A passage to India

Jonas and Jan

Place of assignment: Hassan, India

Sending organisation: Karl-Kübel Stiftung

In 2018, two friends Jonas and Jan took part in an eight-month weltwärts volunteer service via the Karl-Kübel Stiftung. Spending time in the southern Indian city of Hassan impacted the young men in different ways. But, five years later, the two friends both still share a special connection to the country, its people and the project they worked on.

A joint venture into the unknown

Jonas’s desire to venture abroad when he was still fresh out of further education stemmed from his curiosity about Buddhism and Indian cuisine. During this time, his friend Jan shelved his original plans when learned about the weltwärts programme from Jonas and the opportunity to collaborate with him on a project. Eventually, the two young men travelled together to the southern Indian state of Karnataka via the Karl-Kübel Stiftung (KKS).

Two volunteers sitting cross-legged on the floor. The person on the left is holding a camera in his hand. The person on the right is clasping his hands together and looking at the person opposite him.
Jan (left) and Jonas (right) at an Indian wedding ceremony of relatives of employees at the children’s home.

“Language barriers were a problem at first. But the people’s great empathy and understanding soon meant we overcame these challenges.”


They were deployed at the children’s home in Hassan run by the organisation PRACHODANA. In addition to a fixed programme put in place in collaboration with the place of assignment, which consisted of teaching English to different year groups while receiving Kannada lessons themselves, the two volunteers also had a great deal of scope for independent action. In spite of the initial language barriers, they eventually managed to implement creative projects and took the children’s interests into account. For example, as well traditional classroom activities, they also invented boardgames, hosted an Olympics-style water games and played a variety of sports. Both of them view the connections they forged with the children and the new perspectives they gained during their volunteer service as the most valuable takeaways from the assignment.

A volunteer standing in front of a small screen displaying a cigarette in a classroom. Another volunteer sits to the side on a plastic chair. A group of children sitting cross-legged on the floor and listening.
The volunteers had prepared a range of information materials about addiction and drugs for the children from VIKSANA and PRACHODANA. In the workshop, Jan explains what cigarettes contain and why they are harmful.

“One of my life goals is to try as many things as possible. In India, I encountered such an unbelievable number of new situations and exciting people that I can’t keep count any more.”


A volunteer standing in front of a group of children. A girl is raising her hand. A woman and a man can be seen in the background.
Jonas handing out school bags to local children. This was facilitated, among other things, by financial support from local companies.

Experiences to last a lifetime

In spite of cultural and linguistic challenges, conflicts and homesickness, both still look back fondly on their time in India. “I felt well prepared due in large part to the attentive support by the KKS and the two seminars before the assignment. At the beginning of the adventure, I was very thankful that we got to spend another week with all the volunteers and learnt how to withdraw cash, go shopping, use public transport and things like this. On arrival at the project, straight away we were welcomed warmly by our mentors, all the children and the family of the director”, reported Jonas. These people also gave them a glimpse of daily life in Hassan and put them in touch with locals for the first time. What’s more, the two former volunteers have both paid numerous visits to their Indian friends in Karnataka and are already planning their next visits.

Five women standing in front of a simple school desk in a classroom. A woman writing the word “differences” in chalk.
Employees of the children’s home making a list of cultural differences that they perceive between India and Germany, be it the way things are used, social significance or similar.

“Even now, I still frequently think about my time in India and notice the positive effects it’s had on my life today.”


More than just volunteering

Today, five years after finishing their volunteer service, Jan and Jonas are still both in frequent contact with the director’s family and those involved with the project. Although Jonas had initially been planning to work on a project focussed on craftsmanship, he would now like to start his psychology training next year to become a child and adolescent therapist. Jan has also come to regard Karnataka as a second home, even if his decision to take part in the volunteer service was a spontaneous one. In retrospect, he says that “Volunteering with weltwärts is more than just an investment in your personal growth. It also helps to create a global community based on respect, understanding and collaboration.”

For more details on why Jonas decided to become vegetarian while in India and what “ghetto blasters on wheels” are all about, check out Jonas’s blog.

To Jonas’s blog

A group of children kneeling on the floor and painting with watercolours and brushes on white paper. A volunteer and an Indian employee are also kneeling on the floor and talking to the children.
Supporters gave Jonas and Jan painting materials as gifts. A group of children using watercolours to paint their dream careers, landscapes, families or houses.