Volunteers from United Kingdom, USA, Canada, Switzerland, Mexico and other European countries offer their services with great dedication; they bring new ideas, innovation, talent, creativity, knowledge which adds value to our teaching and learning methodology. This provides our students with the confidence and ability to interact globally whilst providing additional extra curriculum activities and wider knowledge
Luke Flynn from Australia
My time at Gokuldham of Nar was a tremendously enriching experience. All the individuals that I have met during this experience have been so welcoming and wise. I was extremely impressed by that standard of education delivered by the teachers and this is a testament to Manish and the religious leaders who hold high expectations or their pupils. Gokuldham is located in a beautiful area and the people of the region I found to be especially helpful and friendly. Hermant, the hostel supervisor has become a very special friend to me. He helped me endlessly during my stay and was constantly asking if I needed anything and encouraging me to take part in religious activities. Additionally, Hermant and Sunjay made sure that I ate like a king during my stay and were so generous when it came to meals. The Kids I met at the Hostel will also hold a special place in my heart. Their gratitude and respectful nature was one of the most refreshing elements of my experience at Gokuldham. As for my own development, I feel my time volunteering g here has taught me to embrace the benefits of living simply and impressed on me the absolute joy of living without ego. I would encourage any volunteers who are considering traveling to Gokuldham to embrace the experience with an open mind and an enthusiasm to immerse themselves in a new culture. My most precious memories are those experiences that somewhat pushed my comfort zone. For example taking part in Arty and sitting in on 'Gujarati' classes.
I sincerely thank everyone at Gokuldham for welcoming me into their community and look forward to one day returning this amazing place.
I had been in this School during the second scholar semester.
From the beginning I got stunned, Gujarat is quite different to any European city I had been. People dress different, they hold a rural way of life (you can see a lot of free animals around), there are a lot of religious stuff, ...
but here what is really going to captive you are their kids. They are polite and full of love, investing the time teaching them is a pleasure.
This is an outstanding school, most of the kids show an high english level. They are also quite good in arts (music, dance, drawing, ...)
They has nothing to envy to European primary schools.
I wish a nice future to all the kids.
Marie Auxille from France
I spend almost 4 months in Gokuldham of Nar teaching English in 1st, 2nd and 9 standards.
I was very well welcomed by the amazing staff of Gokuldham, and also by the kids who are very curious to learn from you about France.
I built strong relationship with teachers and students which make you feel at home. I was lucky to be able to attend the annual school trips with the children.
I was very lucky to be there for the temple and hostel opening ceremony and other cultural events in February, which enable me to learn more about the culture, the spirituality, and to be accepting as part of the Gokul family.
I was also very lucky to be settle in the care house with the elderly residents. I shared a lot of my time chatting with them. I would encourage the next volunteers to meet them.
Nishant Patel from USA
I spent six weeks here in Nar from January to March 2018. I feel lucky that I got to participate as a volunteer in the daily activities in the School and campus community. As it was my first time traveling to India, and I was traveling alone, I was admittedly nervous. However before arriving in Nar, Mita the volunteer coordinator was very helpful with planning my trip and answering any questions I had. We had a conversation over Skype, which gave me a better idea of the kind of opportunities I would have here as well as what my daily schedule would look like. She was also always available on Whatsapp. When I arrived Pravinbhai, who works at the mandir, immediately made me feel comfortable and welcome. After spending a day to get over jetlag, I was able to integrate nicely with the other teachers at the school. They were all very welcoming and curious about my background. Manishbhai, the principal, was also very helpful in easing me into the school environment. During the first week, I enjoyed the freedom to float around different classes with different teachers to see where I might fit the best. I settled into teaching science and English.
By the end of that first week, I truly felt like one of the staff and not an outsider. A highlight of my time in Nar was definitely the relationships I formed with the students. They were all eager for me to join their classes and always ready with questions about my background, family, and life in America. During my free periods when I wasn’t teaching, I loved joining different classes like music, art, and sports. This gave a fun opportunity to really connect with the students on a personal level. I especially enjoyed joining the Std. 2 Gujarati class, where I sat next to a six-year-old boy in the last row and learned alongside the students. Ultimately, this experience was exactly what I was looking for. It was an immersive look into a world that is so different from the one I grew up in. My six weeks in Nar went by so quickly. I am thankful for the students and teachers who made my stay in Nar so enjoyable, and I definitely recommend this to anyone who wants an authentic experience in rural Gujarat.
Tyler Durnion from Scotland
I had an amazing time at the campus and the hospitality was outstanding. I really had fun teaching the kids and loved how you allowed me to take my time and ease into teaching at my own pace. The no pressure environment made it very relaxing and encouraged better teaching. All of the staff were very professional and the school and the campus’ other features are an invaluable resource to surrounding communities. You look after your volunteers really well!
All of the kids are very well behaved and I loved Manish quote of “Not just teaching them the curriculum, but teaching them to live.” Whenever teachers took us out to tours on the weekend I was so appreciative of their time and their commitment to keeping us safe. I’ve travelled on my own in other places in the world but I think India would’ve been a little too much for me so I was grateful for their presence and their eagerness to take us out.
Also, when my toe got infected I appreciated Manish’s promptness to send me to Dr Iman as soon as possible and was grateful for the medication supplied. After the course my toe was back to normal and I could wear shoes again.
All of the kitchen staff, cleaning staff, ashram kids, members of the care home and Swami’s altogether made it a welcoming home and I will look back on this experience for the rest of my life with a smile on my face.
Collin Milone – New York
Gokultham was rich in culture and personalities. From the students to the cooking staff at the temple, the campus was filled with welcoming faces. I was treated like a guest of honor in Gokuldham. I arrived in the middle of the night and someone (thanks Pravin!) was there to greet me and drive me to the campus. Everyone was extremely friendly and excited to see me. The teachers were a fantastic group of people who genuinely care about their work. The teachers showed me around the neighbouring villages and even brought me to their homes! Principal Manish really took time to show me around and sit to discuss topics such as leadership and values with me on a regular basis. One man who was painting the temple befriended me and I ended up spending 10 days with him and his wife in Rajkot, Gujarat, after I left Gokultham.
Three meals were served hot and fresh each day. The accommodation was wonderful. I had a two bedroom, one bath accommodation which was clean and came with some very nice neighbours. I even walked out of the experience with gifts from the school. I cannot express my gratitude enough to the wonderful people of Gokultham. If you enjoy a rural, culturally rich teaching experience, this is a great place.
David Gray – Derby - UK
I had an amazing time at Gokuldham School in Nar from the moment I arrived. I was given a couple of days to adjust to the time difference and climate which I was very grateful for. Everyone on the campus made me feel like a member of the Gokuldham family, from the principal and teachers to the cooks and Swamis. The campus itself is very nice, with a temple in the middle of the grounds and the school buildings, cow shed, mineral water plant, ashram and retirement home surrounding it. I stayed within the retirement home where I met lots of lovely older people who seemed very happy and content living there.
The school itself was a great experience. All of the children were happy, playful, and were keen to learn. All of the classes that I helped teach could speak English so they had clearly been taught well in the lower Standards. I helped out teaching English lessons and also helped cover some other lessons. The teachers were all very friendly and went out of their way to make me feel comfortable. The children were respectful and enjoyed coming to the school to learn.
Outside of school times I had a very positive experience. Meeting the Swamis was a very interesting experience for me as I knew very little of the Swaminarayan culture beforehand. They taught me a lot about their religion and culture which I found fascinating, and they were very kind to me. We had trips to various parts of Gujarat organised, and visited numerous monuments and temples in the month that I spent at the school.
I just want to say a special thank you to Mita for setting this opportunity up for me, the principal Manish for organising excursions and helping me settle into life at Gokuldham, and finally Pravin, who does so much for the school and the volunteers and works tirelessly for others.
I feel honoured to have been a part of this learning institution, and value and appreciate the time I spent there.
Hernan Tamargo from Argentina
I have met countless wonderful people. Firstly, I would like to mention Pravin, who is practically in charge of having everything under control within the campus, and is usually one of the first people you meet. It's hard to meet anyone with Pravin's patience, peace and serenity: he always makes sure you have everything you need, and solves you literally any problem, need or demand (be it soap, chai, bus tickets, etc) that you may have. I really enjoyed spending time with him as well. Second of all, I would like to mention all of the school staff. Manish, the head teacher, has always ensured that I felt comfortable in the school, respecting my time to adapt to the new routine and to choose the subject(s) and teacher(s) which I felt comfortable with. On my second day of school, he realized that I was lost wandering around the hallways, so he asked one of the teachers to once again tour me around the school. Gestures such as that make you feel at home. Moreover, the school has a great team of teachers, who were friendly and welcoming to me from the very start. It was very nice getting to know some of them. Being invited to some of their homes was a close testimony of Indians' hospitality. However, nothing is more fulfilling than the affection and respect shown by the students. They seem to be happy and thrilled each time they meet a new foreign teacher, and they are usually quite curious about your culture and your country. I've had students from Standard 5 (age 9/10) up to Standard 10 (age 15), and each class has shown both interest and respect towards me, expressed in many different ways: through questions, through presents, talks, etc. It is also worth mentioning that the teachers have always made me feel comfortable inside the classroom: from my first day onwards, they have trusted in my capacities and experience, and have encouraged me to participate and even lead some of the classes. I felt at home at all times. I had a great time getting to know the cooks, the students who live in the Ashram, and the workers building the temple. I will also never forget how great (as well as abundant) the food and the chai was. The accommodation was very decent, and I deeply enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere that surrounds the entire campus. It was also interesting to learn about the Swaminarayan faith, and all of the Swamis seemed to enjoy getting to know the volunteers, which reflects their open-mindedness. However, once again, what struck me the most as to the religious aspect, is the difference that this branch of Hinduism establishes between men and women. To sum up, I cannot but thank and be grateful towards all of the people who make Gokuldham possible. I have had one of the richest experiences of my life, which has enabled me to grow both personally and professionally. Best wishes Hernan
Raj Popat from London
Before arriving to the school, the first person you will probably hear from is Mita in London, who conducts the communication with all international volunteers. She is very effective in replying to phone calls/emails and genuinely appeases any worries I had when applying for the role.
When you arrive at the school, you will be shown your room. Generally, the room is shared between you and another volunteer but for most of my time there, I was by myself. The room is clean and spacious. You also have an ensuite where you have a Western toilet and access to hot water (albeit from a bucket instead of a shower).
Gokuldham Nar is a campus. There is the ashram, where religious activities take place (where they pray to Lord Swaminarayan). There are lots of Swamis who live in the ashram. They are quite forward thinking in terms of technology (this is the only place for wifi) and are very welcoming. On the whole, they do not speak too much English (except Hare Krishna Swami), but you can get by speaking slowly and miming. They are the ones who raised the money to build the school and are very gracious. There is the main temple, where food is eaten and meetings/assemblies take place. The kitchen staff are who I bonded most with during my time there. They were very helpful with any dietary requirements and make great Gujarati food. I'd like to mention both Pravin and Hemant as two people in particular who I'd recommend you get to know. There is the Old Person Home, which is where you will presumably live, as well as the Guest House. Both are great spots with some nice people in each one. If you had a choice, I'd recommend the Old Person Home for the company, but I suppose the Guest House is a little more up to date. And finally, there is the school, where lessons take place. The school itself is very well run, with 8 lots of 35 minute classes, and a 10 minute break and 30 minute break. The full day is from 8am to 1:30pm, and you also work on Saturdays (only until 11:30). The head teacher, Manish, speaks fantastic English and is very welcoming. The teachers are truly lovely, but nothing compares to how welcoming the kids are. They are honestly so chatty and happy, will bring you gifts and really make you feel settled. The school, from my experience, really shines when there are events on, and I am lucky to have experienced a mass marriage ceremony, kite festival and Republic Day whilst at the school.
The campus is quite desolate. It is in a village called Nar. As mentioned earlier, the closest medium sized town is Anand and the closest big city is Ahmedabad. There is a village about 3/4km away where you can buy snacks, fruit, phone top up, etc. I am not too sure if there is a place to withdraw rupees, so I'd prepare in advance if you could. It is easy enough to get by just using the school though. As a result of how secluded the school was and short weekends, I tended to stay within the campus for pretty much all of my stay there. However, I enjoyed being in my own mind a lot and found numerous ways to keep myself entertained (practicing Gujarati, learning hobbies, writing, e.t.c.).
On the whole, I'd rate my experience at Gokuldham Nar as either 8 or 9 out of 10. The minor negatives are that you could get bored if you are ill-prepared, and perhaps you may not enjoy the religious side of things. However, I would say these minor negatives are greatly outweighed by the fact that there is a fantastic atmosphere within the school (what I think Western schools can learn a lot from), you have lots of free time to do something fantastic if you try and everyone there makes you feel incredibly welcome.
Centa Herrmann and Ilka Passavanti from Germany
First of all we want to thank you and everybody for the great opportunity we got here while staying at the school of Gokuldham of Nar. It is a great place in the State of Gujarat with even greater people. Everybody working or living on the campus is very friendly and made us feel welcomed from the first day on.
When we arrived they let us take enough time to adjust to the climate, different time zone and culture. The first day we went to school, Manish (the principal) kindly showed us around and introduced us to the stuff. All of the teachers are very lovely people who enjoy talking and working with you. After some time they will even invite you to their homes or join you to visit different places or go shopping with you. During the school lessons we were able to lead a lot of classes by ourselves if we felt comfortable enough.
Also outside of school everybody tries to make us feel as comfortable as possible and especially Pravin went out of his way to supply us with everything we needed. Sometimes we felt that it even was too much and we felt bad to ask for certain things because we felt spoiled. They were also trying to show us as much of the surrounded area as possible and on the weekends they arranged different car trips for us, so we would be able to see different places.
All in all Gokuldham is a great school with really lovely people and we are really grateful and happy that this opportunity was given to us. We got a great insight into the Indian culture and way of living. We also got to know a bit about the Swaminarayan way of living, but only a little, since we are girls so we didn’t get to interact with them so much.
Centa and Ilka
Lauren Johnson - from U.S.A.
Gokuldham started for me at the airport in Ahmedebad, near the arrivals gate, when we first saw Pravin waiting for us. He held a photo of us with our names, but I knew that he was there for us because of the huge smile, one of the kindest I've ever seen, that he directed at us. This kindness, given generously to people they had just met, humbled me throughout my stay at Gokuldham. So many people on this bustling, multi-disciplinary campus went out of their way to make us feel welcome, to improve our stay in any way that we could, and to share their brilliant culture with us. I taught English to Standards 1st through 4th, and I couldn't have enjoyed it more. The teachers, who invited us into their classrooms, and in some cases their private homes, were interesting and so great to work with. The students were kind, funny, and always willing to laugh at any cultural trip-ups I made. Their little faces and bright, hilarious, and sometimes cheeky personalities absolutely made my stay here, and I'll miss all of the kids I taught once I've left.
I can't imagine a more culturally genuine experience. We were invited into countless homes and interacted with people from every walk of life, from the donors who are from this part of India but who currently live in the UK or US, to the groundskeepers and cooks who keep this place running. I so enjoyed getting to know them, learning what I could of their culture, and enjoying their company. We experienced the mass marriage, the kite festival, and Republic Day at the school, all of which really deepened the experience.
Maarten Dankers – from Canada
When I first arrived at Gokuldham in late December I was unsure what to expect. I was eager to get experience in a classroom setting because I've long considered becoming a teacher. Plus I was looking forward to learning about Indian culture in Gujarat, a place that few tourists visit. At the school I taught mainly Social Science with Nilesh and Bharat, plus a bit of English and Math to standards 5, 6, and 7. Through the Social Science classes I was able to learn a lot about Indian culture and history, and was impressed with the enthusiasm and energy of the students. On a couple occasions my Canadian accent caused funny miscommunications - during one lesson I asked the class what sheep are used for. They gave me answers like fishing and transportation. It took me a few moments to realize they thought I'd said ship instead of sheep.
Staying on the Gokuldham campus was a very enjoyable experience, with friendly people, superb Gujarati vegetarian food, and lots of cultural events and outings - including the kite festival in Nar, a Republic Day ceremony at the school, and a mass marriage that was attended by over 15,000 people.
I can say my expectations were definitely exceeded during the month I spent here. I feel much more certain now about following a career in teaching, and I've been humbled by the kindness and generosity of the Gokuldham staff. It's been an unforgettable experience.
Charlotte Laurelle – Wymondham College – Norfolk- U.K.
I spent two months in Gokuldham of Nar, it was my first time in India and I had a wonderful time. Life on campus is very relaxing; I felt comfortable and safe at all time. The pace of life is slow outside school times, which felt so good compared to western life. You get lots of free time in the afternoon and at the weekends and sometimes you get to go visit the surrounding area, temples and markets. The guest house offered all the comfort needed and the food served was delicious. The people living and working on site were so kind and welcoming; some of them became good friends. I have learnt so much about the Indian culture thanks to all of them and the teachers.
It was an absolute pleasure teaching in the school and I loved spending time with the children who were so lovely and funny. The teachers were such nice and happy people; it was great working with them. I have so many fun memories with them. We had so many interesting conversations about their culture and their lifestyles and spent days off together with their families. I taught English from standard 3 to standard 9 which offered a nice variety of teaching styles. Teachers were really opened to new ideas.
During my stay, I had the chance to take part in the Annual Day celebrations, Utrayan celebrations, a school day-trip and the mass marriage of 51 couples. All these events taught me so much about the culture, the people, their beliefs and their life-styles and were so much fun to be part of! I would recommend Gokuldham to people coming to India for the first time and people who would like some time away to rest their mind. I keep Gokuldham and the people living and working there deeply in my heart.
Thank you so much for everything.
Emmely Christiansen - Stockholm - Sweden
What a beautiful place. Not only the tranquil and stunning surroundings in the school campus, but also the people. Gokuldham has a lot of staff for different functions. Within the campus there is a Swaminaryan ashram, a temple and a hostel for kids who live far away in the making, a school with kids between the ages of 4 and 15. There is a building where all the volunteers and the principal and his family live, an old people's home, a water plant, and a cowshed where all the milk comes from. All the staff takes very good care of you, making sure you have a good stay while volunteering at Gokuldham. They are all what make Gokuldham a very special and beautiful place.
You have breakfast in the morning and then school starts at 7.45 am, it finishes at 1.20 pm, Saturdays are half days. It is up to you if you want to stay with one class or try different ones. For the last 9 years I have been teaching English to college students, 16-19 years old, so I decided to do something different and stayed with the smallest ones in Kindergarten, we had a very good time. All the kids are very sweet and eager to show what they know when you quiz them on English or maths. All the teachers are very welcoming and helpful. They want to learn new things from us volunteers. So I did a lot of the teaching while I was there, feeling like I did something good and not just watched.
After school you are free to do what you want. Sit and read a book, work on your Hindi or Gujarati, go for a walk around the campus or maybe take a taxi or train into Anand, the bigger city, an hour away, Nar is a very small village and Gokuldham is outside of it. Here you can do some shopping, go to the cinema or just chill in one of the restaurants or coffee shops. On the weekends we were taken on excursions to visit different temples.
If you want to volunteer in a place where you meet warm and helpful people, where it is very tranquil, beautiful surroundings, and where you are well taken care of I can highly recommend Gokuldham in Nar.
Emmely Christiansen - Stockholm - Sweden
Justine O’Connell - Eastbourne - UK
Having already travelled in India for a month prior to coming to Gokuldham I fell in love with the Country and it’s people. From the moment I arrived at the airport and for the entirety of my stay I encountered great hospitality from the Gokuldham family- as that is what they are.
The teachers and students are so willing to learn from us. I think I may have learnt just as much from them! It was easy to participate, play games with the students and add my own knowledge and experience to the lessons. The teachers were always so warm and friendly always ready to help and learn from us.
The other volunteers were wonderful with us all working together to create presentations for the students and teachers to enhance their teaching. At the guest house we became our own little family to share the experiences with.
The accommodation and food was greater than we expected I am now able to eat very spicy food and tried many dishes that I had not tried before. We were also very lucky to be in the school during Navartri festival, which was a great experience of colour, dancing and music.
The organization of the school and dedication to the teachings of the students was a great place to broaden my understanding of Indian life and culture, the day trips that where organized for us to visit nearby temples and historical places gave me a better understanding of the state of Gujarat and we felt very privileged to be invited to local homes of the teachers. I will miss the pace of life and people at Gokuldham and hope to return one day to see all of the friends that I have made and see the progress of the school.
Justine O’Connell - Eastbourne - UK
James and Annie - Birmingham - U.K.
We arrived at Gokul on the 24th September and spent 1 month at the school. Mita was so helpful in advance of our trip. She helped us arrange our journey safely and gave us loads of information about what to expect. At Gokul, we have had a fantastic time and learnt so much from the people around us. Everyone on campus was very welcoming and we enjoyed spending time, not only at the school, but at the old people’s home, with the boys who live in the ashram and with all campus staff. We would recommend any other volunteers to get to know the people around campus as we had so many laughs with them. We were very grateful also to Yuvraj and Pravin who took us out on many trips in our spare time. We went to Anand for shopping and also to many different temples. We were welcomed at teacher’s homes also and went shopping for traditional India clothes for the Navratri festival.
At school we began by observing lessons to gradually get to know teachers and how their lessons work. Then, after a few days we started taking a more active role in lessons and regularly taught lessons.
As a teacher back home I was keen to get involved as much as possible. I mainly worked with older pupils, standard 6 to standard 10 (aged 11-15), in English lessons helping Sunil and Jitendra. I found the pupils to be very good and hard working and they really enjoyed getting to know us and we them. I also observed many lessons and helped in Maths and Social Science. All the teachers were so welcoming and many were very happy to learn from me and were curious about teaching methods in England. Annie’s experience
I really enjoyed my time with all pupils and teachers. I spent some time in KG classes singing nursery rhymes and some time supporting teachers in English and Art lessons for standards 1 to 10. I also had the opportunity to lead some English and proxy lessons in which I taught English grammar and introduced some new games. One of my favourite experiences was taking part in the school’s Navratri celebrations, when all students and teachers danced together in their best clothes. It was great fun and I learnt many dance moves!
Overall we both had a fantastic time at the school. We loved working with the teachers and Manish, the principal was so welcoming. We also conducted a training session with the other volunteers about creative teaching ideas. It was well received and it was nice to see some of the teachers putting the activities we spoke about into their lessons
James and Annie - Birmingham - U.K.
Yara Salloum - Toronto - Canada
My time at Gokul was such a amazing experience, and something I will cherish for a long time to come. The campus is beautiful and the people are just wonderful in every sense of the word. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly, and I truly enjoyed getting to know each person. As a volunteer, I was given the freedom to work with many teachers and explore the school before deciding my schedule, and was always welcomed into the classes with great enthusiasm from the students. Both the teachers and students at the school are very hard working, and eager to learn, making the school an energising environment of cultural exchange and professional development. Outside of school life, teachers and staff on campus also went out of their way to provide us with opportunities for outings on the weekends and evenings, which really enriched our time in Gujarat.
During short month here, I learnt so much about Indian culture and life, and the generosity and kindness I experienced everyday was inspiring and very moving. I feel so fortunate, and am endlessly grateful to have had the opportunity to know these people. I hope I can visit again soon!
Thank you to everyone on campus for sharing your time with me. Thank you to everyone who took the time to answer my endless questions. Thank you to everyone who sang along with me in KG and played games with me during lunchtime! Thank you for everything!
Yara Salloum - Toronto - Canada
Bridget Evans and Richard Shuttleworth - from U.K.
We had an amazing time working at Gokul Nar school. From the moment we arrived, everyone on the campus was so welcoming and friendly towards us. Volunteering at the school was interesting and thought provoking and very enjoyable. The teachers became great friends of ours and the kids were so enthusiastic! Living on the campus was really relaxing and we felt very safe and well looked after. We would definitely recommend anyone interested in working with kids to volunteer at Gokul Nar, you will certainly enjoy it!
Bridget Evans and Richard Shuttleworth - from U.K.
Anne Bransford – From U.S.A.
This very special place is making a difference in the lives of its students by exposing them to a wider world than their own first-hand experiences, and it is doing the exact same good for the volunteers who come to be a part of it all. The campus is a genuine community of people who are strongly invested in helping students succeed.
These kids are so fortunate to have many exciting opportunities for extra workshops and fieldtrips, part of Gokuldham's mission to provide a holistic education that goes beyond the classroom and extends into all areas of life.
As a volunteer, I had so many great opportunities to help and to learn from everyone around me! I am extremely grateful to have made friends and come away from Gokul with beautiful new perspectives on life.
Anne Bransford – From U.S.A.
Millie Baker from Norfolk, U.K.
The Gokuldham of Nar campus has been a joy to experience over the last 5 months. The people I have been living with while I’ve been here have been endlessly kind and considerate, and extremely thoughtful when it comes to my wellbeing and happiness. The food and accommodation are wonderful, and I’ve always felt very safe while living on campus. I have been absolutely blown away by the generosity I’ve been shown, both in the sense of materials and by the time people have been willing to share with me. I feel very lucky.
The school itself is brilliant; the children are funny, intelligent and ultimately eager to learn as much as they can from you. This eagerness extends beyond academia; they also want to know about your hobbies, interests, your family and your education. Every day is different, and this keeps things fresh and interesting. In addition to the students, the teachers are also superb, being really helpful and supportive both inside the classroom and out. They teach many different subjects between them, including Maths, Social Science, Drawing, English and the local language, Gujarati. I’ve found myself being invited to sit in and observe some of the classes, although Gujarati still isn’t my strong point!
I am so enthusiastic about volunteerism in general because it is such a brilliant way to see the world and learn valuable life lessons, and I would definitely say that Gokuldham of Nar has done nothing but fuel that enthusiasm.
I was also fortunate enough to see the holi and kite festival, School annual function, mass marriage, health camp and outreach work in the surrounding villages to promote better health.
Thank you to everyone who has helped to make my time at Gokul so much fun. I wish you all the very best in the future.
Millie Baker – Norfolk, UK
Linda Mitchel – from Switzerland
I had such an amazing time here and will be sure that I'm going to miss everybody- I felt like home. My personal experience at the Gokuldham Campus was a bit limited due to exams and end of term compared to other volunteers who had arrived earlier and for longer and I wished I was here for long.
But I won’t forget all the experiences I made and the lovely people I met here. First of all, I was always very welcomed. It started with the airport pickup – so you always feel really safe and everybody cares about you. I couldn’t help to teach a lot in the higher grades, because the students were in their final exams and there was not much time for teaching due to exam time table. But I still was always welcomed in the classes and could assist teachers to ensure kids were paying more attention to the class. Every day I could spend some time in the nursery and kinder garden classes. I enjoyed a lot the time with the little ones, even when conversation was a bit difficult without speaking the same language. Further I could help serving lunch and talk with the staff about different cultures. For starting my adventure in India, this was a great experience to get used to the culture, food and life in India, I really enjoyed my stay. I can really recommend this lovely, peaceful place to everybody who wants to make some good experiences in a rural area, without many tourists.
I was really sad to leave the campus as time went by so fast! Further I hope to stay in contact with the school and Manish the Principal and hope I can come back to my Indian home another time. All that I can say again is THANK YOU for absolutely everything you made, that my stay will last a long time in my memories.
Thank you so much for everything.
Wish you all the best,
Glen Stallard - Gloucestershire – U.K.
Over the course of the past 3 months, I have been fortunate enough to teach English in a voluntary position here at Gokul Nar . As somebody who had never set foot in India before, let alone teach English as a foreign language, I can say I was a little unsure of how I would find this experience. However, right from day one, from the moment of arrival in Ahmedabad, I have been made to feel welcome and at home by everybody I have come in to contact with, not just at the school but also within the campus.
I have so many people to thank for their hospitality and efforts in ensuring my comfort and safety, the fact that it is possible to travel to somewhere so distant and diverse and yet be made to feel like a member of a family is something I couldn’t have imagined nor expected. Both teachers and students have been a pleasure to spend time with. I have nothing but admiration for those around me who have been so openly welcoming and keen to share time with myself and other volunteers. To consider the fact that we as volunteers are communicating freely in what would be a third language to many here, including children of a young age, I think speaks volumes about the quality and character of the school and those who are helping it to function. The level of English ability throughout the school has helped me and other volunteers to get to know more about those who we are teaching and those who we are working with and I certainly feel I have been able to learn my own share of things from each and everyone here, something which I value very highly, and something for which I am sure I can take with me to use both now and in the future.
Although I didn’t plan it this way, I have been very lucky to witness several events of importance, be that to the school or in fact the whole nation, including Uttarayan, Republic Day and the coming School Annual Day. Each event has been such an immense experience and something which live long in the memory. It is truly a blessing that we have been able to get a glimpse in to the passion, enthusiasm and love of life from the people around us. And for me, that has been the most significant part of the experience, the people with whom we can share it with. They are the ones who have made my experience what it is and they will always have my most sincerest thanks for being who they are.
Glen Stallard from London
Christopher Duckers - Shrewsbury – U.K.
The campus at “Gokuldham of Nar” covers a variety of purposes - comprising of a temple, water filtration plant, guesthouses, old people’s home and school. I was made to feel very welcome and safe throughout my stay. Everyone on site is friendly and helpful regardless of their level of English, and most requests will be fulfilled within minits.
The site is run under Swaminarayan principles, so you won`t experience the diversity of food (no onions or garlic) that is available throughout the rest of India. However, fruit and vegetables are available about 3km away from the site. The children are very enthusiastic and playful which makes for entertaining lessons. You will certainly experience some kind of `celebrity status` during your stay! During my stay I taught English classes, served snacks and gave music classes.
Christopher Duckers from London
Amelia Bloore – London – U.K.
I spent a month volunteering at Gokul Nar and it was definitely an experience I won't forget. The teachers were all very warm and welcoming. The children were mostly a delight to teach, all so eager and excited when we entered their classes and keen to learn English. We experienced a little rowdiness as well but the teacher remained in the class so we were able to concentrate on the teaching aspect rather than disciplining. We also had fun taking a few music classes singing pop songs, serving the children their food at break and taking part in the music video Yurvaj was organising for the school!
The school campus itself is very rural - the nearest city being an hour drive away, so it's important to bring something to occupy yourself with for the afternoons. There were two other volunteers with me on site, but I think I would have struggled if I'd been alone. We were kept entertained at sunset by the 5,000 green and yellow parakeets that swoop into roost on the trees on site every evening along with the monkeys bounding across the fields outside the care home where we lived and the bats and owls flying at night. Our time spent playing in the evenings with the smiley Lila's three children next door (Divya, Neelam and Brianche) was a real highlight of my stay - they were such wonderful, lively girls. We were very well looked after by Pravin and his wife Sumitra who always made us cups of chai and on our first weekend the headmaster Manish took time out from his busy schedule to accompany us to the Swarminaryan temple to introduce us to this holiest of places so important to him. The lifestyle here is far removed from the Western world I have lived in and I'm glad I was able to experience such a different culture.
Amelia Bloore from London
Ellis Bolle – Warwick - UK
I really enjoyed my experience teaching at Gokul Nar. You are instantly welcomed into the school by the teachers, the children and the community, so you always feel like you are being well looked after. One thing that I really liked about Gokul was the freedom the school gave me to introduce my own ideas of teaching. We ran the same classes for the teachers after school to introduce them to our different approaches to teaching so that they could develop these methods in their lesson plans. The teachers and children are really excited to see what experiences you can bring to the classroom and learn about your cultural background. They are equally eager for you to be a part of their culture and take part in Hindu and national celebrations and customs such as applying ‘henna’, wearing local clothes, visiting temples, trying traditional food etc.
I think it is important for anyone going to Gokul to really be open to the unexpected! Some classes run really well and you sense that the children have gained a lot from the lesson. Others don't go so well and it can be frustrating. However the children and the teacher's optimism always kept me going. The children in particular were so enthusiastic and would always usher us into their classroom because they wanted us to teach them.
Natasha Niman – Liverpool - UK
Teaching at Gokul was nothing like I had ever experienced before. The experience was only due to the teaching aspect of the volunteer placement but also the fact that I was fully integrated into the school community. An example of this was Independence Day. Prior to this exciting day one of the teachers drew a beautiful henna design on my arms and feet, more over a fellow member of Gokul invited me to their home to pick out a Sari and matching jewellery to wear which was such a fun experience!
As well as teaching the pupils, Ellis and I spent a lot of time with teachers introducing new styles of more informal education to vary the methods that they used to educate the children. I also looked forward to and enjoyed serving hot lunches to the children every day. The children were so welcoming and eager to learn which made the whole experience even more rewarding. Although not the easiest placement due to cultural differences, it was extremely rewarding and I am thoroughly glad that I spent a month at Gokul Nar.
Charlotte Ezaz from Oxford - UK
Gokul is a school full of vibrant children, many of whom have shown real academic promise in some of my lessons. Their aptitude speaks volumes about the nature of education, the possibilities and eventual rewards it can afford. The children I have taught welcome me into their classes with openness, as have the teachers. I have felt very welcome here and valued as a member of staff for which I am grateful and exceptionally lucky.
Lastly the many smiles and the joy of those whom I’ve taught has been the most wonderful of the day to day experiences, ones I will remember long into the future no doubt!
All the best to all at Gokul, as Gandhi said “be the change you want to see in the world” and continue on paths of happiness!
Best wishes and love
Alice Matthews from Norfolk, United Kingdom
We choose this school because of its previous positive reviews from past volunteers. Prior to our time at Gokul Nar we were told that the school was highly enthusiastic and hard working and that everyone clearly wanted to learn, that is why they encourage volunteers to come to their school. During our first couple of days at the school this was clear, we were welcomed straight away by everyone’s friendly attitude.
We have also been fortunate enough to have experienced teacher meetings and a parent’s consultation afternoon. We incorporated a fun approach and activities for the pupils who became more eager and willing to get involved, resolving in talking more English. During our time spent at the school the students have become more confident around us, resolving in us being able to have productive and interacting lessons with the students. At the beginning of our stay it was clear that all students were extremely shy mainly due to their lack of confidence. It was apparent to us that they were afraid of talking in case they spoke incorrectly or got an answer wrong. Therefore, we met them with the approach; ‘it’s better to say it wrong and learn from your mistakes instead of saying nothing at all’. We came to the school open minded and we were aware that their English wasn’t going to be perfect, because at the end of the day it isn’t their mother tongue so we were instantly reassured by their broad knowledge.
Most importantly we would like to say a massive thank you to the teachers for making us feel so welcome and equal. Not only have they been our work colleagues over the past two months they have grown to become our friends. It is so refreshing in the mornings to come into a staff room filled with smiles and a pleasant greeting. In addition, it’s noticeable to us the strong bonds some teachers have with their pupils.
The accommodation provided is of an exceptional standard with air conditioning and a spacious area for living. Our room became our home for over two months, and we’re extremely thankful with all that has been provided for us. Everyone on campus have made us feel extra safe and at home. It was a risk for both ourselves and the school for letting us travel here at only 18 years old. But we must say it has been the most amazing experience we have both endured and we are positive that it will help us in the future with our careers that we wish to espier into.
For the duration of our time in India we have learnt a large amount about the Indian culture and traditions, and we have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity of travelling around Gujarat. We can’t wait to visit again in the near future!
Harriet Hurrell from Norfolk, United Kingdom
I feel privileged to have had a chance to volunteer within such a magnificent school. Gokul Nar has provided me with the best experience I could possibly have had for my future studies of Primary Education to later be a Primary School teacher.
The atmosphere within the school and as whole on the campus is exhilarating. This is mainly due to the friendly people whom made our stay complete. The students are all enthusiastic and are willing to learn, they appreciate the good education they are being provided with at Gokul Nar. The dedication and hard work of the staff at Gokul Nar shows through the success of the pupils. We were lucky enough to have witnessed time tabled days structured lessons; this portrayed the professional manner of the school. The leadership of the school is of a high standard with the teaching body being led by such a hardworking man; Mr Solanki Sir whom is so passionate for his job, he is a credit for the school.
All students studying in Gokul Nar are extremely fortunate for the education that they are given as well as the facilities they are learning in. The school has air conditioned rooms, spacious room which is useful for physical activities and a smart board.
It was refreshing to see the pupils interacting with all activities we proposed to them. They were involved in playing games, singing action songs, many competitions and drama games. All of these activities helped the pupils to build confidence resolving in all speaking more English. The respect and cooperation I had from the children was phenomenal, they were focused at all times and I honour this as they are learning in the heat and their school days are long.
I feel as though during the 10 weeks spent at the school, the experience has educated me a lot. I have become more confident in public speaking as well as learning new skills and learning how I should adapt my lessons to all abilities and ages. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to have volunteered in such a wonderful school. I cannot wait to visit again in the near future.
I wish to finish on saying a huge thank you to everyone who was involved in making the experience for me so incredible.
All the best,
Harriet Hurrell, Norfolk, United Kingdom.
Emily Anne Hall from London
Gokul of Nar is a wonderful place to be. We have been very fortunate to have stayed here, gotten to know the environment and met the people who make it so unique. The school has excellent facilities. It is equipped with a fully air-conditioned computer laboratory and a large library which houses the school’s smart board and staff room. The smart board and ICT room are excellent and essential facilities, enabling young people to really come to grips with our evolving modern world. The staff room is an excellent communal space, ideal for teachers to gather, hold meetings and discussions, share ideas, interact and indeed continue to grow and learn themselves. After all, the best teachers use their own knowledge of learning to support their students.
In total we spent five and a half weeks running training sessions for the teachers. In those sessions we built on the teachers’ English language skills, prompted group discussions about the school, teaching English to the students and explored new teaching methods. Through the use of games which inspire people to have fun, relax and grow in confidence, we were able to combat this issue successfully. However, it was not our efforts but the efforts of those teachers who clearly demonstrated a desire to improve and showed enormous bravery and stamina, that deserve the credit. It was these people who impressed us the most in the teachers’ sessions. Many of the teachers at Shri A. K. Patel English Medium School are already very confident English speakers and some have had the fortune to travel to English speaking countries. The teachers are positive, kind natured, intelligent and fun loving individuals. Together they are a team working within a supportive staff culture, engaged and motivated to be creative and innovative, bringing new ideas into their classrooms. The teachers have shown an abundance of ability. They are able to think in innovative and creative ways, stretching knowledge & skills. This is truely a beautiful place to be and work. Our sincerest and warmest thanks to one and all.
Emily Anne Hall from London
Arron Hormoz from London
Situated in a rural environment, Shri A. K. Patel English Medium School has many strengths. The atmosphere both calming, due to its elegant design incorporating nature, and friendly due to its welcoming staff, makes for an inspiring and nurturing place to learn. Colour lines the walls along each communal space as well as in classrooms where shapes, numbers, objects and words are painted, helping to create a stimulating and happy environment dedicated to learning.
As we arrived at Gokul the students were preparing for their final exams and the summer holidays to come. Sadly we were only able to spend three weeks with them. However, in those short three weeks we experienced great pleasure. The students were so well behaved, so eager to learn, and very sweet natured. Many of them were healthily ambitious and exhibited huge potential. The confidence some students showed in their English communication skills was outstanding. Every child, even the youngest, showed that they could write confidently. We were utterly impressed.
We discussed some of the key issues that the teachers face in their day-to-day life on campus: helping students from rural areas whose English is poorer than their peers’; supporting students with special needs; and teaching in fun, interactive, and creative ways. We also focused on combatting the particular issue of shyness that initially was restricting some of the teachers who felt less confident communicating in English.
The school’s leader, Mr Solanki, is a very hard working and courageous person. Mr Solanki is wonderfully progressive. He has a very challenging and important role which he carries out with great dedication. Mr Solanki works tirelessly to support each person and every aspect of school life. He is a very sincere, kind man and he is the perfect leader of such a unique pla
There is a wonderful community here at Gokul, one that is an honour to have been a part of. We have learnt so much from each and every person within this community. We have gained a new family here at gokul of Nar and we will surely be back.
Arron Hormoz from London
John Croft from London
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Gokul school. When I arrived I recently finished a teacher training course in London, and was impressed by the dedication and enthuasim of the teachers and pupils.
During a typical day I had a delicious breakfast with the school community, helped with assemblies, teaching the students English songs and talking about life in England. During the day I enjoyed teaching lessons to pupils and a learnt a great deal from the teachers at the school, the pupils were so hard working and eager to learn.
I was made to feel extremely welcome at the school, and nothing was too much trouble. The room I stayed in was very comfortable and air conditioned, which was appreciated in the monsoon heat. I was also shown the fascinating sights of Gujarat during the weekend and meet many of the teachers’ family for tea in the evening.
I hope to return to the school sometime soon and look forward to seeing the new school building and temple, and meeting the many friends I made during my stay.
John Croft from London
Sarah Storey from London
“We really enjoyed our stay at Gokul of Nar. We were made to feel very welcome by all of those on the campus. The accommodation was excellent and the food is great – very traditional and a very sociable experience! The children of the school are very well-behaved and clearly eager to learn. We did a wide range of activities including teaching the whole school English songs in assembly and acting out traditional fairy tales such as Goldilocks and the three bears. We also helped in the classrooms alongside the teachers, doing role-play activities and games with the children. We also spent time with the teachers outside of the classroom showing them online materials including teaching material used in England. Before we came out to the school, we held a fundraiser and in consultation with the school, decided to help them stock the newly built library with some new books, stationery and a large TV and DVD player. As well as working in the school, we also had plenty of opportunities to visit the local area and the staff at the campus put together a busy programme of activities and visits for us in the afternoons, once we had finished in school. We would recommend Gokul of Nar to other people interested in education e.g. teachers, learning support assistants, gap year students and for those who want to experience the real India.”
Sarah Storey from London
Tom Evered from London
I spent two weeks living and working at Gokul of Nar. During the morning we helped out in the classrooms mainly teaching English. Whilst the school is English speaking there is no-one who has English as their first language so this was where we could make a difference. My back ground is in computing and not a teacher but there was still plenty I could do. We worked with the younger kids teaching them basic English on parts of the body, transport and geography. We led 4 or 5 assemblies with the whole school. The children particularly seemed to enjoy learning the song, ‘The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round’.
In the afternoons we would work with the teachers preparing lessons and also letting them practice their English too. We were also shown around the local area. This is not a usual tourist destination so felt much more authentic than other parts of India.
We had our meals in the retirement home on site and stayed in the cottages which were very comfortable. I enjoyed my time at Gokul of Nar and wish the school and staff at the campus all the best.
Tom Evered from London
Urvashi Patel from London
“This is my third visit to Gokul of Nar as a volunteer as I thoroughly enjoy working with the children and teachers. Each time has been a great experience and I’ve enjoyed getting to know the staff and students. I particularly enjoyed providing one-to-one language tuition to the teachers as well helping them plan lessons and find new ways of teaching the children. We discussed new ways of teaching and learning so that children are engaged and motivated.
In the U.K. majority of the materials are now on line and teachers were shown how to access these resources. It is also important that teachers continuously learn, update their own skill. Therefore I facilitated a seminar on Continuous Professional Development for Teachers, E-learning and Breast Cancer Awareness which was attended by several Headmasters and teachers from surrounding towns and villages. This seminar was very well received and teachers will from now on be networking and implementing some of the new ideas.
Before I came to the school, I was able to gather books, puzzles, games and toys from the UK and bring these to the school, which the teachers and students clearly appreciated. I was also lucky enough to go on a trip with all the teachers to Nareshwar. This was a fantastic fun packed day. The local area is very interesting and I’ve been able to go on a number of visits to local temples, Tarapur town and shopping in Anand, lake Kanewal and other places of interest. I will surely be a regular visitor to the school.
Urvashi Patel from London
Kayleigh Critten, Wymondham College, Norfolk, UK
I came on behalf of Wymondham College a successful boarding school in Norfolk, England and I feel the College will benefit immensely from my time at Gokul Nar School. This experience will become a large of our International centre opening in the summer of 2011 and we will endeavour to maintain contact
I was able to see how a Primary school works and how an English Medium school works and progresses in India. The attitude of the teachers and the headmaster influenced me to want to help in any way I could. I introduced traditional events and ideas of the U.K in the classroom. This is my second time in India and I can honestly say that this time round I feel I experienced the real India. Being able to work with local people of various backgrounds has been inspiring and eye opening. The children of Gokul Nar are a pleasure to be around and are very enthusiastic. Their smiles will brighten up anyone’s day! The children and teachers are very responsive to all new ideas and activities.