I am a software engineer by qualification. After completing my engineering, I realized that working for hours in IT firms would only satisfy the employers and not me even though I have immense love for my subject. As life took its course, I found myself in Delhi preparing for civil services with an aim to get into the system and bring a change.
On a fine sunny afternoon, I was soothing myself with a cup of ice-cream when a kid came running to me and held my hand and asked “how does it feel to have that ice-cream in this weather?”. I did give him a cup and he ran away happily but he left behind a string of questions.
Does development only mean the rise in GDP rates, erection of flyovers, skyscrapers and grand malls? What future are we ensuring for that kid and millions like him? I had made up my mind that I won’t wait to get into the system to do something for the society.
A friend of mine gave me a list of few NGOs operating in Delhi and I tried to contact all of them but to my dismay, none of them had any openings. That’s where iVolunteer came into picture and Rubitah gave me an opportunity to write newsletters for an NGO-Udyam<www.udyamprayas.org>. To be frank, I had no idea about what a newsletter was. But, as Wayne Gretzky has said – “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”, I decided to give it a shot.
Neeru Juneja,Founder of Udyam invited me for a meeting at her place and we talked about what she was looking for. When I told her that I had never ever written a newsletter and that would be my first shot at something like that,I thought she wouldn’t pose much faith in somebody like me, that too for her organisation’s first ever newsletter, and would look for somebody else. But, we had a good general interaction and Neeru mam offered all her help in getting the job done. I started visiting Udyam more often to get more familiarized with the way it functions. I still remember the first day I visited the centre and met with the children-they were so excited and receptive. I met with almost all the volunteers and teachers and jotted down their experience.
Udyam was facing some volunteer crunch for class XII students in this period and I offered my help to teach political science. But the students were of Hindi medium and I was not very comfortable with some of the terms. So,Mam asked me to take an introductory class to check if students felt it right. To my surprise, they wanted me to take their class again and that’s how I started teaching at Udyam.
Meanwhile, Neeru mam and other board members wanted to restructure their website and make it more organized. They wanted my support in writing the content for different sections of the website and redesigning the website. I was not great with the coding part and hence I took help from a friend of mine who was working in an IT firm in Bhubaneswar. This is how I started with my 3rd project in Udyam which was definitely not an easy one. Initially we were not able to come up with the required designs but we never gave up. After 10 demo versions, we came up with something which the board members felt good about and our design was finalized.
I also volunteered for Seeds India in a fundraising event for the cyclone victims of Odisha. We were supposed to spread the word that rehabilitation is probably as important as the relief work and a lot needs to be done to restore the normalcy in their life. This direct interaction with people was a different experience altogether.
Reflecting on my journey…..
All this has been a life-changing experience. I feel volunteering is a rewarding way of giving something back to the community.
It’s also a great alternative to donating money or giving money to beggars because it enables you to be personally involved in the cause and to see the results of your work firsthand.
To bring a smile in a child’s face and to know that you are the reason behind it, brings satisfaction and happiness of a different kind-something that I had never felt to be honest. Its like if you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else. When you change for the better, the people around you will be inspired to change.
It was amazing to see so many people working towards a cause with so much energy just to make our society a better place. This actually rescued my mind from the cynicalness and the negativity that sometimes people tend to develop over a period of time. It worked as an excellent stress buster when I realized how blessed I am to have the life that I have.
Working with Neeru mam was a splendid experience to say the least and I feel privileged to have had this opportunity. It is simply unbelievable the way she has been running this for 15 years. I have learnt so much from her. Her patience, modesty, perseverance, commitment, hard work, selflessness among many other enviable traits are something which I would like to incorporate into my life.
Working with the team of Udyam gave me a feeling of responsibility and positive self-esteem. I have acquired patience, confidence, and personal fulfillment by serving others, and, moreover, I have experienced a real sense of team spirit. I went there with an intention to make a difference in lives of few kids, but it’s startling how it has brought a difference to my life.
Teaching the students is never easy and it wasn’t easy here as well. Sometimes, when we volunteer ourselves for such activities we tend to expect a bit too much from the students and that’s where we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are. Some other volunteers at Udyam also faced similar issues. At the end of the day they are kids and one has got to be patient with them. I would like to advise the new volunteers to come empty minded and not expect anything in return. Just do what you can, with what you have, where you are and remember Mother Teresa’s words:
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love”
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