Frequently Asked Questions
Learn the important things you need to know before applying…
The following are questions about volunteering that we frequently asked by people who are interested in working with us. Please also take the time to look at our Visitor’s Handbook which can be found via the menu above.
Where is The GSAM located?
The Mission is 330 kms due East of New Delhi, just on the Western corner of Nepal, in the State of Uttarakhand (previously called Uttaranchal). The nearest town to us is Banbasa. Banbasa is a small town located on National Highway 125 in between the towns of Khatema and Tanakpur. Banbasa is also one of the border crossings from India into Nepal (through the Nepal town Mahendranagger). The mission is located just 1km before Banbasa, right on the National Highway.
Can I visit The GSAM?
We love to have visitors, but for the protection of our children, all visitors must go through a strict screening process. More information about this process can be found in this FAQ but essentially all visitors need to apply via our online Volunteer Application Form.
How long can I stay?
Our Board of Directors has implemented a policy that first time volunteers are only able to stay for a maximum of 10 days. There is no minimum.
What is the easiest way to get to the mission?
There are several options for traveling to the mission:
Government or “Roadways” buses leave from Anand Vihar bus stand every night and morning between 7 and 11. There are generally around 6-8 buses each day and their terminating station is Tanakpur (pronounced ‘tun-uk-pour’). Buses are generally fairly crowded but will get you here eventually. A ticket to Banbasa costs between 350/- and 700/- depending on the bus. Just ask to be let off at Strong Farm, or get off in Banbasa and catch a cycle rickshaw for Rs20/- per person to the Strong Farm Office. Strong Farm is exactly 1 km before Banbasa, with a big green and yellow sign on the left side of the road saying “The Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission” it’s pretty hard to miss.
Train can be a very comfortable way to get here – and is considered by many as the best method as it is also quite cheap. There are no trains that take you to Banbasa direct from Delhi (though they have started laying the tracks for it). Several air conditioned sleeper trains (ie train with a bed) leave Delhi (DLI or NDLS Stations) each day which can take you to either Bareilly (BE) or Rudrapur City (RUPC). From here you will need to catch a bus/taxi or hire a car. A taxi from either station to us will cost approximately Rs3500. Train tickets are around Rs800/- to 2000/- and can be booked online or at a train station (you almost always have to book in advance). Trains are clean and comfortable, they have bathrooms and people come through often selling chai, coffee, snacks etc… We recommend people travel by “AC3 class” (which stands for “Air conditioned 3 tier”) or better. Each person is allocated a bed/seat and many trains provide clean sheets/blankets/pillows for free.
Private taxi’s can be organized to bring you to the mission from just about anywhere in India. Generally private taxi’s are a little expensive but simplest. On average they charge about Rs1400-1600/- per day plus fuel, tolls, drivers food/accommodation. A trip from Delhi to the mission would be around Rs10,000/- you are also expected to feed the driver during the journey. Booking from Delhi can be a lot more expensive, some taxi companies charge as much as 20,000/- for a drop off to Banbasa. Whether you book the taxi from here or from Delhi you are expected to pay for the return trip for the vehicle too (included in price mentioned above). This is a much more comfortable way to travel but it is also more expensive. We can assist in organizing a booking if needed as one of our staff members operates a private taxi (so you are helping support our organization by supporting them) or you can go to the various Inter-State Taxi Stands around Delhi/major cities (there is even one in the Delhi airport). Sometimes we can arrange to send in one of our staff to accompany you on the journey back.
What about food & drinking water while at the mission?
Meals for volunteers are provided. Our staple diet is rice, chapattis (flat bread), lentils, or some sort of vegetable curry. Water on the mission is clean, but for people who want to be extra careful, we have several filter stations around the campus. Breakfast is normally 6:45am followed by a 1:00pm lunch and 7:00pm dinner.
What should I do about money?
For personal use there are ATM’s in our local market. Travelers’ Checks or foreign currency cannot be changed locally. Donations to our organization must be made through appropriate banking channels, we will provide receipts for these donations.
What happens if I get sick?
If you do get sick we well help to look after you, we have good local doctors and hospitals close by.
What clothes should I wear?
Modest western clothing is acceptable, i.e. Jeans and T Shirt or blouse. For females low cut tops ARE NOT acceptable, the same with tank tops, sleeveless tops and skirts. Shorts on males are reasonably acceptable, long pants are better. Sandals, shoes, joggers, flip flops are the best for foot wear.
What does it cost to stay at the mission?
For volunteers who wish to stay with us, we ask for a donation of $10 US per day. This covers your lodging, three meals each day, morning and afternoon tea, local travel and the opportunity to immerse yourself in life at an Indian orphanage. Considering the life-changing experience that many of our volunteers report, we hope this small sum feels like a bargain by the end of your stay.
All money raised from our volunteering program is used to cover operating expenses which are often difficult to fundraiser for. As you will see, a large orphanage such as ours has many moving parts, and day-to-day resources play a critical role in the work that we do.
This said, we recognize that volunteers can provide critical skills, ideas and energy, so please don’t let cost be your deciding factor. For those with abundant resources, larger donations are always welcome. For those with less, please let us know what you are capable of. Our goal is a mutually beneficial partnership that leaves everyone feeling blessed at the end.
What can I do while I am at the mission?
We are a community and live, work and play together as you will see when you get here. There is opportunity for teachers, child care helpers, practical/maintenance persons, nurses, accountants; you name it! Some of our best visitors have just done simple things like teaching our children to use a computer, draw, paint, swim, dance, sing, play guitar/keyboard etc.
What is the weather like there?
Summers here in India can be a nasty thing, temperatures can get as high as 51°C (124°F) in the middle of the day and barely drop below 30°C (86°F) at night. The electricity supply is also not constant so we try to discourage people from coming in the middle of summer (May – June) unless they are confident they can handle it.
Monsoon weather can also be difficult for some as it is both hot and humid. Often the rains flood out roads and can interfere with peoples travel plans. Winter is by far the most popular season for people to come out to spend time with us -Christmas being the peak of that time. In the winter temperatures generally stay a good 5-10 degrees above freezing.
We have no heating in any of our guest accommodation so it is important that you bring warm clothing during winter months.
What are the rules for staying at the mission?
We do have quite a few expectations in place for volunteers, this is both for the protection of our children and also to make your trip a more enjoyable one for everyone. We have a contract that all volunteers are required to sign upon arrival at the orphanage. You can find a copy of the agreement in our Visitor’s Handbook in the menu above.
What about electricity?
India operates on 240v; plugs C & D. If you are from Australia, UK, Asia or other countries that operate on 240v you will only need a plug adapter. If you are from the USA you will probably need a voltage converter and plug adapter. We recommend getting a universal adapter and converter kit. Blackouts are regular and happen a few times each day for several hours.
Is there accommodation on the mission for volunteers?
Yes, we have enough accommodation to keep up to about 15-20 people scattered across the mission. Some are in hostels others are in separate guest houses. All our rooms are clean and safe but some are definitely better than others. Most have bathrooms and those that don’t are in close proximity to them. A few of our rooms also have battery backup systems for when the power is off. We provide all the linen, blankets, pillows and mattresses that you will need.
When I get to Banbasa or when I am traveling there, how do I actually find the mission?
The mission is located almost exactly 1km before Banbasa on the left (when you are heading to Banbasa). We have a large green & yellow sign out the front which makes it pretty hard to miss. If you’re coming by bus you can ask the driver to stop at “Strong Farm” which is the name we are known by locally. If you get off the bus in Banbasa you can just catch a rickshaw or jeep to “Strong Farm”. The main office is straight ahead on our main road, you can’t miss it.
Can I bring my children?
Yes, we have many visitors who come with children of all ages. That said it is important that it be discussed with us during your application process.
Where can I find out more details about the mission?
We are happy to answer any questions you might have via the Contact Us page from the menu above.
So I want to come out to the orphanage, what is the next step?
The very first step is always to fill in a Volunteer Application Form, its quite simple and only takes a few minutes to complete. We do have to be careful as to whom we have working with or coming in contact with the children. We are more than happy to have visitors but the safety of our children is most important to us. As a result no visitors are allowed on the mission without permission/approval from our leadership. Once your Volunteer Application Form has been submitted a member of our staff should be in contact with you within a few days (though occasionally it can take up to a week). You can find a link to the application form in the menu above.