Volunteers fulfill an essential role at Deepam. We provide a wonderful work opportunity for volunteers. Our children speak only Tamil, and it takes some time to understand the background of the Indian culture. It takes about 3 months to become adjusted here and to be able to really start contributing. Volunteers with experience in our field and training such as physio-, occupational-, or speech therapy and special educators are most welcome to join us for at least six months, preferably for one full year, which is beneficial for all involved. Most of our volunteers keep in touch with us and come back for visits. Please contact us for detailed information if you are interested in working with us. We will help you with information about visa regulations, transport from the airport and affordable accommodation.
Voices of volunteers:
Isabell, worked at Deepam in 2008
I am from Germany and I am 24 years old. After finishing my studies as a speech therapist, I came to Auroville to work at Deepam for 6 months as a volunteer. Together with Selvi, who works as a speech therapist, or alone, I give individual therapy lessons. There is a great need for therapeutic care among these children. I feel I’m doing a work which is really useful and at the same time it is a pleasure to work. Since I don’t speak Tamil, I focus on exercises for the mouth, tongue and pronunciation. Painting class, morning exercises, handicrafts and food sharing also are part of my duties. I really love working with the children of our day-care group and the children who come for ambulant therapy. My happy and very kind work mates contribute very much to my good and homelike feeling at Deepam. In addition, I get to know an amazing foreign country with its interesting customs and traditions, totally different from my home country. I feel glad and honoured to be able to have this special experience.
“Dear Deepam folk, each of you is so beautiful and special in her/his own wonderful way!
I love you a lot and you became very precious to me. I am deeply touched and feel very thankful for meeting you.
It is not easy for me to go now, but it seems to be time for me to move on.
I will take the love and everything I have experienced here with me on my way.
Thank you so much for showing me who you are and thank you for letting me be who I am!”
Stephanie is an occupational therapist who has worked with us at Deepam for 10 months in 2011/12. She wrote the above words in our volunteer book.
Clara, worked at Deepam in 2011
From the first moment I felt very welcome at Deepam, and day by day I got more and more into it. As one-year-volunteers we became fully integrated into the nice team. We follow our regular schedule of individual and group classes. That means I work with different children and small groups. I do for example, the music and the movement classes where we do exercises to learn about our body and train our coordination skills. One of my sessions I have with Ruthrapathi, a 9 year old deaf boy – to teach him numbers, practice cutting with scissors, painting and other handicrafts and games. He never went to school before he came here about 10 months ago. We have a lot of fun learning together as he is very motivated and picks up things quickly. I have also been given the possibility of helping a physiotherapist in his work with a boy in a wheelchair and with another boy who suffers of severe spasticity.
The challenge of understanding one another was not as big as I had expected. I found a good way to communicate mixing Tamil, English and the Deepam sign language, which evolved here because of the many children who are deaf. I am impressed how the children are learning and developing. It is an incredible feeling to see those improvements and I have decided to do the training to become an occupational therapist myself. My time here went by too fast and was full of exciting experiences. I could not imagine that staying here would influence me in such a way. Thank you Deepam!
Charlotte, worked at Deepam in 2011
For almost ten months now I have been working as a volunteer at Deepam and the thought of saying goodbye in two months time when my one-year program in India is completed, makes me feel incredibly sad. During the time here I have got to know and love all of the children at Deepam. I have learned a lot about the children and their special needs, but also about India and its culture and as well much about myself. I am fascinated by how the physically challenged children and their families encounter their disabilities in every day life. Periyasamy for example, a 15-year-old boy in a wheelchair, crawls up the stairs at Deepam and at home it is impossible to use his wheelchair because the space is too small – but he never complains.
When I first came here, I thought that I would never be able to remember all of those complicated Indian names. Since I did not speak any Tamil and only a very few children know a little English the speech barrier seemed so huge. However, as time passed, we found ways to communicate that don’t require any words at all. When I teach Sarasu, a 14-year-old girl with severe hearing loss, I do not need to talk to her very much in order to explain mathematical problems to her with the help of material. Also the children have developed their own sign language and it is just beautiful to see how all of these different children interact with one another.
I am sure I will never forget the time I spent here at Deepam!
Ahmad, worked at Deepam in 2009
I am a 30 year old physiotherapist from Iran and have been living and studying in India for the past 4 years. I always wondered how I could return the kindness and generosity of the lovely people of this beautiful country. Joining Deepam family in September for a six month internship program finally provided me the opportunity. In addition to the extreme sense of satisfaction working with village kids who have disabilities. The experience at Deepam offers me world class training and hopefully an international recognition.
So thank you Deepam for the opportunity and thank you India for being such a lovely host.
Julia, worked at Deepam in 2009-10
After finishing high-school in Germany I decided to do a year of social work in Auroville. Every day I learn a lot from the children and the team at Deepam. Moreover, I get rewarded with a great sense of satisfaction. These children are lovely because they are all special. They do not have a big expectation about their lives – still they seem to be content. It is a pleasure to see them being happy. I work with them in small groups or individually and I teach them basic mathematics, handicrafts, colors and counting, toilet training, swimming, dancing and singing. In addition, I help them to improve their coordination skills with simple exercises and games. Once a week I am in charge of the morning circle which offers me a great space for my creativity. I enjoy discovering new methods of teaching and treatment. As I have the wish to study later on physiotherapy, volunteering in Deepam, provides me the opportunity to work with professionals. Deepam is my new home. I feel fortunate to be part of it.
Julia from USA
has sent us a sweet mail:
This is Julia from a couple of years ago. I am now a graduate student at the University of Washington in the School of Social Work. I am in my second year and am really enjoying it. I am so sorry that I have not written sooner. Rarely has a day gone by that I have not thought about all of you and my experience there. I have pictures of the kids hanging in my home. They all have a very special place in my heart as do all of you. Please tell the kids that I say hello (Vanitha, Nagammal, Suresh, Sundar, Sathya, Ajai, Ranjith, Elumalai, Subash, Kannan, Lakshmi, Gandhi, Nanthya, Sarasu, Vinoth, Nishant, Mani, Suresh, Kalaimathy and Velmurugan). Please give a special hug to Anjalai. She is one who has never left me. Hello to all of the teachers and staff. Thank you for all of the rides on the bike and showing me about real social work. Thank you all for embracing me and teaching me so much about how to love.
Mareike : After my studies I wanted to go out in the world. A year of voluntary work with the Weltwärts- Programme felt like just the right thing to do. At Deepam I felt welcomed by the children and the team from the very first moment. I loved my work so much that I extended my stay for another three months. My focus was on doing handicrafts with the children and youth. I introduced stitching with needle and thread and also worked a lot with the foot-pedal-saw which was a brand-new addition at Deepam while I was there.
Whenever I come back to Deepam I observe positive changes. It is wonderful to see how the children and the team-members unfold and develop new ideas. 2016 I was especially impressed how Cathy and Babu had expanded the training of crafts. With their visible joy and patience and all their ideas they strengthened the creativity and the maturity of the children.
With joy I followed how much Gopal and Joyce were teaching the children Eurythmie and dance, in a very unique way. Despite the heavy rains they arranged a most beautiful programme for the Deepam celebration of light.
Whenever I come back to India I especially look forward to visiting Deepam. Surely this was not my last time to be here.
Klaus: It has been more than ten years now, since I first came to Deepam for volunteer service that would replace my military service in Germany. It had been my strong determination before leaving to pick up as much Tamil as possible. Besides the wonderful and friendly atmosphere that naturally arises wherever children are happy, Deepam proved a great place for these studies. And even though the kids can communicate at least some basic things in English, I had the feeling that speaking Tamil made me come very close to many of them and of course also to the staff members.
As I said, many years have passed since then, years in which I actually studied Tamil at university and in which, also, I came regularly visiting Deepam. It was very moving for me to see on my last visit, less than a year ago, that many of the kids, even some of those that had been very small at the time, ten years later still remembered me, my name and some things I had done with them – things which even I myself may have forgotten in the meantime.
Malina: Volunteering at Deepam and living in India for one full year meant a huge change in my life. Especially at the beginning this was not always easy but the team members and children at Deepam made me feel at home in the Indian culture right away. I got some insight about this country and could also experience some of the contradictions, for example on my way to work when watched women dressed in colorful saris make beautiful Kolams (Mandalas) in front of their houses which were surrounded by piles of plastic garbage. Or when at the same time an old man who was wearing a Lungi (traditional piece of cloth wrapped around his hips) was crossing the road and tourists with tattoos and Ipads passed by.
At Deepam the different cultures and traditions have a place too and we have celebrated the Indian festivals such as Deewali and Pongal as well as Christmas. I learned how to pepare yummi South-Indian Vadais and we made German Christmas cookies with the children. We had a lot of fun together while cooking for Pongal milk-rice in a claypot on firewood and at Easter searching for hidden eggs. The team at Deepam gives its best to contribute to the development of the children and to support their families. I perceived it as a grace to be part of what has been built up over a period of more than twenty years and it was a pleasure to give my share to support this blooming project. It was amazing to see the progress which some of the children made during my stay. It gave me, for example, a lot of joy to assist Dharani, a young woman with epilepsy and learning difficulties, to understand in math how the number system works. At the same time I learnt how to work with children who have special needs and about myself. What I learnt is truly valuable and I feel blessed for the experiences I made. The time passed quickly and it was difficult for me to say goodbye to everybody. I would like to thank the team at Deepam for their never ending commitment and the time we have spent together.
Hannah: In 2014 / 2015 I was at Deepam with a German voluntary programme. I knew it would be something very special to spend a full year in India and in Auroville – and indeed it was like that! When I look back at this year of voluntary work I see how much experience I have gained which will stay with me for the rest of my life. At Deepam I was, from the very beginning, involved in all the important tasks and I was given responsibilities, without ever being left alone. There was always an open ear for all my questions and ideas. Back in Germany I started to do my Master’s in Clinical Psychology. Quickly I realized that I needed to go back to India one more time. Like this I have studied now since November 2016 for one semester psychology at the Pondicherry University. Besides that I still manage to spend as much time as possible with the children and the team at Deepam. I perceive it as something very special to be in touch with a project on the other side of the world and even more to be at any time heartfully welcomed. Though the work is demanding, what I get back is so valuable – I am missing the words to express how much it means to me.