(Impact Volunteer Mrunmayee Satam recollects her volunteering for Fazlani Aishabai Haji Abdul Latif Charitble Trust)
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. – Theodore Roosevelt
It all began one fine evening when I received a call from iVolunteer. Fazlani Aishabai Haji Abdul Latif Charitble Trust required a volunteer photographer to capture their programs for children in Fazlani International School. The location was Lonavala and I was more than thrilled! It was going to be a new experience and I had my own apprehensions before I agreed to take up the task. There was a certain amount of doubt if I could live up to their expectations. However, I decided to give it a try!
Everything worked out well and we decided to shoot on a Saturday. Sameeya and Disha from Fazlani Trust were to accompany me. We took an early morning bus to Lonavala and the journey was through the picturesque Khandala Ghats offering breath taking views. Both Sameeya and Disha made me feel extremely comfortable throughout the journey and the moment we reached on sight I was thoroughly enchanted. The location was nothing less than paradise on earth.
The day was going to be an exhausting one. We were allotted a bungalow immediately for the day and provided with breakfast. Immediately afterwards we left for the school, I was expected to capture moments which would reflect the atmosphere at the school, various facilities and activities. The school was for the destitute kids; however every staff member had a special bond with each and every kid at the school. It was nothing less than one big family. I started working on my assignment but as the day progressed I began to connect with both the students and the staff who worked tirelessly for the kids. I clicked various aspects of the school life: the classroom setting, the art room, the gymkhana, toddlers enjoying educative cartoon series, students enjoying open air sports, the mess, etc. The Art Room fascinated me the most. There was a wide display of beautiful creations, creativity that the students possessed reflected through various artifacts and art work.
“Mrunmayee was very friendly, dedicated, focused, knew what she wanted. She interacted well with children and staff. Her photographs are amazing and they have been used for the basic website that we have now. We are in the process of upgrading our website and when it will be upgraded, you will see more photos of her - http://www.fazlanischool.org/index.html” – Sameeya Shaikh, Project Coordinator, Fazlani Aishabai Haji Abdul Latif Charitble Trust.
Capturing right moments with children is a challenge. However I managed to click portraits of the kids around the school campus and I was thoroughly overwhelmed by their sheer enthusiasm. They posed with confidence for the camera. They did their little gigs and tried to attract my attention towards them. They were beamingwith joy with the sheer idea that I was going to click their portraits! It was then I realized that happiness is about these million little things. In spite of various shortcomings in their lives, the kids were full of zeal and had vibrant dreams about their future. Unlike most of us, being blessed in every possible way we still have a lot to complain about. At the end of the day I had developed an attachment towards this institution, the people and the surroundings. I consider myself blessed to have been given an opportunity to go out spend a day with these kids and to capture innumerable precious memories that I had made within just a matter of few hours. It offered me a chance to go back and look in time when we were school going kids. School days are the most formative years of one’s life and these kids were indeed special.
This opportunity was truly a learning experience! It made me more confident as a person, I could interact with the kids better and the people around motivated and inspired me. I am glad I got an opportunity to give back to the society in my own little way. All the credit goes to iVolunteer who identified my passion and gave me the right volunteering opportunity; the entire experience was very enriching and satisfying. Photography has been my passion and through this project I was able to channelize my photography skills for a good cause. It surely touched my heart!
Meet Awais Tole an Impact Volunteer from Mumbai who has been using his skills to help Non-Profits !!!
- “I used to be a very anxious person. Interacting with new people used to be a challenge, however exposure to volunteering has helped me overcome the anxiety and now I am confident of approaching people.”
Tell us about yourself?
I have an Engineering degree in Electronics and Telecom. Worked with HCL and currently working with VU Technologies. My association with iVolunteer is one and a half years old. Photography has been my passion and through Impact Projects I am able to channelize my passion and skills in helping Non Profit Organisations.
Why have you decided to Volunteer?
I strongly believe that if you want to see change then ‘Be the Change’. One cannot sit and complain about the conditions that one is in, rather one has to be involved in the process of bringing change. I wanted to do my bit for the society in whatever way I could.
What were the volunteering projects that you have worked so far?
I have worked on three Impact Projects so for - With Fazlani Aishabhai Trust I have clicked photographs that would be used in their Annual Reports and Website. I captured their various programs in still which will contribute to their documentation.
Udaan Welfare Trust – I have covered two events that they have conducted with Children. Right I am working on making a short clipping of the last event which will help the organisation in better outreach. I have also helped my company CSR to donate Art Kits to students from under privileged community.
Any Challenges you faced?
Yes, it’s very difficult at times. Capturing right moments with children is a challenge. I used to be a very anxious person. Interacting with new people used to be a challenge, however exposure to volunteering has helped me overcome the anxiety and now I am confident of approaching people.
Any message that you have for volunteers?
If you can do it, go for it… If you don’t have time, don’t commit. People join classes like Martial Arts, Dancing Classes; they squeeze time out of their busy schedule because of their interest in the said activity… If one is interested in bringing about change then one will take out time for volunteering.
When I got the placement for Rwanda, the first thing that I tried to find out was; just where exactly the country was on the map?
I looked, but to my amazement, couldn’t really find it.
However eventually I did find out, it was this tiny little speck on the map, a speck so small that one literally needed to strain their eyes to track it!
On the face of it Rwanda looks like a miniscule country on any given map , but it’s a country with a cherished history of resilience , a country that has shown the world what it takes to bounce back from the brink of ignonimity after a whole generation had been wiped out through the genocide of 1994.
My decision to take up the placement therefore was spontaneous, it was spontaneous because I knew what a great opportunity this was, an opportunity to be part of rebuilding efforts for a newly resurgent country
I could never have imagined that starting with hardly being able to see where Rwanda was on Africa’s map I would go through one of the most wonderful journeys of my life, a journey that would enrich me as a person and would enable me to touch so many lives.
A VSO experience has got the capacity to do precisely that for you, it can help you connect with people at many levels and in so many different ways.
I joined my placement as a District Disability Advisor and my job was to advise the Ministry of Local Government on mainstreaming disability issues in Nyanza District
The effects of genocide, poverty and negatively engrained belief systems had left Rwanda faced with enormous challenges
The country had long been toying with ideas therefore to come out with an effective strategy for bettering lives of people with disabilities.
I went to Rwanda as part of this wider initiative of the government which in collaboration with VSO aspired to strengthen local government capacity on disability issues by creating structures at a local level to work on disability.
Working as a Disability Advisor for Nyanza District was one of my greatest successes,
As part of my job-role I was able to get diverse stakeholders, prominent among them being NGO’s, civil society, donor organizations and government departments on board for implementing the District’s action plan on Disability. I was also able to do a range of capacity building trainings for helping government functionaries at all levels understands their roles.
Rwanda is a beautiful country, very scenic and it is famously referred to as the land of a thousand hills as most of the country is made up of hills.
Night skies in Rwanda are a treat to watch, crystal clear and without a hint of pollution.
Bus journeys up and down the hills in Rwanda can be really fascinating, with breathtaking scenery to look forward to for miles together and a chance to mix with locals while travelling!
One thing I can never forget is the grand farewell that I recieved from the District just before leaving. the District had invited kep people from the Disability movement in Rwanda for the farewell.
It was a special feeling to be in the midst of so many important people and to be applauded by all.
A memento, a Rwandan basket specially crafted for me was presented to me as a token of appreciation for the work I had done in the district,
The basket had this inscribed on it-
” When we said hello to you, we never thought we would end up having to say goodbye so soon, times may take away our moments with you but our memories can always bring them back”
With tears in the eyes of Emmanuel my district counterpart I felt a lump somewhere deep inside of me as well which was telling me, wish I could stay just a little bit longer, wish I could maybe enjoy this beautiful country just a little bit more?
I couldn’t believe that this was going to be it and my wonderful journey in Rwanda was about to get over.
I’m so glad I made this journey, Rwanda a land of a thousand hills you are special to me and always will be,maybe some day I’ll see you again!
Thank you I Volunteer Overseas and thank you VSO for making this trip possible, I owe it to you guys
After having some work experience post my graduation, I wanted to pursue a unique course related something to social welfare. My work experience taught me as to how a person reacts during work pressures, situations and deadlines. I came to know that how a small amount of counseling can produce positive results. Once I started volunteering, I came to know that somewhere I have to make a difference. During my course of work experience, I found that people need some guidance or suggestion or rather counseling to help them come out of their problem. My volunteering skills helped me identify my passion.
This was effective when I was visiting Jerome’s Old Age Home in Bangalore under the guidance of Charlotte Rao, the then relationship manager at iVolunteer way back in 2006 -2007. Started going there once in a fortnight and tried my best to help them in getting groceries, vegetables, stationaries, clothes etc.
My First Volunteering experience
Diwali Celebration at Jerome’s Home
On 4th November 2008, myself n my close friend Sudarshan celebrated Diwali at Jerome’s Home ….an old age home in Kammanahalli, Bangalore.
There was an old ajji of about 99 years old. She sang some songs for us and we came to know that she has acted in Kannada movie in 50s opposite RAJKUMAR and the other grannies also started singing along with her. Then we distributed the walking sticks to everyone. They really looked very happy and we were just making lots of jokes and pranks with those people. We lighted crackers and gave it to all of them. They were really very happy to hold that because they have never ever celebrated Diwali in their life time. Everyone was so happy that they started blessing us one by one. Really this became one of my most memorable Diwali in my life time. Even though we were not financially stable but still we made sure that we spend little time with those people so that they can lead their remaining life happy and peacefully. Their blessings indeed helped us a lot
Most influential person
I always used to feel when I happen to see Hearing Impaired, Visually Impaired in bus stops, stations struggling to find way to cross, or finding out the address. I felt that although being perfectly abled, am not able to help them. I always observe them closely whenever I get chance. I always felt that they are the bravest souls in this earth, having accepted their disability still they fight and live their life with honor. Since I was more passionate about counseling, I wanted to do counseling esp. for HI, VI, and PD n so on. Even though I couldn’t able to pursue my PG in counseling, but still I made a point that I have to pursue my passion. So I was trying to find out sign language classes so that I can start communicating with Hearing Impaired.
Then I met a very very influential person, Prarthana Unkalkar Kaul, Regional Head, East and South. Prarthana is a super enthu energetic socially active person I have ever seen till date. She helped me identify my passion towards volunteering esp. with related to hearing impairment and in counseling. After attending the induction, my vision became clear and she gave me the details of Enable India which turned out to be my dream destination for pursuing my passion.
I also spoke with Shanthi Raghavan, the brain behind Enable India. After discussing with her, my vision became more clear and got confidence that I can indeed make an impact in society.
My First Achievement
My first ever achievement happened around 2011. As I am interested in counseling, so I got a task from Enable India to counsel and teach a Cerebral Palsy girl. I spoke to Vidya and got the details. I personally took this as a challenge. The day i stepped into the room for counseling, I decided that am not going to lose till I give my 100% or till she becomes totally confident. I started going to NGO daily after office hours. I made her emotionally stable, taught her so many general things about life, career, goal, family etc. I also included easy formulas to learn and practice English sentences and words. She practiced hard, counseled her so many times as and when needed. At the end of two months, she was able to speak in English, her confidence level increased and finally, she got the job in a BPO. She became more confident and now she is able to support her family too.
Introduction to Sign Language
After this assignment, I started picking up sign language by interacting with Hearing Impaired and with trainers esp. Reena and Esther, I started observing HI candidates who were attending employability training program, spent good time with them, understanding them, learning sign language and supporting them in their training whenever its needed. I was also being a part of registration and profiling for hearing impaired candidates during registration event. Once I started attending these events on regular basis, I discovered myself, my thought process; my way of thinking everything got changed. During job profiling I used to meet with different types of candidates from diff states, the one common factor with all these candidates was, inspite of having the disability, they look so active, energetic and highly passionate and they have that sense of responsibility to support their family. I can certainly say that from each n every candidate I met, I have picked up something to learn. I can happily say that HI’s whom I have recommended for employability training program; they got their dream job after successful completion of their training.
My first Impact project.
Enable India has CRO program which connects volunteers with PWD candidates for mentoring, supporting, guiding etc. Vidya assigned me a candidate named Ram (name changed), who has hard of hearing problem. I started teaching him about testing since he was interested in that field. Within a short span of time he learned all the concepts and was waiting for interview. But since the opportunities were not there, I advised him to go for scripting and certification. Days and months passed but still he was waiting. I was damn sure that if he gets an opportunity, he will convert that into offer. I cleared all his doubts whenever he asked, used to do counseling through chat, used to keep his morale high. After sometime, his confidence went down to such an extent that he stopped speaking to everyone. He felt that its difficult to sit idle in home for one year, he was totally upset and depressed. I pitched in again and told him other options. Spoke to him about .SECRET, meditation, visualization techniques. He started doing that. He also started focusing on Development and was learning all the concepts. This time I could see his confidence level growing up. Finally few months back, he got offer in one of the reputed companies. Finally he achieved his dream. I still remember the day when he mailed me about the offer. I could feel his happiness; it was evident that he achieved his dream on his own efforts. Best part was that he didn’t go to any centre to update his skills; he just updated everything through Net.
Experience in Suicide Prevention counseling
Since I was a part of one online suicide prevention counseling group, so I had a chance of counseling few people who were undergoing depression in some way. I used to order few motivational books to all my contacts personally. Many got changed, they reinvented themselves. All of these were done through chat. Successfully converted two cases of suicide attempt, I would rather say that they were about to take that last option, and I pitched at right time. For both of them, counseling were done through phone. Initial session went for some hours. Believe me, it’s really tough to make them understand that time. We have to make them realize the importance of life; we need to make them convince that still options can be worked out to lead better life. Once I felt that they were recovering from that trauma, then it became little bit easier for me to take it further. I also gave some small-small exercises to help deal with the problem. They recovered fully after few days. Now both of them are doing well. Felt happy that at-least I can able to save two lives. This experience also taught me so many other things which proved helpful when I did related counseling with few other people. Through counseling I have made couple of friends outside India also.
Second Impact project
I got an opportunity to train few HI employees of one company for basic life skills, office etiquettes, target accomplishment etc. Initially I was no nervous to teach them in sign language but Reena, Junaid supported me and I kick started my first ever training for hearing impaired candidates exclusively in sign language. Finally I was accomplishing my short-term dream of taking training sessions for HI’s. During the course of training, I also picked up so many signs from the candidates. Through this project, I got the chance to fine tune my sign language skills.
Currently I am teaching sign language to a low vision, hard of hearing person. This person has an amazing attitude, has good communication skills and the best part is that she is working in a reputed company. Initially it was little bit tough to teach but later it became easier. We really need to be very calm, have patience and make them understand the signs by holding their hand and signing. The sessions are going good and she has started communicating basic sentences in sign language
Amidst of all these, I keep attending events which helps me to connect with different sorts of people, to understand their problem, to help them whenever there is a need.
All the credit goes to Prarthana for identifying my passion, molding me and guiding me in right path. I have learnt so many things from her by being part of some memorable events. My special thanks to Vidya from Enable India who has been guiding me in all my projects.
When my profile was matched to Ovurkhangai health Department, Arvikeeir, Mongolia, I had quite a few apprehensions about language, extreme climate and an alien culture. However the fears were allayed sooner than anticipated, as the people were rather friendly and supportive.
Having worked in development sector since 1998, especially for issues related to public health, I have been associated with a consultancy firm working in development sector across the globe before joining VSO.
It was indeed a unique experience to contribute to uplifting of human health, of a society greatly lacking in knowledge of English (especially in my area of work). A dedicated interpreter was the best source to bank upon, to understand the ethos of the men we had to interact, in order to serve them the best. The importance of dedicated interpreter became more significant since none of the team members were well versed at English, this made the experience very interesting as gesticulations and body language skills dominated the process of understanding human minds.
In the scenario it was prudent to learn the culture and make friends so as to better grasp the body language /gestures so as to reach out to the beneficiaries ASAP.Fortunately this worked quite well and a rapport was established easily. Average annual temperatures in Ulaanbaatar remain around 0°C, making it the world’s coldest capital city. Country is situated at higher altitudes and faces dry & windy conditions with prolong winters, short summers.
The EU funded project “Improving health through community volunteering and empowerment” was similar to Indian “National rural health mission” a government of India`s public health program to provide quality health services to un served rural population through community health volunteer called ASHA(Accredited Social Health Activist); hence the goals were strikingly easy to implement. The Project immensely helped me use and sharpen my individual skills however there were times which imbibed self introspection and re-invent the man within. Help and support from the local populace was the best to happen in the interests of the Project success besides I learnt to happily live with barest minimum amenities.
Professionally I enjoyed sharing skills and learning from everyone in contact. This enabled me contribute my best towards developing training calendar, IEC(Information education and Communication) materials for community volunteers and take part in capacity building activities. Field visits to other soums (district), conducting trainings for community health volunteer was really most enjoyable as well as learning experience. Interpreters’ personal lives almost always took priority over their work so they were quite difficult to manage and not always reliable. They didn’t seem to understand that we needed them to be there for the full working day, even if there was no written translation, in case we needed to speak to someone.
To conclude, I am thankful for the opportunity coming my way. The Mongolian friends were so nice that I would like to proudly carry them through the life time. The new culinary learning’s are pallet lingering and the culture unforgettable.
Every Project does leave lessons to learn and prepare for the next opportunity in better professional manner. Availability of a proactively dedicated interpreter will surely make the Project rather enjoyable to implement and helpful to the target beneficiaries.