Numerous charities and international aid agencies have branches in India and, al­though they’re mostly staffed by locals, there are some opportunities for foreigners. You are more use to the charity concerned if you write in advance and, if you’re needed, if you stay for long enough to be of help. A week on a hospital ward may go a little way towards salving your own con­science, but you may actually do little more than get in the way of the people who work there long term.

Flexibility in what you are prepared to do is also vital. Some charities are inundated with foreign volunteers to help babies in an orphanage for instance, but few are willing to work with adults with physical or mental disabilities.

Overseas Volunteer Placement Agency

For long-term posts, the following organization may be able to offer advice:

Action Without Borders (Tel:212-843-3973, fax 212-564-337779 ) Fifth Avenue, 17th floo, New York, NY 10003, USA