India | Community Service

Volunteer on construction and agricultural projects on this summer community service program in India for high school students. Spend your days laying cement blocks, paving sidewalks, 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 29, 2014 - July 29, 2014
Students completing grades 9-12
Community Service
Typical Group:
16-18 Students, 2 Leaders
4.5 week(s)


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 (sometimes on camelback), climb through immense Moghul fortresses, and experience the wonder of wildlife in India, including camels, elephants, and monkeys.

“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

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, and built sanitary facilities. 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.

Accommodations while we work on the volunteer project are in a 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.  Accommodations are simple but comfortable, with beds for all.  Typical Indian meals are provided by our hosts.

Teen Travel Volunteers in Local Indian Clothing

Dressing in the local style is part of fitting in to the community.

On weekend excursions and during a short travel period at the end of the program, we visit the vibrant cities of Jodhpur and Udaipur, as well as the “Golden City” of Jaisalmer deep in the Thar Desert. During the last few days of the program we return to 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 Delhi’s slum neighborhoods.


  • Organize lessons and games for grade school children in rural Rajasthan.
  • Meet with an organization that is working with residents of 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.

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 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.


Tuition: $5,990

Putney organizes escorted international flights. 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 International Airport in Newark, New Jersey.

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

New DelhiThe program begins with a few days in Delhi, where our home is a small hotel near the center of the city.  There is a two-day program orientation to India, and time to visit some of the principal sites of 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 Houghton, St. Paul’s School, Concord, NH

Rajasthan • We 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 • On weekendsand during the last few days of the program, we take trips to local forts and opulent temples. Spend time in metropolitan Jodhpur, see the beautiful lakes of Udaipur, or ride camels outside of Jaisalmer.

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

New Delhi Castle Teen Travel Photo

You will have many opportunities to explore the area with local friends as guides.

Agra•  Our final night is spent in Agra, with time to visit the Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri.

Return • Fly with the group leader from New Delhi to Newark Airport 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 Himalayas 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.

Mehranghar Fort Teen Travel City Landscape

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 90′s 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.  Delhi 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.

India Asia Teen Travel Food

Learn how to make delicious Indian staples like this dosa, complete with sweet or savory sauces to accompany it.

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 Delhi.  There is also access to ATM machines in Delhi and in a neighboring town to our host village.

Voltage Students have access to electricity in India, though periodic service interruptions are frequent.  The electric current is 230V. A variety of electrical plugs are found throughout India, so an all-around adapter plug set is recommended.  A voltage converter may be required for some electronic devices.

Visa • India requires a tourist visa for entry for U.S. citizens.  Visas can be obtained through BLS International.  Putney provides guidelines on obtaining a visa. Non U.S. citizens must check local visa requirements.


The Community Service India program is directed by Maggie Strassman. 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!

Maggie Strassman

Maggie Strassman: University of Wisconsin, B.S., Geography, International Studies. Maggie studied abroad in Austria during college and has had the travel bug ever since. After graduation, she moved to the Czech Republic before working at National Geographic as an intern in the Education department. She has led Community Service programs in Dominica and Fiji, and a Pre-College program at Amherst College. Maggie coordinates Putney programs in India, Thailand, the West Indies, and Massachusetts. She enjoys trivia, riding her bike, playing frisbee, and exclaiming over delicious food.

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.