Something about yourself
Well…I am a MBA and Engineer by education and it’s too early to figure out which one dominates. The one thing I strongly believe is that there is so much to learn from every experience and the key is to keep absorbing!!!
Why they decided to volunteer
I have had some volunteering stints before and was always interested in doing more. Volunteering experiences have always been enjoyable and thought-provoking. Of late, I had a bit of time and wanted to contribute and learn from the experience of interacting with a NGO at a strategic level. The opportunity that came up provided all this and much more. The fact that I have healthcare domain experience was also a driving factor in engaging with this particular NGO (Sumukha Foundation).
What was the volunteering project
The stint provided an opportunity to contribute to growth plans of the Sumukha Foundation. Sumukha works in the healthcare space and aims to perform free surgeries for children with conditions such as cleft lip. The idea here was to come out with a marketing strategy that could create a sustainable flow of funds into the NGO and help it positively impact the lives of many young children. We looked at various aspects including service offering details, staging and promotions. We also engaged on the HR strategy in terms of candidate hiring.
What were the challenges
It was a pleasure to meet and discuss with Dr. Sunil, who I think comes with such clarity and vision. Dr. Sunil is a veteran dental surgeon and actively teaches in several institutions. He has a very clear and noble purpose in life that he is trying to achieve via the NGO. The idea is to provide treatment and surgeries for the needy, especially children at very high quality levels.
The discussions we had were very constructive and with the experience and knowledge of Dr. Sunil, it was not difficult to come out with a plan. The project took about a month of engagement where most of the work went into outlining marketing plans for creating visibility for the NGO. The biggest challenge in this space is to communicate the purpose of the NGO and showcase its genuine intent. The other key challenge is staging where the plan needs be broken down into steps and agree on timelines and outcomes.
What has been the output
We came out with a phase-wise approach and the first set of actions have been detailed out. The plan lists an integrated set of items that includes social media campaigns, a dental care service initiative and other promotional activities. Once, this was done, it has now come down to execution, which is the critical aspect. I am confident and sincerely wish that Dr. Sunil and Sumukha foundation are successful in their noble mission.
Recently I was standing outside a mall waiting for my ride to get home when I noticed this elderly couple who I thought was trying to cross the road. They would walk right in middle of the road which was experiencing a mad traffic rush and would return back to the pavement looking disheartened. The elderly gentleman was trembling and the woman holding on to his shoulder was carrying a grocery bag in the other hand.
I walked up to them and offered help when I realized that they were infact looking for a rickshaw. If you stay in Mumbai you would know that getting a rickshaw at a peak traffic time for short distance is an arduous task. My next few minutes went in pleading, threatening and arguing with atleast 10 rickshaw drivers when finally one person agreed. God Bless him!! The couple happily bid their goodbyes to me from the rickshaw and I felt a sense of achievement. I had volunteered!
Lot of people I talk to often express the desire to volunteer. They have the willingness to do something but cannot make time to take on formal assignments. So here is my bit to solve this problem. Each one of us can do random acts of kindness without disturbing our routine. Here is a handy list that can help anyone to do small acts of kindness
- Give a lift : Its getting more and more difficult to find rickshaw’s and taxi’s these days and you will see so many of them plying with single passengers. You can always offer someone to ride with you and ask them to do the same in future.
- Offer your seat: If you are blessed with good health offer your seat to someone who really needs it. You will always find tired faces with heavy laptop bags, women with children, elderly people who would need the seat more than you. So go on show some chivalry!
- Connect people: The simplest act ever! There is always someone or the other in need of getting connected to someone – a future employer, a vendor or even a potential life partner. Don’t hesitate to introduce or connect. You never know how it might help.
- Treat manual laborers more kindly: Offer water/tea to electricians, plumbers, courier guys who would visit your house. They have demanding schedules and strenuous jobs.
- School books: Our kids would always have more note books that they will ever fill and then there are those who would write in small handwriting to let the notebooks last longer in schools. These kids are everywhere – in a neighbouring municipal school, creches near construction sites and orphanage’s near your house. Collect and donate these books to children who really need them.
If you look around there are so many opportunities to do little acts that can make someone’s day and yours too.
Ms Roma Mehta, from Living Design, a design house that believes that design and creativity elevates communication. She has created promotional material in print and digital media for nonprofits and foundations in Taiwan, Australia, DRC Congo and India. She manages a design and print business in Taiwan and is now based in Kolkata. Roma also loves art and works on creative art projects with children. Coming from a family where serving the society was an integral part of prescribed duties, volunteering comes naturally to Roma therefore she is an avid volunteer and for many initiatives like Daan Utsav, GYAN etc. Her GYAN workshop on Powering Your Presentation was a roaring success in Kolkata
- Tell us something about your move and interest to the development sector?
My involvement and work in the development sector is not new. It has been an integral part of my life since I was a child. For 35 years, my father managed a free school for street kids, a Narishala as an income generation project for women, and a Mass Feeding of the Poor which still happens every Sunday on Sudder Street. After moving to Taiwan, I have been involved with fund raising, organsing charities and providing print collateral for non-profits from many different sectors of the NGO world. It seemed natural to join Daan Utsav in Kolkata and continue the flow of work related to the development sector. Our first and foremost duty is to serve humanity.
- How did you know about GYAN & what motivated you to volunteer for the initiative?
I learnt of GYAN through Tanveer. He has been attending the Daan Utsav Volunteer meetings at my office and this is how we got to know each other. When Tanveer suggested that I participate in the GYAN initiative, I was more than willing to help NGOs improve their visual communication tools. Visual language is my main line of work and if I can help people that are in the business of uplifting humanity, what better use could there be of my skills?
- How was your experience of taking the GYAN session? Any take ways for you as a volunteer?
The workshop was an excellent experience. It was good to be able to give some much needed pointers on better communication through PowerPoint. My suggestions would include better channels for feedback and follow up. I don’t think that one day is sufficient for a workshop like this if it needs to be effective. Two or three sessions would give participants a chance to put the knowledge they gain into practice; allow the mentor to show them how to improve their existing presentations; allow new presentations to be made in accordance with the basic rules of effective presentations.
- Now working as a professional in this sector do you think the GYAN approach to training is beneficial in the sector?
Yes, I do believe this is a good initiative. However, as mentioned above, some of the topics require more than one day of participation.
- Would you recommend GYAN to volunteers as well as NGO’s? If so Why?
Definitely. I would recommend it to NGOs. Most of them are so busy with the work they are doing and have neither the time nor the resources to develop their communications. These workshops can become a good way to gain bite sized knowledge and skills.