A Detour From Routine

Meet Sagnya Das, a young software engineer from Bangalore… Here is her story of virtual volunteering amidst her busy and routine IT lifel! 

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I was a Software Engineer frustrated with my routine life. Sounds like a cliché, Right?

Yet it was true. Sitting in a tiny cubicle in this sprawling city of Bangalore made me crave for a different experience, a sense of purpose!

Hence I started volunteering. My encounter with volunteering activities started with CSR activities in my previous company, Infosys. The experiences had profound impact on me .They gave me a way to connect with people and in a way with myself. After I moved from Infosys, I was looking for a similar kind of opportunity. I was Googling and found iVolunteer, an organization which brings volunteers and NGOs to the same table for social development. Hence without delay I signed up and forwarded my resume.

Since I had some experience in CSR activities, I was mapped to an NGO – Cheshire Homes India which was looking at positioning itself better among the corporate circle and wanted volunteers to help collect data on corporate CSR spending and specifically those that fund projects on Disability – for training, education and employment search. My project was to collect information regarding contributions by various corporate to the field of disability. I studied annual financial reports of corporate to find their budget allocated to CSR activities in disability sector. After a few days I had short listed a few companies having headquarters in Bangalore who contributed towards disability sector. The study was enriching personally as I came across many unique initiatives started by organizations to help people with special needs. An initiative which stood out was that of a free match – making service provided by Bharat Matrimony, a thoughtful initiative indeed!

I proceeded to collect contact information of CSR anchors. This was a bit tricky since details are not readily available on the website or the internet. I reached out to my network of friends and family working in those companies and slowly the information started building up. Following this, I drafted a Concept letter to be sent by the NGO to those companies appealing to join hands in this initiative – to help people rewrite their destiny.

At the end of a month’s time, I handed over the data and the concept letter to Cheshire Homes India, and I felt happy to have contributed, although in a small manner, to their cause and their visibility as an organization.

This venture has given the perfect detour from my routine life and an opportunity to interact with people working for a vision which has inspired me. In the course of this project, I gained insights on work being done by people in this sector. Over visits to Cheshire Home, I saw people working to make the world a kinder place and I am glad to have got a small part in it.

To volunteer with us, click here! 

Volunteering grooms you!!

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What happens when one picks up a job which he doesn’t want to but manages to complete it with a victorious grin?? The job becomes the most cherished memory of life for that one.

So was the case for a rural volunteering project which was thrown at me in a remote location with limited hands, resources and budget. I had no intentions to execute this one, I did however because of having no choices but I can look back and see it to be the most enriching, cherished and happiest projects of my life… I have handled over 100 mass volunteering engagements and have been leading Pan India corporate volunteering projects for over 3 years now but this was the one which taught me the MOST!

I learnt many things but the ones which I will continue to groom are:

  • How relationships develop from just a volunteer to a friend,
  • How you can rely on your network and give them an unique experience which will keep them coming back to you,
  • How you can groom a new joinee and
  • How your so called office boy takes away the lions share in planning and execution.
  • People management is my forte but managing people who have no accountability to you is something which I learnt in this project.
  • Monitoring a project remotely and able to complete it within the time frame was another learning.

The real importance of team work, multiple sites at same location, adhering to the time-frame and ability to get attention of 250+ people at the same time was truely amazing. What takes to be my most memorable moment in the project was orienting 250+ people and never losing their attention to anything else in surrounding J I am getting better- Thanks Shalabh for pushing me in this and for giving me yet another opportunity to prove myself!!

Virtual Volunteering – A quick memoir

I have always made small monetary contributions towards good causes. However just donating money did not count as a big deal to me. This talk by Simon Sinek explains why giving away your time and effort is more important than giving away money. Also I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and get an insider view on the issues.

This is when the “Impact Volunteer” opportunity came about. Considering the amount of time I had at hand, I signed up for a virtual volunteering project from their monthly list.

Cut to the chase. What did I work on?

NeedBaseIndia wanted to have a payment gateway integrated in their website. Third party transfer works, however it is not as convenient as being able to donate with you credit or debit card.

After some research we were able to identify a Payment Gateway provider who was willing to provide the service at zero installation charge and zero annual maintenance cost for nonprofits. So we quickly got to work with completing their Merchant Application process. I visited NeedBaseIndia once to explain them what I had in mind about the integration and got their feedback. Needless to say, even though I was mostly doing virtual volunteering, a personal visit always inspires you to get the job done well.

While I was at it, Sumukha Foundation had already completed the paperwork with the same Payment Gateway provider. So it was just a matter of making some code changes. Both websites went live with Payment Gateway integration about the same time.

It was not smooth sailing throughout though. Paperwork took a while for NeedBaseIndia. We were delayed because of some logistical issues. Even after the MOU was signed the nodal account setup took longer than usual. A lot of follow up was required.

However the nonprofit founders Mr. Rahim and Dr. Sunil were very helpful and patient through all this.

We have tested both websites and they are ready to receive donations through Debit and Credit cards. Please do have a look and contribute if you feel compelled by the cause.

  1. NeedBaseIndia
  2. SumukhaFoundation

My contribution is minuscule in comparison to the work that actual grass root level volunteers do. However making a little dent through the Impact Volunteer program has at least got me started. Hope to keep the ball rolling and continue paying it forward.

When all the bananas of the world united…

I first learnt about the energizer called banana dance in college during our rural camp. Fast forward to 2014 I relived the enjoyment of doing the same energizer during a training program on Volunteer management.

Just lately the banana dance was performed with 5th grade students at a school run by a NGO. There were 2 other volunteers in the classroom who joined in conducting it. They belonged to the group of 17 volunteers from a corporate company as part of their Corporate Employee Engagement Program facilitated by iVolunteer. The children loved the banana dance and remembered most of the lyrics when we did it for the second time.

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So the children were excited. We continued their excitement by engaging them in games that were planned. The sheet of instructions on playing jumbled words on Indian sports was handed over to the teacher. She wrote them on the board. But wait there was also the 6th grade with 3 corporate volunteers! I had only one sheet of the activity! It was not easy to remember jumbled words and write them from memory. After all they are jumbled with no logical sequence!

On visiting the 6th grade I found the volunteers informally interacting with the children. They were getting them into smaller groups as discussed. So time was right to jump into the activity. How about playing ADZAP ? Before coming to the class I carried the chits for the activity. All the children had to do was to plan an Ad on a thing mentioned in the chit that they select. For example advertising a toothpaste, soap or a bicycle. Well it is another story how the word bicycle got misunderstood by one group, or rather by one student as recycle! Having got this started I made my journey to the 5th graders.

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5th graders were all busy deciphering the jumbled sports’ names. They were also learning about new sports such as tennis, badminton. The 6th graders were busy too discussing with the volunteers on creating the ads. Shunting between the two classes made me miss some of the ads being performed in the 6th grade. But then it was all worth it as the activities went well and the volunteers spent good time with the children.

Few learning’s for me from the entire episode – the kids like the energizer called banana dance. So it is a safe option as an ice breaker next time there is an activity with children. Also, It is alright to have more activities planned as one never knows when it may come in handy! Do you want to try banana dance with your kids ? Here are the lyrics. You can add actions and tune to it to make it more fun! Note: The lyrics might be slightly out of order :)

All the bananas of the world unite

Peel banana, peel peel banana (2)

Slice banana, slice Slice banana (2)

Squish banana, squish squish banana (2)

Eat banana, eat eat banana (2)

Shake banana shake shake banana (2)

Go banana go go banana!! (2)

Heroes are made by the paths they choose…

“When everyone else is silent about wrong someone has to raise their voice for the right. We can be that voice”, says Kushal Tanna a Mumbai based graphic designer by profession, an artist at heart and a HERO!

Kushal began his volunteering journey developing a website for a Mumbai based Non Profit that rescues victims of human trafficking. He is not able to pinpoint that exact moment when his commitment to the cause led him to transcend volunteering from skill based projects to actually accompanying the Non Profit team on rescue missions.

Kushal Tanna, Finalist iVolunteer Awards

Kushal Tanna honoured at the iVolunteer Awards ceremony

Since then however, there has been no looking back. His family and friends are concerned about his safety, but Kushal assures them that he will be careful and continues to volunteer. He says, “50 million people today are stuck in world of modern day slavery and there is a need for people who are willing to do things to change this… ”

Like Kushal, Kesavan Selvaraj also took up volunteering by signing up to help with a website development project. Based out of Bangalore, and working as an Architect with IBM he was introduced to volunteering as part of their employee volunteering programme.

While working on the website for Aishwarya Trust he found out that approximately 9 out of 100 babies are affected by Congenital Heart Defect (CHD). Many of whom succumb to this disease because of the lack of awareness.

Experiencing the joys of parenthood with his son and the realization that Mrs. Chitra, founded the NGO after she lost her three year old daughter to the very same disease deeply influenced his volunteering journey.

He says, “Every parent knows the pain of watching your child suffer from any ailment or disease. I met someone

Kesavan Selvaraj

(Mrs. Chitra) who is helping many parents, relieving them of some trauma caused by watching their children suffer from Congenital Heart Defect (CHD)… That’s how I too began calling her ‘AMMA’ (Mother).”

Kesavan continues to volunteering at Medical camps and uses platforms like the 4K Run to spread the word and do his bit in saving young lives.

Kesavan and Kushal are not alone; heroes are living in every nook and corner of our vast nation.

From college students and working professionals to retired people, volunteers of all ages are partaking in astounding acts of kindness and bravery.

Saluting this spirit at the iVolunteer Awards ceremony actor Abhishek Bachchan said, “Every cause is worth volunteering for… I believe actions speak louder than words and if each of us does our duty and volunteers in our own capacity, we can go a long way.”

About the Awards:

The iVolunteer Awards celebrate, reward and promote volunteering in India. We have set out on on our third annual  campaign to bring to light stories that inspire by example.

iVolunteer Flood Relief work report

Our initial work in Uttarakhand on Flood relief has come to an end. Now what is left is construction of a house that we promised in a village.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who contributed to our relief work in Uttarakhand. A report on the work that iVolunteer did can be found here. Uttarakhand Flood Relief Initiative – iVolunteer and Himjoli

‘We were intrigued by the name of the NGO’

Interacting with young minds can not only be energizing but instills a sense of responsibility. What you say and do can influence them greatly. This is something that my colleague and me experienced when we had college students from a nearby university at our office. They were required to complete their 25 hours of internship with us. They were just straight out of high school and in their first year of college education. One of the students who interned with us has shared a blog on her experiences. Sharing her thoughts with you…

I am Yasmin Naaz. I am pursuing BBA from Christ University, Bangalore. I love reading books, listening to music and enjoy the beauty of the nature. I like helping others so when the opportunity of volunteering came up I just could not let it pass. We were required to spend 25 hours with an NGO as a volunteer for our Social Responsibility Project.

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Volunteering is about serving others and giving whatever you can without expecting in return, wholeheartedly.  I and my friends chose the NGO – iVolunteer, for our Social Responsibility Project. We were intrigued by the name of the NGO; moreover we saw good feed-backs from people who volunteered there. The fact that it was nearby was an advantage for all of us.

iVolunteer is an organization which helps in promoting volunteering and encourages the volunteers. It renders its services to other NGOs by providing the volunteers they need.

None of us had a clear idea about volunteering and how a NGO which helps promoting volunteering works, but we decided to give it a shot. We were nervous about what would we have to do or if at all we would be able to do the tasks, but in the end it was worth it.

On our first day, we were asked to search stories for children on moral values like humility, honesty, service, dedication etc. Though the task seems small but it revoked forgotten memories of our own childhood and helped in remembering that no matter of what age we were these, morals will always guide us. We had fun while finding good stories. The next task for that day was to make a poster for an upcoming event for the NGO, which was equally fun. We actually got to imply what we learnt in English all these years.

The task for our second day was to write about volunteering, different kinds of volunteering and recognizing the NGOs which support and promote volunteering. While doing this task we got familiar with what volunteering means for different kinds of organization and the kinds of volunteering that exist providing a wide range of choices for people to choose from if they are interested. Last but not the least, we got to know different NGOs around which promote volunteering. This task was an eye opener for us, as we all weren’t familiar with how an NGO works which promotes volunteering.

On our third day, each of us was asked to pick two NGOs and write about its vision, mission, and causes it supports, kinds of volunteers it needs and how it operates. After this were asked to work on iVolunteer’s database (of NGOs) in terms of removing duplicate data and filling the missing information.

All in all, it was a learning experience for all of us about how an NGO works and the importance of volunteering.

We had a enjoyable experience with you Yasmin! Here’s wishing you and your friends a brighter future ahead :) 

 

 

 

 

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