Frequently Asked Questions by Applicants Interested In AVSAR


Who: AVSAR is now recruiting anyone interested in community service or international development opportunities in the nonprofit sector in India. AVSAR has now opened its recruitment of students or professionals at the undergraduate level, in the fields of Public Health, Medicine, Business, and even Computer Science, Graphic Arts, etc.


What: AVSAR is a US-based nonprofit organization offering structured volunteer and internship service opportunities in Mumbai, India. AVSAR connects volunteers to grassroots nonprofit organizations working to provide healthcare and other services in the slums and underprivileged areas of Mumbai (often with street children, child-laborers, sweatshop employees, etc.). The experience is structured, rewarding, and provides UNPARALLELED SUPPORT – with only a $400 program/lodging fee!!!


Where: Mumbai, India.


When: AVSAR is now accepting applications for one-month to twelve-month placements. AVSAR is now recruiting candidates up to April 2006!


Why? Because you’re looking for an experience that could change your life.


About AVSAR:

AVSAR is a nonprofit organization based in the United States of America. The goal is to recruit volunteers who want to build long-term partnerships with our affiliated grassroots nonprofit organizations through the implementation, management, or evaluation of new or existing projects; but to do it in a manner that is replicable and builds capacity. AVSAR’s extensive network of support focuses on providing an experience of personal growth and true service. For volunteers with an objective of “helping where the help is needed,” this can be a life-changing experience.


The application process is now open to undergraduate students, all medical students, public health students, business students, software engineers, web designers, graphic artists, and just about anyone else interested in community service and the prosperity of India.


Please scroll down for answers to the following questions:

1.       Which types of experiences are being offered? Can I have some more details?

2.       What other opportunities are available? Research? Presentations?

3.       Why should I choose this program as compared to other such programs?

4.       What are the objectives of this program?

5.       Why aren’t rotations being offered in other cities outside of Mumbai? When will they be available?

6.       Will non-Indians be considered for participation in these elective rotations?

7.       Do these clinics “need” my help?

8.       Will I to get school credit for this rotation?

9.       Will I be supervised?

10.   How is student recruitment being carried out?

11.   How can I help notify my friends about this opportunity?

12.   I’d like to help establish this as an elective opportunity at my medical school, how do I get started?

13.   How will future sites be selected?

14.   I have additional questions regarding language training, transportation, accommodations, communication, culture, society, exploration, etc…

15.   How do I apply?


1.       Which types of experiences are being offered? Can I have some more details?

Students will be expected to work in this SERVICE-ORIENTED experience for six-seven days per week with “light” Sundays and 2 vacation days per 4 weeks of service.

Projects are identified by AVSAR, its partner nonprofit organizations, as well as previous volunteers. The following lists are only a few examples of past and future opportunities and projects and should not be taken as an exhaustive list of opportunities available.


A.  Public Health for Medical Students

Only available to those currently enrolled in medical school at the time the application is submitted. Although AVSAR volunteers tend to be utilized more in a Public Health capacity (due to language and cultural challenges), those with medical training are encouraged to participate in medical examinations in the slums of Mumbai alongside local physicians. Public Health volunteers gain perspective on malnutrition, vitamin deficiencies, tropical medicine, and other public health issues facing India. For qualified physician-volunteers who have a working knowledge of Hindi or Marathi, some can even help by examining and treating patients independently.

Sites are primarily located in outpatient clinics. The sites are “Western” educational settings, and most clinics tend to see a broad spectrum of patients. There will be flexibility for the volunteer to explore the various aspects of his or her partner nonprofit organization. Volunteers will be encouraged to work in collaboration with their partner organization on projects which require skills that the volunteer has to offer, but more importantly… are needed by the organization. Please note this will NOT be a PURELY CLINICAL EXPERIENCE.


·         Conduct medical check-ups on slum-dwelling children from an after school program.

·         Work alongside local doctors in a clinic the treats the child laborer population.

·         Observe and perhaps assist in the community OB/GYN and General clinics of a community neighborhood organization.


B.   Public Health ***

Design, implement, and/or evaluate Public Health programs based on the needs of our partner NGOs. Skills from epidemiology to health education contribute to the areas of possible service for AVSAR’s public health volunteers.


·         Design an adolescent health and sex education program specifically designed for adolescent males.

·         Establish an inexpensive and practical hand-disinfecting protocol in clinics which lack running water.

·         Create a Pediatric HIV manual for local physicians and NGOs

·         Analyze the nutritional data of an after school center for children of sex workers.


C.  Dental Public Health Experience

Assist local NGOs in building capacity for dental hygiene for underprivileged children and their families. Work with local corporations and dentists to procure donations, hold dental camps, and provide health education on dental health.


·         Create health education/awareness modules for children in our various programs (dental problems are the most common).

·         Liaison with local dentists to conduct camps and follow-up for long-term continuity of care.

·         Educate children at afterschool programs about the importance of dental health


D. Research for Medical Students

Conduct research on an area of interest approved by AVSAR’s administrative team based on the needs of our partner NGOs (needs assessment of the health conditions of a local community, research focusing on the efficacy of current treatment protocols, etc.).


·         Evaluate the common health problems among slum-dwelling children in an after-school program.

·         Research the rates on anemia among adolescent girls.

·         Study why tuberculosis patients in a particular treatment program stopped undergoing treatment.



A. Business management

Share business management skills and techniques with partner NGOs. Many nonprofit organizations agree that improved business management skills are needed in order to expand. They are unable to afford consultants and are more than eager to utilize the skills of volunteers in this capacity. One of the highest requests for volunteers comes for volunteers with business skills and experience.


·         Work on the pricing/marketing/planning at an exhibition of an organization for women and children with HIV/AIDS.

·         Help an organization create an organizational budget for the next 5 years.

·         Work with AVSAR to help build capacity of an international NGO.


B.  Basic computer skills instruction

Utilize computer skills to build the capacity of the staff of partner NGOs. For example, one AVSAR volunteer noticed that her partner nonprofit organization was spending a considerable amount of time on simple mathematical calculations because they were using Microsoft Word for all of their data entry needs. She then decided to hold training sessions and teach the personnel how to use Microsoft Excel in order to significantly increase the efficiency and accuracy of their work. The volunteer happened to be medical student.


C. Web development

Assist with the development of websites for partner NGOs. Since many people in India have still never used a computer, it is no surprise that most nonprofit organizations do not have a website. In a world where “WWW” is often synonymous with “LEGITIMACY,” an effective website is essential to combat the skepticism faced by even the highest quality nonprofit organizations.


D. Creation of informational and promotional materials

Help create training manuals, health education brochures, or even promotional material for a partner NGO. Volunteers can help create informational and educational brochures for specific programs (micro-credit, adolescent health and sex education, basic personal hygiene, HIV/Aids, etc.).


E.  Marketing and PR

Many NGOs need assistance with the creation of promotional materials, brochures, power point presentations, and more in order to raise awareness about their organization. Our partner NGOs have often expressed the need for volunteers that can help them create a marketing plan to improve awareness to the constituency and funders alike.


F.  Creation of systems

Develop systems for greater efficiency in the documentation process. Volunteers have helped create effective and efficient documentation for record-keeping, patient registration, patient encounter forms, inventory of medications, etc. By using these as templates and modifying them for a new partner organization, volunteers can make an impact which makes a difference. Volunteers can also create new documentation to replace other hand-written tables and protocols currently being used by a partner organization.


G. “Inspiration by Illustration”

Expand a partner organization’s network of support. AVSAR volunteers are often an inspiration to those around them. An AVSAR volunteer recruited the assistance of the owner of a small but impressive custom-made furniture company to help with the creation of a new clinic. The owner was so inspired by the dedication of the volunteer that he continues to provide his skills, expertise, and services at no profit to himself. Another bridge was made when the volunteer recruited the help of a Managing Director who heads a large construction company. The company ended up provided its services for free. Work hard and inspire someone today.


1.       What other responsibilities will we I have? Presentations? Research?

As a selected participant of AVSAR you will be expected to keep a daily journal and meet with the administrative team bi-weekly reflection sessions and topic discussion. Volunteers may also be expected to participate in peer-topic sessions in which the volunteers teach each other about health or social issues facing the communities in which they work. At the end of the experience, volunteers will also be expected to incorporate their experience into a summary sheet about their partner NGO in order to allow future volunteers the ability to have a faster orientation to the organization. While the time spent with a partner NGO during the day is often the most interesting time for a volunteer, the capacity-building and value of their service to the community often becomes apparent through the work they do outside of their “day work.” This may include research on health topics or treatment regimens, program design, creating of educational modules or multimedia presentations, networking for the NGO, etc. The time spent during this experience is often very short, so we hope to recruit volunteers who are excited about having an intensive service-oriented experience. As an AVSAR volunteer, you will be an “ambassador” and represent previous and future volunteers. Overall, as an organization serving the needs of passionate volunteers, we take pride in making your experience as inspirational as possible. Although all applicants are volunteers, we expect them to work with AVSAR and partner NGOs with the commitment and attitude of a full-time employee. Further information, policies, and procedures regarding roles and responsibilities will be reviewed before a volunteer enters the program.


As an AVSAR Alumnus, you will be asked to make a presentation regarding your experience at a location of your choice (high school, college, medical school, Public Health school, local community meeting, church, or possibly at a national conference such as the AAPI National Conference, the AMSA National Conference, the IFMSA – USA National Conference, etc.). The presentation may be in the form of an oral, multimedia, or even a poster presentation. Additionally, as AVSAR Alumni are located in various parts of the world, you may be asked to help host a fundraiser, arrange a table at a career fair, or help promote AVSAR in your own community.


There are many opportunities to conduct research through an AVSAR rotation. The Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) which we partner with often have the ability to collect a great deal of data, but are unable to afford the expertise of a skilled professional to analyze the data. Therefore, there are many opportunities to work with a partner NGO on an existing, or a new, research project.


2.       Why should I choose this program as compared to other such programs?

We can confidently say that other such programs are unavailable.

        A.     The founder of AVSAR was a U.S. medical student – He designed the program to minimize the types of difficulties experienced during his own volunteer experiences in Mumbai.

        B.      Comprehensive orientation and support throughout your experience- During this month of service to the community, we make every effort to ensure that you have all of the resources you will need to make the experience as trouble-free as possible. This includes:

        a.       airport pickup

        b.       pre-arranged accommodations

        c.       language training (through books, tutors and packets made by previous volunteers)

        d.       peer education sessions

        e.       orientation to the city and its public transportation system

        f.        discussions about cultural barriers and medical practices

        g.       presentations from inspirational NGOs

        h.       discussions about your role as a volunteer during this month of community service

        i.        options for transportation (hired car)

        j.         options for communication (mobile phone rental)

        k.       group support – your peers will be your backbone during this experience

        l.        local support by AVSAR’s staff and affiliates

        C.      Inspirational partner NGOs – We make every effort to place our volunteers with NGOs that are doing meaningful work. Although resources are often limited for the NGOs, they continue to provide much-needed services in impoverished communities.


3.       What are the objectives of this program?

Long-term partnerships of service.

A.     To foster a sense of partnership and collaboration between the NGO and the individual with a goal of creating long-lasting bonds for continued support;

B.      To connect a population of motivated individuals having professional skills with passionate grass-roots organizations who are promoting positive change and reform within India;

C.      To bring increased health services to developing communities in India;

D.     To promote an experience of personal and professional growth for all parties involved;


4.       Why aren’t opportunities being offered in other cities outside of Mumbai? When will they be available?

Great emphasis is placed on trying to provide a quality experience for all of the involved parties. Since very few (if any) such programs exist in India, we want to ensure its long-term success by maintaining the highest standards. Once we have the infrastructure and the funding needed to expand the comprehensive services we provide to our partner NGOs and our volunteers, we will.


5.      Will non-Indians be considered for participation?

Yes. While the majority of applicants tend to be of Indian origin, we look forward to having wide support for this initiative. All individuals are encouraged to apply.


6.       Do these clinics “need” my help?

Yes and no.


Yes – Your participation is considered to be of great value to these areas. Our hope is to provide the professional skills needed for these NGOs to accomplish tasks that will otherwise be left undone. Also, clinics can get overwhelmed at times with patients (especially during general health-camps, eye check-up camp, etc…) and your assistance in evaluating patients will be valuable. You will also find that suggestions which you make regarding alternatives in patient treatment, general care, or even administration, will be appreciated and truly considered. On a bigger scale, you would be part of the growing effort to bring wide-scale international support to India, and we hope that you create a long-lasting bond with your partner-NGO that will inspire your involvement with them in the future.


No – You shouldn’t come expecting to “save India.” The organizations will certainly not shutdown if AVSAR ceases to provide them with volunteers. Your time is limited, and four weeks will go by quickly. Recognize that your time is limited, and that your presence alone may be enough to make a difference (even if you do not see it). It’s also possible that the impact may not be seen until after you leave India- and your project is somehow sustained.


7.       Will I to get school credit for this rotation?

If you are a student (medical student or MPH student) applying for this elective, you will be asked to investigate the possibility of receiving school credit for this rotation. Most medical schools allow one international health experience to count as school credit towards graduation. Most MPH programs require you to do a certain number of hours of field work; and oftentimes students use this opportunity to work internationally. We have gone through this before, and we will provide all of the necessary paperwork needed to make this part of the application as easy as possible.


8.       Will I be supervised?

Yes. Physicians should not be practicing medicine without direct supervision by a physician who is licensed to practice in India. As a part of this program, you will have responsibilities to you’re your partner NGO as well as AVSAR (reflection sessions, peer topics, weekly reports, presentations etc.). Therefore, you will also be supervised by the AVSAR Admin Team in order to ensure that your time is being used efficiently and productively, as well as to help us guide you through the experience.


9.       How is student recruitment being carried out?

Recruitment will be carried out through the AVSAR listserv (join by sending a blank email to, as well as through emails sent out by our supporting team of organizations.


10.   How can I help notify my friends about this opportunity?

You can simply click on the following link and download the latest E-bulletin and then email it to your friends and colleagues:


11.   How will future sites be selected?

In order to fulfill the objectives of the elective, a site must carefully be selected to ensure that the elective will be of maximal benefit to both the community and the student. The criteria for site selection include:

        a.       A grass-roots organization or institution with a strong reputation in the community

        b.       An environment that is conducive to hands-on participation with maximum opportunity for collaboration with local community

        c.       An organization which has the need for skilled professionals


12.   I have additional questions regarding language training, transportation, accommodations, communication, culture, society, exploration, etc…

Please visit the “Life in Mumbai” section of this website. For all other questions, please contact us at .


13.   How do I apply?

Please click on Application link on the homepage for details.





Meenakshi Verma, MPH
Program Director, AVSAR

+1 775 854 4637   Fax
+91 9820888974   Mumbai
+1 404 259 0321   US (or
MSN Messenger and AOL Username: AVSARIndia