“Working in an NGO means always being available for beneficiaries”

Moumita is a software professional and has been working in the IT industry as a Project Manager and Business Analyst for the past 15 years. Always having an interest in the social development sector, she finally took the decision of furthering this interest, quit her job last year and decided to work with NGOs.

Since she was fairly new to this sector and wanted to learn and understand the different areas that NGOs work in, before committing herself to a specific role or job, she thought that volunteering with NGOs would help her gain knowledge and gather experience.

She signed up as a volunteer with iVolunteer to get access to different kinds of volunteering opportunities and within a couple of days opportunities started rolling in with varied assignments ranging from teaching, designing, documentation, office-work etc.

The assignment that appealed the most to her was that of making an Annual Report for SHIELD Foundation, an NGO based in Dharavi. This NGO focusses on providing holistic care for the elderly, providing them free medical services and counselling, eradication of malnourishment, job skills training for needy women etc.

She met Swati Ingole, the founder of SHIELD Foundation at their Dharavi centre who explained to her about their work, the beginnings of SHIELD Foundation, their achievements over the years and the challenges they face. Moumita was most impressed with Swati’s own story of how she thought of establishing this organisation and found it really commendable that even with meagre resources available, they have managed to help so many elderly people in the community and have provided training and jobs to needy women.

Moumita was given the task of creating their previous year’s Annual report and give it an interesting layout and content. She listened to Swati’s experiences in conducting the programs, asked her several questions about their work, prepared the content and suitable introductions to present the outcomes of their interventions.

She also brought in an eye-catching template, organised the information into separate topics, added relevant photographs and created a professional looking annual report. In the process she visited their Dharavi centre a few times to talk to the other field-workers about what work they had done in the previous year and gathered stories from them about specific beneficiaries whose life was altered because of SHIELD’s intervention.

She spun these stories into heart-warming case studies, which brought out the real successes of their programs. A bit of research was also done to understand the various Government schemes which were mentioned in their programs which gave her a wealth of information about the ICDS facilities, Anganwaadis, terminologies used in malnutrition assessment, etc.

What she liked the most about this assignment was that while she would visit Swati for their discussions, she would see right in front of her eyes, many women approaching Swati for help who would patiently and expertly handle their concerns and guide them towards a solution in spite of being so busy.

Moumita Deb

Moumita Deb

“I realized that working in an NGO means always being available for the beneficiaries and that there are no strict compartmentalized responsibilities for the staff; one has to be available for all kinds of tasks at all times, as the situation demands” says Moumita. “I developed a warm rapport with Swati over the course of our talks and realised that people from my kind of corporate background could get priceless lessons in selflessness, humility and compassion from these interactions”

Moumita hopes to take back useful learnings about the social development sector and continue to lend her expertise and skills to many more such NGOs. “Thank you, iVolunteer for giving me access to so many meaningful opportunities and for giving me a chance to help such organisations” she says signing off.

A Wonderful Learning Experience

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.

“The small size of the group is good for interaction”

Ms. Shalini Gambhir, a CSR consultant and an alumnus of Delhi University and Delhi School of Economics volunteered her time and efforts in contributing towards GYAN an acronym for Get Your Answers Now. GYAN is an  initiative of iVolunteer that offers Volunteer led capacity building workshops for the Non Profit sector.

We spoke to Shalini about her eShalini-Gambhirxperience of conducting the session on “How to Pitch To a corporate” for the Non Profits in Bangalore. Her decision to volunteer and the following narration of her experience highlights the spirit of  peer learning within the sector;

Tell us something about yourself?

I am fortunate enough to be a part of both the corporate and social sector through the two caps I don. As the Head Community Services at NGO Bangalore Medical Services Trust, I design and head implementation of community outreach programs for youth, community members and workplace populations related to Life Skills, Gender, Gender Based Violence, Alcohol Abuse, Sexual & Reproductive Health and HIV/AIDS. As a CSR Consultant to Weir India I have designed their strategic CSR initiatives using the participatory approach. I also facilitate the implementation of their social responsibility initiatives in India. Straddling both sectors has helped me use my subject matter expertise to share best practices with both the sector.

 What is your take on volunteering in the development sector?

I think volunteering is a great motivational factor which is recognized the world over. It can be used as an effective tool for employee engagement and motivation in the corporate sector. It is an opportunity to do something beyond small charitable deeds such as making a donation in the temple, or, donating old clothes.

How did you know about GYAN & what motivated you to volunteer for the initiative?

10375127_818789621484187_7678976910724285642_nI learnt about GYAN through word of mouth. A friend of mine through my professional network referred me to GYAN. What motivated me to volunteer is that I wanted to find the time to share my knowledge of social sector with others who are working towards developmental goals. I had previously been approached by other NGOs to conduct sessions but couldn’t find the time for the same. So when you contacted me for the GYAN Session, it was a tipping point for me and I knew I had to make time for this.

 What was your overall experience of taking the GYAN session? 

It was a fulfilling experience for me. Apart from sharing what I could share I also learnt from the participants. It enabled me to know what others were doing in the social sector. Ours is not a cut-throat sector where people compete with each other. We all are working towards a similar goal and all our efforts add up in achieving it. Hence learning and sharing with each other becomes vital.

As a working professional in the social sector how do you perceive the GYAN approach to training?

960208_818789198150896_7393425688967411293_nThe small size of the group is good for interaction. The session was a nice mix of different sectors in the non-profit segment and it was better represented than the other sessions that I engage with. There were participants working towards disability, child rights and the like. The arrangement of the session was nice, neither was it too formal or informal which made the entire group feel like a whole. I didn’t feel myself apart from the group.

Would you consider volunteering for a GYAN session again ? Would you recommend other volunteers or NGOs to GYAN? If so why?

Yes, if you would like me to conduct another session, I would consider volunteering again. I would also recommend other volunteers and NGOs to take part in GYAN where they could share knowledge and learn from each other in a small group.

To read more about GYAN visit http://gyan.ivolunteer.in/

The other side of volunteering..

So I have been doing on and off volunteering for a couple of years or is that 2 decades now??  I know it started when I was in school and annually we would visit either an orphanage or an old age home. Religion too contributed significantly – at one point we were visiting a Hostel for girls every 2 weeks to teach and just talk to the kids. The passion grew and I took up psychology and social work professionally. Somehow, I was always always inclined to volunteering with children and I was able to continue doing the same at work – organizing opportunities for beneficiary related volunteering and events through CSR.

Ever since I got to know of iVolunteer’s Impact Projects – an opportunity for volunteers to share their skills with NGOs, thereby strengthening the functioning of the NGO, I wanted to get involved. Last year, I did one-off tasks for various NGOs. These projects made a lot of sense to me and gave me flexibility in my volunteering life….I could volunteer from home  or even while travelling on the bus to get back home by editing documents or making calls on behalf of the NGO. Given the fact that I had a two year old and travelled two hours a day, it made a lot of sense and I felt good that I was able to make a teeny tiny contribution to the NGO sector.

This year, I felt I needed to get more involved and when I read the annual report of the NGO Kili Kili, which works on inclusive play spaces in public parks, it thrilled me and I knew I just had to write and connect with them. I quickly met Kavitha Krishnamurthy, who is part of Kili Kili and Sampoorna Music Therapy centre (which is a hop, skip and jump away from home) and have been volunteering for them for three months now – I try to make it once in two weeks or whenever there is a requirement. So far, have helped them with a back log of reports – since they migrated to a new website, I was able to do some backend help. I have also helped create and maintain a mailing list of volunteers, and support the NGO with timely emails and reminders when there is a requirement/programme.Eventually, I hope to be a rapporteur for a monthly event they organize and partly help with their social media. I will continue to volunteer with them and more such organizations in whatever area they feel I can add value. It also helps me practice what I preach on the ethics of volunteering :)

Though these are small and probably insignificant tasks compared to what the NGO does in totality, it feels good to help out – I have a strong belief it helps the organization take its mind off these small tasks and move ahead… so that they can worry about the bigger things that are required to be put into place…and it gives them space to do what they do best…Serve! 


Random act of kindness

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.

“Our first and foremost duty is to serve humanity”

IMG_0098 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

  1. 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.

  1. 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?

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Thank You

Am going back to school !!

I visited a school the other day. It was part of the Corporate Employee Volunteering Program wherein we partner with corporate companies to design activities to promote volunteering among their employees. In this particular project we require getting permissions from schools to conduct an environmental awareness program for their students in partnership with a corporate company.

My stint at the school was about an hour or so when I was waiting for the School Principal to return to his cabin. He was taking one of his morning classes. I had arrived at the time when he was supposedly to be free ( or I was rather informed so by the administrator. ) As I waited in his office little did I know of the mischievous little adventures that would unfold!

A group of 6 – 7 students assembled outside the office room with small notes in their hands. One of them entered first and showed his note to the administrator. He wanted to take the day off. Why didn’t any of his parents accompany him to take the permission ? This was the school rule – emphasized the school administrator. The student dramatically explained touching his forehead and tummy that he was suddenly unwell and needed to go home. When asked to call home, he dialed and began speaking to his mother. Meanwhile the administrator got busy attending to other official work.

A second student entered and showed a permission note for taking leave. ‘Why didn’t you bring any of your parents ?’ ‘They are both out-of-town Madam’. ‘Then call your parents for me to speak to them’. ‘Sure Madam, once this boy puts the receiver down’. Only then did the administrator and me realized that our little friend who was suddenly unwell after reaching school was still on the call with his mother. He was speaking so softly that neither of us in the room could feel for a moment that somebody was on a call ! The administrator stormed at the boy and took the receiver to speak to his mother. Keeping the telephone receiver down, the administrator exclaimed:  ‘Is this your home land line or school property ?’. ‘Sorry Madam, I am just unwell, please let me go home’. ‘I think you better speak to the school principal when he returns’. ‘I already did so, he said I could go’. ‘Then no harm in talking to him again, please be seated outside’.


That hour of waiting didn’t feel like a waiting time at all ! I got a chance to go back to school and relive my own memories of being a student. It is such a very vital phase in our lives. What touches us now lingers and becomes a part of us and stays with us throughout our lives. Hence it becomes the moral responsibility of the schools, parents and the society at large to ensure that these young minds are aware and empathetic to the real issues around them. This can go a long way in making them tomorrow’s responsible citizens. Looks like our corporate partner has strongly realized this and wants to catch them young!


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