure what to expect from the children. I wasn’t sure how much they’d understand me or how much English they’d know. Don’t panic! They are so enthusiastic, eager and immediately welcoming. The children don’t show the same behavioural issues as I’ve experienced with children back home and their teacher, Midhu or Geetha are always there to offer help and support.
As well as some English lessons, we did some painting, some sport but mostly played games! The group I’d worked with had lots of experience of working with previous volunteers and knew more games than I do. Just remember to have fun and you’ll be fine.
It’s not all work! Geetha and Midhu help you book trips away at weekends and activities in the evening. We saw Keralan traditional dance, martial arts and Jessy taught us how to make chapatis. One of my favourite mini adventures was taking the ferry over to Ernakulam to see the city with it’s beautiful parks and amazing shops! At the weekend I took a trip to Munnarwhich was breath taking. Our taxi driver Jose made sure we saw as much as we could: visiting a reservation area, a herb garden, a flower garden, seeing waterfalls! We were lucky enough to even see elephants and monkeys on our trip, certainly a must do whilst in Kerala. The backwaters tour on the house boats are also beautiful and of course watching the sunset from Fort Kochi Beach!
If I didn’t have to go to work next Monday, I’m not sure I’d be leaving at all. This trip has been wonderful and is definitely an experience I’m looking to repeat.
Zoe Fidel, September 2016