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Volunteer Information

Lok Hospital has hosted volunteers from the United States, India, and several European countries since its inception. Many volunteers have had a medical background, and some have not. The hospital has hosted resident physicians, nurses, and students in medicine, nursing, physiotherapy and undergraduate studies. Some have used the opportunity to complete an international medicine elective. These students have learned from Lok's many physicians (internists), surgeons, paediatricians, and super-specialists (sub-specialists). Volunteers whose backgrounds are non-medical have helped the hospital in such diverse areas as hospital administration, grounds keeping, environmental services, and patient counseling. Some volunteers have also taken the opportunity to work with other organizations in the Thane area, including a local orphanage and a newly-started HIV/AIDS initiative.

If you are considering volunteering at Lok Hospital, Please contact the appropriate peson listed in the contact information page. You will also find some more specific information below.

Q1: What is a typical day at Lok hospital like?
Q2 : What is the minimum stay recommended for a volunteer?
Q3: What type of Visa should I get?
Q4: What immunizations do I need to get?
Q5: What accommodation is available?
Q6: What should I bring to India?
Q7: What transportation is available in India?
Q8: How much money will i need?
Q9: Where can I buy gifts and souvenirs??
Q10: What will the weather be like?
Q11: What supplies are needed at Lok Hospital?
Q12: What language is most commonly spoken in the area?
Q13: Should I buy any books before coming to India?
Q14: How can I get a hold of former volunteers if I have more questions?

    What is a typical day at Lok hospital like?

For medical volunteers, the day begins at 8 AM with morning rounds, followed by surgeries or consultations. Lunch and afternoon rest generally start around 2 PM., and consultations resume around 4 PM. The day usually ends by 7 PM, when the last patients will be seen in the outpatient department.
New admissions arrive daily providing a good deal of work for the staff and volunteers. Surgeries and consultations are done from Monday to Saturday, unless emergency warrants otherwise.
Due to the variety of non-medical activities volunteers may choose to do, it is difficult to predict a typical day for non-medical volunteers.


   What is the minimum stay recommended for a volunteer?
It will take at least seven days to get settled and familiar with the sights and sounds of India. In light of this it is suggested that volunteers commit to no less than six weeks.


   What type of Visa should I get?

The visa best suited to meet your needs while volunteering at Lok Hospital is the six-month multiple-entry tourist visa. For volunteers from the US, please visit http://www.indianembassy.org/embassy/services.htm for more Visa information. Visa applications take time to process, so be sure to investigate early. When filling out the form, it is best to put "travel" for your purpose of visit.


  What immunizations do I need to get?

You will need to contact your physician or a travel clinic to check on the latest vaccinations recommended for India. Standard vaccinations received for travel to India include: Hepatitis A and B, and Typhoid. You will also want to take anti-malarial medication while in India. Be sure that your boosters for polio, Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Measles/Mumps/Rubella are all up to date. A tuberculosis skin test must also be performed before leaving and 4-6 weeks after returning to your country. For more information and current recommendations for India, please visit the United States' Center for Disease Control website for Traveler's Health at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/indianrg.htm


   What accommodation is available?

A short walk (less than 5 minutes) from the hospital is a residential tower where a flat (apartment) has been purchased to house volunteers during their stay in Thane. The cost to the volunteer is $100 U.S. dollars per month. The flat has a fully furnished living room, two bedrooms, two bathrooms (with showers), and a small kitchen with a gas stove and a small refrigerator/freezer. An Aqua-Guard water filter is used at the flat to purify drinking water. The electricity runs at 220 volts. If you have something that needs to be plugged in, remember to bring a plug adapter to fit the Indian sockets. (See the "Hospital Picture Tour"). The flat will be shared by 2 or 3 volunteers.


   What should I bring to India?

Above all else you must bring a flexible attitude and an open mind. Life is very different in the world's largest democracy, and so you should expect the unexpected. When it comes to deciding what clothes to pack you must consider what time of year you will be in India. Men should be sure to bring enough trousers because shorts are often inappropriate. Typical dress for men at the hospital includes trousers, collared shirt, and sandals. Women often wear long dresses as they are expected to dress modestly, and many volunteers choose to purchase traditional Indian clothing such as the salwaar kameez or even a saree.

Afternoon naps (2 - 4 PM) are very popular, so if you are not accustomed to taking naps bring something to do during this time. Of course a camera and film is a must, and most types of Fuji and Kodak film are available in India.


   What transportation is available in the area?

The most economical and trustworthy form of transportation in Thane will be your own two legs-almost everything is within walking distance. If your heart yearns for a little more adventure and your eyes want to see more than the Pokhran No. 2 residential area, then for a few rupees a rickshaw will happily take you just about anywhere. Rickshaw fares start at twelve rupees (Rs. 12) and then increase depending on the distance traveled. A rickshaw into downtown Thane for shopping or McDonalds will run about Rs. 30.
Travel into Mumbai is best facilitated by the train system. The trains in India are highly utilized by the populace, and riding on them is an Indian experience in itself. Thane Central railway station is located in the heart of Thane, approximately 15 minutes and Rs. 30 from Lok Hospital. A ticket from Thane station to downtown Mumbai will cost Rs. 11 and will take around an hour.
Travel to other cities and distant regions of India is also best done by train. Volunteers have traveled to distant sights in India such as the foothills of the Himalayas, Delhi, Agra (home of the Taj Mahal), Jaipur, Goa, Kodaikanal, and elsewhere. Although trains are usually quite full, Indian Railways sets aside a number of tickets on each train for foreign tourists. These tourist quota tickets can be purchased in downtown Bombay across the street from Churchgate Station, a passport is required. Tickets may be purchased in U.S. dollars, British pounds, or Indian rupees, however if you are paying in rupees, you must have documentation of a valid exchange (your ATM receipt works nicely). Price varies considerably by class, which ranges from air-conditioned first-class (1st AC) to un-air conditioned chair class. It is recommended that travelers use 2nd AC (two sleeping tiers, and four people sharing a common seating area) or 3rd AC (three sleeping tiers and six people sharing a common seating area). As a guide, a round-trip ticket from Mumbai to Delhi cost Rs. 3100 in 3rd AC (Feb 2003). Please refer to www.indianrailways.gov.in for specific information.


   How much money will I need?

Of course, the answer to this question is highly dependant on individual travel goals. Two major determinants are the amount of traveling you plan on doing, and the number of gifts/souvenirs you plan on purchasing. As of October 2007, the exchange rate is Rs. 38 per U.S. Dollar and Rs. 79 per British Pound, and Rs. 55 per Euro. ATM machines are everywhere and provide the easiest way to obtain rupees. Traveler's cheques can be fairly difficult to cash. It is good if a tentative budget can be made before coming to India. Things to plan for when formulating a budget include:

1. Housing costs (100 USD/month)
2. Food costs
3. Traveling costs
4. Souvenirs/gifts.

The cost of food in India is fairly inexpensive in comparison to food prices in the west. Below is a small list of some food items and their approximate costs at local shops. Please bear in mind that these are prices as of October 2007 and are subject to change. The best rule to remember when shopping for food is that the price will be printed on practically every label. You should never pay more than what has been printed on the package. Food expenses will most likely be less than 50 USD per month.

1 Liter of bottled water Rs.
1 Loaf of Bread Rs.
1Kg of Potatoes Rs.
1/2 Liter of Milk Rs.
Box of Cereal Rs.
Kit Kat candy bar Rs.
Aerogram Letter Rs.
Ice Cream Cone Rs.
Jar of Jam Rs.
One Dozen Eggs Rs.
1 Banana Rs.
1.5 Liter of Pepsi Rs.

Non-food items are even less expensive, especially if you enjoy bargaining. Some shops have fixed prices but at most shops you can (and are expected to) bargain the prices down quite a bit-often as much as one-half of the first-quoted price. Clothing prices usually will not be reduced as much as items such as hand made furniture or handicrafts.


   Where can I buy gifts and souvenirs?

There are unlimited places to shop in India, as most free space in urban areas is covered by markets and individual vendors. There are two common starting places for volunteers looking to bring a bit of India back home from Mumbai. The first is the Bombay Store, located near the CST railway station. This is a large, posh, air-conditioned store selling handicrafts, clothing, artwork, carpets, sheets, postcards, stationery, jewelry, and numerous other items. It offers a pressure-free environment in which to shop without bargaining, although it is a bit more expensive than other options. Cottage Industries, located near the Gateway of India, is a government emporium and has more variety than the Bombay Store. It has good quality and reasonable prices. There are plenty of other places to buy gifts and souvenirs nearly everywhere you turn, these are simply two large emporiums in downtown Mumbai.


   What will the weather be like?

India has two basic seasons to its year, winter and summer. There is not much in the way of spring and fall as commonly known in the west. The months from November to February fall into the winter category and temperatures will likely remain in the 20's centigrade (in the 70's Fahrenheit). Rain seldom falls during the winter. The summer season begins with March and ends in October. The temperatures in Mumbai and Thane during these two months will range between 30 and 35° centigrade (86 to 95° Fahrenheit). April and May are the two hottest months of the year with temperatures sometimes reaching 40° (104° Fahrenheit). With June comes the relentless rain of the monsoon. Temperatures will fall a little and remain somewhere near 35° (95° Fahrenheit). Humidity will be very high during the monsoon season. Sunshine is almost as scarce as dry land and a large umbrella will be necessary. The rains continue for three months and will subside near the middle or end of September.


   What supplies are needed at Lok Hospital?

Medical supplies are in great demand in many countries around the world and India is no exception. Many materials and supplies that are no longer usable in countries like the U.S. and Britain are still very valuable and useful to hospitals in India. So if there is any extra room in your luggage consider visiting your local clinic or hospital to inquire about any available medical supplies and or equipment. Simple clothing items such as T-shirts can also always be used. Please contact Dr. Alfred for further information on needed medical supplies.


   What language is most commonly spoken in the area?

India's most widely spoken language is Hindi, although English is spoken by many Indians and signs are usually printed in both Hindi and English. Communication will be difficult with some Indians, but you can get by if you know English. In spite of this it would be very beneficial to pick up a Hindi phrase book and learn some of the basics. Like anyone, Indians love to hear foreigners attempt to communicate in their native language, and it's a great way to make many ew friends.

   Should I buy any books before coming to India?

A comprehensive guide to India is a good way to learn about India before coming here, and also can be a useful resource once here. Most volunteers who travel to India have used the Lonely Planet guide to India (www.lonelyplanet.com). This book can help prepare you for the culture shock of traveling in a developing country such as India.

   How can I get a hold of former volunteers if I have more questions?

Feel free to contact these former volunteers if you have more questions or would simply like to talk about what to expect as a volunteer.

Bryan Sauer, M.D.
1201 Dorchester Drive
Oconomowoc, WI 53066

Cary Sauer, M.D.
2651 B Barracks Rd
Charlottesville, VA 22901

William J. Ehlenbach, M.D.






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