India | Community Service

Volunteer on construction, education, and agricultural projects on this summer community service program in India for high school students. Spend your days laying cement blocks, upgrading community facilities, or teaching English to local children while absorbing the rich colors, sounds, and scents of village life from our unique base in a renovated castle.

June 28, 2016  –  July 27, 2016
Students completing grades 9 – 12
Community Service
Typical Group:
15 – 17 students, 2 leaders
30 days


  • Organize lessons and games for grade school children in rural Rajasthan.
  • Meet with an organization that is working with residents of New Delhi’s slums.
  • Ride camels over the high sand hills of Jaisalmer’s Western Desert.
  • Sample curries, naan, dal, tandoori, and other specialties of Indian cuisine.
  • Climb the ruins of an immense, intricately decorated Moghul fortress.


Village Life and Service

This project affords you the opportunity to volunteer alongside local people in rural areas of India. It also allows you to enjoy the colorful culture of Rajasthan, explore the desert on camelback, climb through immense Moghul fortresses, and experience the wonder of wildlife in India, including camels, elephants, and monkeys.

Our students have the opportunity to help build or repair needed facilities in our host community. In past summers, we have constructed a basketball court and playground, planted trees, built sanitary facilities, and refinished a school assembly area. We have also worked extensively with students at a local school, teaching English, playing games, and conducting musical and theatrical enrichment activities. We spend late afternoons hiking in the surrounding mountains, riding bikes, or relaxing with new friends. Upon successful completion of this volunteer program, students can expect to receive certificates for 60 – 80 hours of community service.

On weekends, get out and explore the surrounding countryside and the region’s many forts and temples. Visit Udaipur, known as the “White City” because of the white marble used in local architecture, and take in its bazaar, monuments, palaces, and stunning lakes.

Independent Projects

Engage in an independent project to better understand life in the village.  Possible topics include: farms and how they work, the education system, politics and government, religion, gender roles, cultural events, local folklore, or music. Students also have the opportunity to undertake a village internship. Shadow local weavers and study their craft, learn from tailors how traditional Indian clothing is made, or work with an expert potter.

Make friends with local Indians from the community.

Make friends with local Indians from the community.

Final Adventure

During a short travel period at the end of the program, we visit the vibrant city of Jodhpur. Here, we explore the Mehrangarh Fort and catch an impressive glimpse of the city below. The blue hues of its buildings are associated with the region’s priestly Brahmin caste and earn Jodhpur its nickname, the “Blue City”. We move on to the “Golden City” of Jaisalmer deep in the Thar Desert and set out on camels to experience this lunar landscape. Then we return to New Delhi, and take a trip from there to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. Visit imposing Moghul palaces and explore maze-like bazaars. Experience some of the spiritual traditions of India in temples and village ceremonies. Drop in on weavers and other artisans. Visit farms, factories, and NGOs that are working with the residents of one of New Delhi’s slum neighborhoods.

“Bravo! We are singing your praises to friends and family who ask about Jonah’s summer in India. We cannot thank you enough! We were happy to see Jonah grow and learn and we never worried for one minute because we could see you are a first-rate outfit!”

— Kenneth and Gwendolyn Freed, parents of Jonah, Edina, MN


Group accommodations are carefully selected by Putney Student Travel to emphasize convenience, a positive group environment, and wholesome interaction with local people and fellow travelers. While we work on the volunteer project we stay in an 18th century haveli, a traditional private mansion, that is still the home of the descendants of the feudal family that built it generations ago.  While the buildings show the effects of their age, they retain a nostalgic air of past glories and a noble lifestyle.  The haveli is quite large, with hidden interior courtyards, beautiful arches, and a quiet shady terrace.  Work in cook crews along with our hosts at the haveli and lend a hand with preparing traditional Indian dishes. Meals are full of delightful flavors thanks to the many spices found at local markets. On excursions and in New Delhi and Agra, accommodations will be in small hotels.

Physical Challenge Level

Our programs are active. Days are filled with movement — working on community service projects, playing with local children, exploring our host community on foot, going on a hike, or preparing our group’s meals. Pick-up games of frisbee or soccer with our new friends are often organized by leaders and students.

A Typical Day

7 a.m. — Breakfast
8 a.m.–12 p.m. — Work
12 p.m.–2 p.m. — Lunch and Rest
2 p.m.–4 p.m. — Work
4 p.m.–6 p.m. — Help prepare dinner, play soccer, relax
6 p.m. — Dinner
8 p.m. — Group Meeting and/or group activity

During the week, we wake up between 6-7am, eat breakfast together as a group, and then head to the work site from 8am-12pm. Work may include mixing cement, painting, planting seedlings, or teaching local kids. We’ll break for a long lunch and rest time, then return to work for a few hours in the afternoon. After work, relax, play soccer with local friends, help cook dinner, or pursue independent research or short internships with village artisans. After a group dinner together, participate in a meeting to discuss the day, plan for upcoming excursions, or simply play a game together. Weekends are a time to explore. Visit a wildlife sanctuary, local market, or palaces and temples in nearby towns.

What to Expect

For most of each weekday, we are actively involved in community service work.  This work, as well as afternoon and weekend activities, can be strenuous. July in India is hot.  Everyone participates in all of the group’s projects on a rotating basis.  You should come to the program with an open-mind, eager to participate in new experiences, and interested in exploring another culture and way of life.   

At Putney we take pride in our reputation for careful, thorough planning and attention to detail. The descriptions of our high school summer travel programs are based on our experiences in previous summers and our plans for this summer. It is inevitable that some things described here will not happen exactly as presented. To get the most out of the Putney experience, participants need to be flexible in responding to unforeseen situations, and creative in taking advantage of unexpected opportunities. We expect Putney participants to share responsibility for the success of their experience. Rules that provide a safe and structured environment, set curfews, and prohibit the use of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco are in place and enforced. We expect you to behave in a mature and productive way at all times.


$6,090 plus airfare


Putney organizes and reserves seats for students on a round-trip group flight from a gateway U.S. airport to your program destination. One or more of your group leaders will be at the airport to welcome you and to fly with the group on both departure and return. Please consult us for fares.


Learn about last year’s program by reading the 2014 Community Service India Blog.

This program begins and ends at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) in Newark, New Jersey.

Departure • Travel Day • Join your group to begin a month of community service in India.  The group flight departs from Newark, where you meet one of your leaders and fly as a group to New Delhi.

New Delhi • 2 Days • The program begins in New Delhi, where our home is a small hotel near the center of the city.  Have a program orientation and time to visit some of the principal sites of New Delhi, buy attractive, comfortable, and culturally appropriate Indian clothing, and rest after the long flight.

“Our expectations were that Isabelle would have a stimulating experience being exposed to a new country and culture and that she would engage with and help the community where they lived. Our expectations were absolutely met. Not only was Isabelle exposed to a variety of places and experiences and opportunities for community engagement, she truly enjoyed her group and came away with a much better appreciation for India and its culture.”

— Connie Coburn and James Houghton, parents of Isabelle, St. Paul’s School, Boston, MA

Rajasthan • 20 Days • Travel by overnight train to Rajasthan, and settle in for three weeks at our base. We spend weekdays working on small-scale facilities improvement projects and tutoring local children.

Regional Excursions • 3 Days • On weekends and during the last few days of the program, take trips to local forts and opulent temples. See the beautiful lakes of Udaipur, spend time in metropolitan Jodhpur, or ride camels outside of Jaisalmer.

New Delhi • 2 Days • Travel back to New Delhi by night train and spend two days visiting the old city, meeting with an organization helping the poorest inhabitants of New Delhi’s slums, and visiting local artisan markets.

Experience the majesty of the Taj Mahal.

Experience the majesty of the Taj Mahal.

Agra 1 Day • Spend our final night in Agra, with time to visit the Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri.

Return • Travel Day • Fly with a group leader from New Delhi to Newark and continue on to your final destination.

This itinerary represents our best projection of the group’s schedule.  However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program.


Background • India is a huge and complex country with enormous geographic and ethnic diversity. Sixty-five different languages are spoken by Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, and Sikhs. India has a wealth of geographic settings, from the snow-capped peaks of the Himalaya to verdant jungles and arid plains.  Despite rapid economic growth in recent years, basic services we take for granted such as housing and education are hard to find for many. A gentle national character and deeply embedded system of conservative social norms and expectations have helped to maintain a peaceful, if somewhat chaotic domestic environment. Indians are warm people who show tremendous enthusiasm toward visitors. Our host community is in the Pali District of Rajasthan state, situated 600 kilometers southwest of New Delhi, midway between the cities  of Udaipur and Jodhpur.

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Climb to the top of Mehrangarh Fort on a weekend excursion to Jodhpur. The blue houses indicate the predominant presence of the Brahmin caste in the area.

Population  • India is home to over one billion people, with an estimated 25 million newborns added each year. Our host village is very small, home to about 1,000 people.

Language  • The primary language of Rajasthan is Hindi, though a number of tribal dialects are also spoken.  All classes at our school are taught in English, so many of the students, particularly the older ones, speak English well.

“This program was fantastic. It helped Meredith develop into the independent young woman that she is. She even wants to study Hindi in college now and can’t wait to go back to India!”

— Jennifer and Michael McAneny, parents of Meredith, Chesapeake Beach, MD

Climate • Rajasthan is hot and generally dry with high temperatures reaching the 90s on most days, but with some relief at night.  We visit during the monsoon season, but Rajasthan does not typically experience high humidity or heavy rains. New Delhi and Agra can be both hot and humid, but our accommodations there are air-conditioned.

Cuisine • Most meals are typical Indian food, much of which is vegetarian.  Curries and other traditional Indian selections are usually accompanied by bread such as naan, poori, or chapati, and by rice.   Students drink bottled water as a health precaution.

CSIND_NadavKonforty (83)

Acquire a taste for Indian spices at a traditional open-air market.

Currency • Indian currency is the Rupee (INR). We  visit a bank to convert a small amount of money to Rupees at the beginning of the program in New Delhi.  There is also access to ATM machines in New Delhi and in a neighboring town to our host village.

Visa • U.S. citizens must obtain a visa to enter India. Since a valid passport must be a part of the visa application, it is important to get a passport well in advance of the program’s departure. Putney Student Travel provides comprehensive information on how to apply for a visa. Non-U.S. citizens must check local visa requirements, including requirements for countries passed through in transit.  


The Community Service India program is directed by John Linsley. If you have questions, are interested in receiving more detailed information, or would like to talk further about the program or any of our high school summer programs abroad, please get in touch!

John Linsley

John Linsley: St. Lawrence University, B.A., Government; Maxwell School of Syracuse University, M.A., International Relations. John’s love of travel began in high school when he studied in Germany on an exchange program. Since then, he has studied and worked in East and West Africa, Europe, Central America, and the Caribbean. Fluent in Swahili, the regional language of East Africa, John has led Putney’s Mt. Kilimanjaro program and the Community Service Tanzania program for several summers. He currently oversees programming in Tanzania, South Africa, and India. A certified EMT, John is trained in wilderness medicine and is an avid runner, skier, and kayaker.

How To Apply


If you are new to Putney Student Travel, visit our Online Application.  
If you are a Putney Student Travel alumni family, 
use your existing account information to Log In.


You can hold a space in a program by completing the Online Application Form, submitting a signed Agreement Form, and providing the $700 Application Deposit by Mastercard, Visa, or Discover Card through our secure online system or by sending a check to our office. Our admissions staff is also available to take credit card information over the phone.  We will hold a space in a program for a reasonable time, pending completion of the full application process. See Step 3.

After March 15, we will hold a space temporarily as above, but we must receive full payment by check or wire transfer within three days to continue to hold a space in the program.


Before we can make a final admissions decision, an application must be complete.  In addition to the Application Form and Application Deposit described above, a complete application includes:

  • Applicant Statement – Attach a statement explaining why you would like to join a Putney program and what you feel you can contribute to it. Your application cannot be processed without this statement. Approximately 150–300 words is sufficient. Global Action applicants’ statements must be 300-500 words addressing these questions, and detailing their interest and/or experience in the country and issues on which they wish to focus.
  • Two Teacher Reference Forms

These documents are available as part of our Online Application.  We review a completed application within a few days, and notify families of our admissions decision by e-mail.