General Rules and Guidelines for International Volunteers at Nesakkaram-SEEDS

We at Nesakkaram-SEEDS are thankful to all our international volunteers who come here from far away countries to express their support for Nesakkaram-SEEDS’s cause and to work to strengthen it further. We wish your stay at Nesakkaram-SEEDS to be both enjoyable and rewarding, and are sure that it will ever be a pleasant memory for you to remember in the years to come.

1. Sensitivity to the Local Community:

Nesakkaram-SEEDS started its work in 1989 at Chinthatripet, West koovam Road, a small slum of Rag pickers. It wasn’t easy for Nesakkaram-SEEDS to gain acceptance with the local population of Rag pickers. However, we feel that our transparent and sincere way of working for the disadvantaged gradually earned their respect and trust.

Now we work among 21 slum Centers, 23 Children Parliament Groups, 163 Self Help Groups and 2 Shelter Homes for Children.

We look upon our international volunteers as our own extension and would therefore like to request them to keep this perspective in mind and maintain a behavior that does not offend local customs and sensitivities. This means modest dress and behaviour when they are among the disadvantaged Children and Women of Nesakkaram-SEEDS.

If the volunteer finds something uncomfortable or doesn’t understand, please speak with the persons concerned in Nesakkaram-SEEDS.

2. Clothing:

Dressing modestly is the key for both men and women, so both genders should avoid sleeveless tops, miniskirts, and anything see-through, or tight. Keep two adverbs in mind: dress comfortably and respectfully.

The traditional “Salwar-Kameez” for girls is the most appropriate dress that will not offend any community. For men, trousers and T-shirts or shirts are appropriate.

Clothes in India are very beautiful and inexpensive and shopping trips can be arranged once you arrive.

Light shoes are ideal for work. But Shoes are taken off at the entrance to most buildings.

3. Food and medicines:

The food at Nesakkaram-SEEDS will be basic Indian meals both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. The food may be spicy for those visiting India for the first time, so it would be advisable to bring along some food supplements (energy bars, soup cubes, dry fruits, etc.) if you desire.

There is no guarantee that drinking water in most places is treated and safe. You should therefore carry water from Nesakkaram-SEEDS while you go out to visit slums. When buying water from shops, make sure that the bottle is sealed.

Nesakkaram-SEEDS’ head office is in the center of Chennai City. Medical care is easily available, but it is advisable that you travel with a full supply of any medications you require. Some people have problems in adapting to the local food, so it is recommended to bring medicine against diarrhoea.

Be sure to visit your doctor before your visit to discuss appropriate vaccinations.

4. Additional Information:

Mosquitoes are simply a fact of life in India. You may bring your own mosquito net for a single bed. It is also highly advisable that you travel with an insect repellent for the early morning and evening hours.

Chennai is very humid and hot between March and July. Therefore, your room is fitted with Air Condition. Responsible use of this facility would be appreciated.

Water is very scarce and rain is very rare here in Chennai. You need to be careful in the use of water.

Basic toiletries are easily available at a much cheaper price in Chennai than most Western Countries. If however, you are attached to a specific brand, you may bring them along. Sanitary napkins are easily available for women.

Indian toilets use water for cleaning. Nesakkaram-SEEDS has some toilet papers, and it is available for purchase at the nearby shops. It is advisable to take some toilet papers with you when travelling elsewhere in India.

If you wish to have internet access during your stay, it is advisable that you pack your own means for accessing the web, whether that be a laptop, smart phone, or tablet. Nesakkaram-SEEDS office has internet, but it is available to volunteers strictly for Nesakkaram-SEEDS related work or emergencies.

For your personal use it is recommended to purchase an Indian SIM card with a data plan for your own device, or to obtain a USB 4G dongle for your laptop. This will ensure that you have reliable personal internet access. Prices for data plans in India are very affordable. Simply inquire about internet upon your arrival. Laws in India make it very easy for foreigners to obtain a SIM. You need a copy of your passport and a copy of your visa to obtain a SIM card in India.

And remember- most things you need are available here. You just need to go to the nearby shops to get them.

5. Working day/hours:

Volunteers will work 8 hours a day. Often this is split into morning and evening sessions as the children are off to school during the day, but each schedule will be unique according to your work in Nesakkaram-SEEDS.

While at Nesakkaram-SEEDS, please follow the timetable so as not to cause inconvenience to the kitchen staff and the other friars at Nesakkaram-SEEDS. Our breakfast is at 08:30, lunch at 13:30 and dinner at 20:30, but this may vary if there are events/programmes planned on a particular day.

There may not be specified days off in the week, as this work is truly 24/7. Please maintain the schedule you need to remain at your best working condition, and never hesitate to ask to take a few days of rest. Sunday is your day.

6. Rules and regulations:

The consumption of tobacco and alcohol is forbidden in the institution. There are nearly 850 children associated with Nesakkaram-SEEDS and we feel that our guests set a good example for them by not consuming tobacco and alcohol.

Do not entertain children in your room, but rather in public spaces.

Please do not accept any food, sweets, herbal medicines, or similar items, even if this is in sealed packets.

Please come ready to live closely with people of India. By this we mean not only the Nesakkaram-SEEDS community, but also the other guests and volunteers from India. We all must maintain good attitudes to get along well with one another, and to keep a feeling of peace, welcoming and friendliness among one another. This also sets the best example for the children of Nesakkaram-SEEDS.

7. Activities for volunteers:
7.1. Depending on a volunteer’s skills this might include:
  • Teaching basic new language skills to the slum and Home children.
  • Conducting educational games with the children.
  • Helping the children with their studies and homework.
  • Teaching children’s songs, various dance styles such as folk, classical, etc., and music and musical instruments such as the guitar, keyboard, tabla, harmonica, etc.
  • Organizing arts and crafts sessions with the children, e.g. making various handicrafts from waste materials.
  • Teaching basic IT skills e.g. how to search for information on the internet, back up information, send and receive email, etc., as well as how to take photographs.
  • Helping with personal grooming (cutting nails, trimming and cutting hair, etc.)
  • Playing with children, giving them encouragement.

7.2. Support work in the office might include:
  • General administrative support including data entry and software support.
  • Writing reports and newsletter articles (mostly in English)
  • Collecting statistical data about SHG women and children and writing up individual case studies.
  • Updating information about the different Nesakkaram-SEEDS centers.
  • Maintaining the Nesakkaram-SEEDS website.
  • Updating Nesakkaram-SEEDS’s Facebook page with news and imagery.
  • Helping to make photo albums and digital brochures to print.
  • Making short films about Nesakkaram-SEEDS and uploading them to YouTube and social media

7.3. Other support work might include:
  • Light cooking and/or food preparation of your country with the housemother.
  • Light gardening and maintenance of the buildings.

8. Tips for being a successful volunteer:

Try to match your particular set of skills to Nesakkaram-SEEDS’s needs. Then you will not only enjoy your time here but you will also be the most useful you can be.

Stay flexible and open-minded.

Embrace the simplicity of spending focused time with the children of Nesakkaram-SEEDS. This mindset will not only help you discover how best to offer your skills to Nesakkaram-SEEDS, it will also enable you to form a personal relationship with the Nesakkaram-SEEDS community.

Be prepared to learn, and not only to give.

Don't come with the expectation that you can change India, but remember that your contribution can be valuable and effective nonetheless.

Most importantly: allow yourself space and time to be a positive member of the Nesakkaram-SEEDS community.

9. Contact Information:

If you have any questions before your arrival please do not hesitate to contact the Nesakkaram-SEEDS office at

Final Notes

Please try to give your best while you are at Nesakkaram-SEEDS. Come prepared to spend your time talking and interacting with the people rather than doing work for them. Most importantly: allow yourself space and time to simply be a positive member of the Nesakkaram-SEEDS community. It can be difficult to adjust to the pace of life and work at Nesakkaram-SEEDS. Western culture is largely preoccupied with an idea of work leading to immediate and tangible results. Allow yourself to embrace the simplicity of just spending focused time with the women, and children of Nesakkaram-SEEDS. This mindset wills not only allow you to find the avenues for you to best offer your gifts and talents to Nesakkaram-SEEDS, it will also enable you to form a personal relationship with this family. Flexibility and openness are the keys.

If at times you find interaction with the staff rather difficult, do not get disheartened or feel that you are not welcome. The staff is used to a good number of international volunteers working for Nesakkaram-SEEDS and they may not know your specific needs unless you tell them. Feel free to do so. Misunderstandings can lead to many unnecessary hurt feelings.

When you arrive you will be introduced to the person in charge of the house where you will be staying. Adjusting to a new country and community is challenging; if any issues arise please do not hesitate to discuss them.

In order to get the maximum learning from your stay at Nesakkaram-SEEDS, we recommend you to keep a personal diary.

We wish you a comfortable, fruitful stay in Nesakkaram-SEEDS, for you are part of Nesakkaram-SEEDS family and we are happy to have you with us.

With warm regards

Fr. Joseph Raj OFM, MSW, MBA

Director and Secretary