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«Volunteering abroad can be a very rewarding and valuable experience, offering a challenge both personally and professionally and providing the ...»

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Volunteering abroad can be a very rewarding and valuable experience, offering a challenge both

personally and professionally and providing the opportunity to gain new skills and experiences.

We are pleased that you have chosen to volunteer with Calcutta Rescue Kolkata (CRK) and hope that

your time working with CR will be a memorable and enjoyable experience. In order to help you as you prepare to go to Kolkata, this information pack has been compiled with essential information that we hope will be useful. As you should have already received information about the organisation, this pack focuses on the things you need to know as you arrange your trip to Kolkata and essential details about living and working in Kolkata.

1. COMMUNICATIONS Calcutta Rescue Office Location: Calcutta Rescue Office, 85 Collins Street, Kolkata, 700 016 E-mail: info@calcuttarescue.org Phone: +91 33 2217 5675 Fax: +91 33 2217 5675 Postal address: Calcutta Rescue, P.O. Box 9253, Middleton Row, P.O., Calcutta, 700 071 N.B. Registered post or large items will not be accepted at this address. Please remember to ensure that mail is securely closed. Post for volunteers should not be sent to this address.

Website The CRK website can be found at: www.calcuttarescue.org

2. BEFORE YOU GO Guide Book “India” published by Lonely Planet is probably the most useful. It includes information about almost everything, including where to stay and what to eat, along with maps, items to take, how to get there and what to see, both for India in general and Kolkata in particular.

Passport and Visa You need a passport that is up to date for at least the complete period of your intended stay, but you should check the latest requirements with the Indian High Commission/Embassy. It is a good idea to pack a photocopy of your passport and visa and leave a photocopy with a willing relative or friend at home. It is also useful to e-mail details of your passport and visa to your e-mail address so you can easily access them if you lose them and are out of contact with people at home.

You will be asked to put down a contact person in India – it doesn’t matter who this is and choosing a hotel address from the Lonely Planet is fine. Just do not mention CR. You may also be asked to give an itinerary which can be devised from any guidebook e.g. Kolkata – Varanassi – Delhi – Agra – Rajasthan etc. Take details of your flights, as these may also be required. You should be aware that your visa will be valid from the date of issue, not the date of your arrival in India, so do not apply too early.

Your visa will be valid for 6 months – unfortunately it is not possible to obtain a visa for 12 months. If you need a visa formore than six months you will need to leave India to get another visa. Please note that at present, your visa must have expired before an Indian embassy will issue another one. From India, the most reliable place to have a visa renewed is Bangkok, Thailand. The offices in both Nepal and Bangladesh frequently refuse. The Indian High Commission has a very useful website with details on where and how to obtain visas, supportive documentation required and you can also print off a visa application form. The busiest time for applications is August to December with long queues at the application offices.


Prices can vary considerably, depending on the airline flown and the travel agent. When booking your flight, you might want to consider the flight’s arrival time in Kolkata, allowing also for possible delays.

The journey into the city can be less daunting for jet-lagged passengers if they arrive early in the day.

Once you have given us your arrival details we will arrange for a current volunteer to collect you and take you to some accommodation. We advise people not to arrive by train, the stations are chaotic and it is difficult to meet people, unless they have travelled in India before. It can also be difficult to book a same day train ticket for long distance travel; the journey from Delhi to Kolkata is 17 hours at least.

The earlier you book your flight the better as all the cheap offers disappear very quickly. Peak season is from September to December, but it is still possible to get a good price through the bucket shops if you plan well in advance. A one-year open ticket is a little more expensive than a dated one-year return but it gives you flexibility.

The Eastern European airlines are probably the cheapest but are not always reliable! Middle Eastern airlines are often better and Emirates, Gulf and Royal Jordanian have been well recommended. Thai Airways are also very good. However, some of the cheaper flights only go as far as Delhi, which is fine if you are happy to then travel to Kolkata either overland- which is not advisable if this is your first time in India - or by air. Most people seem to come in on the BA flight.


It is essential for all volunteers to take out an insurance policy to cover their trip. Read the small print to ensure that it provides all the necessary cover (particularly medical expenses and theft), and make sure you know what to do with it in case of an emergency. Also write down any relevant document number and leave a copy with a willing friend or relative and e-mail the details to yourself.

CRK will also require a copy so that we can give assistance if needed.

The price of insurance varies considerably. In the same way as with your airfare, leave yourself time to shop around.

You should be aware that if you decide to return home for a holiday during your time in Kolkata, it might make your insurance invalid. If you are likely to be returning, check this out when you book your insurance. You should also check that you would be covered if you went to Thailand, Nepal or Bangladesh on holiday or to renew your visa if you are staying for more than 6 months. There are lots of policies available and the best way is to ring around as many companies as possible. Current volunteers have found good packages from, Sainsburys (UK), DKV in Germany and europ assistance in Belgium. Prices also vary a lot form $ 200 to $ 300, depending on the level of cover.

Immunisation If possible, start planning immunisations with your GP up to six months in advance. While some vaccines do not provide total protection, you should make use of such protection as they do afford. The effective duration of immunisations varies so for up to date information check with your own doctor, a travel clinic or hospital for tropical diseases.

Recommendations made in 2005 (for India only) were:

Prophylaxis for Malaria Proguanil (Paludrine) 100mg, 2 daily and Chloroquine (Nivaquine) 150mg, 2 weekly. Tablets should be taken in a single dose with or after food. Start taking 1 week before arriving in India and continue taking for at least 4 weeks after leaving an infected area. Other anti malarial drugs are available and you should check what are the most appropriate for you. Unfortunately, a recent study in India showed 30% of volunteers/tourists stop taking their prophylaxis on arrival. A medical expert on malaria in Kolkata, Dr Chatterjee, advises that volunteers should stick to the advice given to them by their own doctors.

Some types of malaria have become resistant to the tablets so CRK recommends that a mosquito net be used. This can be bought in India although they are very thick so when hot, can make you even hotter. Ex volunteers tend to recommend buying a good quality one in England. Mosquito repellent should be used to cover all exposed skin after dusk, the most effective repellent having a high DEET content (50% is recommended). It is wise to take a sufficient supply with you for your whole stay.

Autan has recently been introduced to the Indian market, but may not always be available. Citronella, and Neem oil are widely available. Plug in mosquito repellents can also be bought in India. The use of mosquito nets and repellents will also help to prevent dengue fever, though there is no prophylactic medication. The dengue mosquito is most active in the morning and so you also need to wear repellent at this time of day as well. In fact wearing it all day is a good idea. Some volunteers have come to Kolkata and not been on any prophylaxis, instead they have bought drugs with them to use if they contract malaria. This is not recommended, as the p. falciparum strain which is active here could kill very quickly. You may also contarct other starins, e.g. p.vivax, which can cause chronic malaria after the acute stage has resolved, and this can last for years. Prevention is better as there may be no cure.


Most vaccines can be obtained from your doctor either free or at the cost of a normal or private prescription. However doctors may have their own policy and are allowed to charge the full price.

Explain what you are doing and where you are going, try and insist on getting a prescription. Below are the recommended immunisations in 2005. Travel clinics are often more expensive than your doctor.

Meningitis: This is now on the increase strongly advise everyone to have the vaccine. You must ensure that it is for the type currently active in India. Make sure that you get the correct one for Kolkata.

Rabies: In India 80,000 deaths are reported annually from Rabies. Medical intervention must occur within 48 hours of the incident but this is not always possible, especially if you are away from Kolkata.

The injections can be expensive but we advise you to think carefully about whether you want to proceed with this vaccination. This is a course of 3 injections, which must be spaced at 0, 7 and 28 days, so leave yourself sufficient time to fit this in.

Hepatitis A: This is a very common problem in India due to limited sanitation and contaminated water supply.

Hepatitis B: There are an estimated 50 million Hep B carriers in India. Because volunteers are working in a medical environment we advise all volunteers to find out there Hep B status and have a one off booster or a course of injections if you are not already covered.

Hepatitis C and D: At present there is no known vaccine but this is still relatively rare in India.

Tuberculosis: Current advice is that you do not need to have a mantoux test prior to leaving the UK. On your return to the UK if you have any signs or symptoms of TB, night sweats and pyrexia, cough, sputum, general unexplained weight loss, then you should go to your GP who will refer you to a chest physician. Most UK citizens have had a BCG vaccination at age 12-13 years of age. This lasts 15 years and is 70% effective. You can only have the BCG once. If you have not had it and are under 35 years old you can obtain it from a travel clinic.

Japanese Encephalitis: Only necassay of you are spending time in rural areas.

Typhoid, tetanus, diphtheria and polio: Check with your doctor that these are up to date and if not, you should have these vaccinations In addition to what your doctor advises, Calcutta Rescue recommends vaccination against measles and mumps if the volunteer has not had these diseases before as they are much more widespread in India and Asia than in Western countries, due to lack of immunisation.

Money Obviously the amount that you spend is up to you, and depends very much on the accommodation you choose. However, as a rough guide you can cover accommodation at one of the budget hotels, food, local transport, clothes, have the odd beer and more expensive meal and extras like toiletries, batteries, clothes for approximately Indian Rs.5000/- per week (May 2005 figure). If you want to join a gym, drink alcohol regularly or go away for occasional weekends, you may need more than this.

You may want to consider taking a combination of cash (avoid torn and soiled notes) and travellers cheques. You will not be able to buy Indian rupees in the your home country so it is best to take your cash in American dollars. Credit cards are now much more widely accepted in India in the major cities at larger stores. ATMs are widely available in the major cities and many volunteers now prefer to use their bank debit card rather than taking large amounts of cash and travellers cheques. You will need to keep receipts from ATM’s until you leave as proof of exchange. There are plenty of places where travellers’ cheques can be changed so its best to check around for rates and commission charged.

Mobile Phones All the volunteers keep in touch with each other via mobile phones, mostly using text, as it is cheaper.

If you use a UK mobile in India then make sure it is set up for roaming, however it will cost you a lot more. You can change the SIM card out here but ensure that it is ok with your mobile phone company.

You can buy new phones very cheaply in Kolkata. To register for a new SIM in Kolkata you need copies of passport and visa, proof of UK and Kolkata address and a passport photo. It is worth the effort and the Hutch shop on Sudder Street is very helpful Things to Take Kolkata has a wide range of shops from markets to small roadside stalls and air-conditioned shopping centres where most things can be bought. Most of what may be considered essential is available in Kolkata and it is mostly common sense what you will need to bring. There are a number of new shopping centres in Kolkata that have all the things you would expect in a UK one. There are also lots

of great bookshops, mobile phone shops and computer outlets. We also suggest the following things:

Swimming costume- you cannot buy these easily and the designs are not great.

• Universal sink-plug • Light sleeping bag if you plan to go trekking or if staying over winter - otherwise don’t bother • Sheet sleeping bag (can be useful, especially on train journeys) • Lonely Planet guide to India is the best one.

• Mosquito repellent • Mosquito net • A basic medical kit - might include eye drops, plasters, antiseptic cream, bandage, antifungals • (Canesten skin cream for example), Lomotil tablets, etc. These are sometimes but not always available locally, and are reassuring to have anyway. A bottle of Solyptol, Savlon, or other antiseptic is a comforting safeguard. You can buy many drugs over the counter here that would be prescription only in the UK.

Any regular medication that you take • Condoms – Indian condoms are often kept in unsafe conditions so are not reliable.

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