Chennai is a great city to visit as a tourist, however, it is an even better destination to come to as a volunteer. With a vibrant and growing culture of volunteerism, the city is home to a number of organizations, groups and communities that offer amazing volunteering experiences. Whether it is environment and conservation or education and poverty reduction, here are some of the best volunteering options in Chennai, no matter what cause you support.
Student Sea Turtle Conservation Network
The Student Sea Turtle Conservation Network, or SSTCN, is one of the most popular conservation organizations in Chennai that is working towards saving the endangered olive ridley sea turtles that use the beaches near Chennai as nesting grounds. The network brings together students and volunteers and organizes ‘Turtle Walks‘ along the beaches of South Chennai to protect hatchlings and direct them into the sea.
Environmentalist Foundation of India
This fairly new organization founded by Rolex Award-winning environmentalist, Arun Krishnamurthy, has already emerged as one of the most popular organizations to volunteer with for students. The main purpose of the organization is conserving and saving the lakes of Chennai and other cities in South India through scientific restoration. Volunteers for EFI regularly go on cleanup drives to lakes around the city and engage in activities such as garbage removal. EFI has been credited with saving a number of endangered lakes in the city, particularly in South Chennai.
Madras Crocodile Bank Trust
Popularly known as the ‘Croc Bank’, the MCBT is a pioneering conservation organization that works towards saving reptiles such as crocodiles, snakes and turtles. Founded by famous environmentalist and nature conservationist, Romulus Whitaker, the Madras Croc Bank has been designated a medium zoo by the Central Zoo Authority. The Croc Bank regularly conducts volunteer programs for students and interested environmentalists and allows them to stay on the premises of the Madras Croc Bank. Volunteers take part in activities such as cleaning enclosures, helping with management, conducting tours for visitors and even feeding the crocodiles and other reptiles.
SOS Children’s Villages India
This international children’s care organization has a strong and robust presence in Chennai and regularly intakes volunteers. One of the more flexible volunteer programs in the city, volunteering at the SOS Children’s Village involves contributing time and talent towards the upliftment of orphaned children. This could involve educating them, helping out with the management of the Children’s Village or even providing basic care for the children.
While Auroville isn’t exactly within Chennai, it is one of the biggest and most popular volunteering opportunities in the region and around the city. Located just off Pondicherry, and some 100 km from Chennai, Auroville Farms attracts volunteers from all over the country and abroad. An experimental township founded with the purpose of promoting human unity, one of the most important aspects of volunteering at Auroville Farms is that within the township, the value of money is relegated to only the bare necessities. Volunteers are therefore provided lodging and food in return for services rendered.
Blue Cross of India
Chennai’s Blue Cross of India is one of the most popular and well-known animal rights and welfare organizations in the country. First started over 50 years ago, the organization has performed a crucial role in ensuring the welfare of stray and domestic animals in the city. Volunteering with BCI often involves being on the frontline of animal care and taking care of injured animals including dogs, cats and cattle. While experience with animal care is a huge asset, the only true prerequisite for volunteering with BCI is a strong passion for animal welfare.
While most local organizations work primarily on the grassroots level, Greenpeace India is one that truly combines grassroots-level work with social and policy-level activism and advocacy. An organization with one of the largest volunteer workforces in the country, volunteering with Greenpeace India in Chennai can put you at the forefront of policy activism while helping further environmental causes at ground level at the same time.