For volunteers that are selected from the United States, the experience begins with pre-field orientation approximately five months before the program start date. Once a week, the volunteers who are selected to participate in the program will meet with each other to learn the curriculum, learn about living and working in India for the summer, and to get to know and become friends with other volunteers. This is the time where all of the volunteers’ questions about the program are answered and when most of the preparation for the program takes place. The purpose of this pre-field orientation is to prepare the volunteers to become teachers capable of excelling in a new and challenging environment.
After pre-field orientation, volunteers are given about a month off in which they are free to finish their semesters, prepare for their departure, and do some extra traveling (click here for more information about traveling before and during the program). After arriving in country before the program dates, the volunteers will be given an initial one week orientation. Orientation will be an opportunity for American volunteers to adjust to life in Chennai, meet and work with their Indian counterparts, practice teaching with their summer teaching groups they’re assigned to, and to explore and discover the city, including ways in which to get around, where to shop and what to eat. For the duration of the summer the volunteers are housed in a hostel close to many of the city’s attractions. Most importantly, teaching groups are assigned during the orientation, with which the volunteer will work for the remainder of the program. Each teaching group typically consists of three to four volunteers from the United States with one or two volunteers from Chennai. The typical style of teaching involves the volunteers from the United States teaching in English alongside their counterparts from Chennai who translate into Tamil. At the end of orientation, teaching groups are given the opportunity to present a full hour lesson to the rest of the volunteers for practice and constructive criticism.
After the orientation concludes the volunteers are given the weekend to prepare for their first teachings. Once the teaching begins, each teaching group is assigned several teaching sites over the remaining seven weeks. The teaching sites include government and private secondary schools as well as universities. In the secondary schools, the students range from 9th to 12th grade, and in the university the students are from 1st to 3rd year students. The amount of time given for instruction at each teaching site varies depending on the institution’s needs and time available so volunteers have to learn to be dynamic with the curriculum and adapt it to different teaching sites. Each teaching group will have a different schedule, which may also vary from day to day or week to week. On average, each teaching group spends about one to one and half hours per teaching and about two to three hours a day total on everything related to teaching (including driving and preparation time). For more information on the specific teaching sites taught at last summer, click here.
In addition to teaching, a major aspect of the volunteer experience is getting involved in extra side projects. In just its first year, there were over nine side projects that the group of sixteen volunteers became involved in, ranging from teaching and playing with kids from an orphanage to creating and distributing a pamphlet of condom rules. Since then the side projects have developed greatly from developing a water drainage system to a hygiene curriculum for local slums. Volunteers spent a good deal of their free time working on extra projects and helping the local community out in a variety of ways. The side projects are where volunteers are able to make an immediate impact on the surrounding community by working with local HIV positive organizations and demonstrate to its citizens that IAPA is there to help. For more information on the extra projects that volunteers became involved with last summer, click here.