After completing the registrations on Sunday, 15th June, I collected my registration kit and went through the booklet provided and was thrilled to see so many parallel sessions to attend over the next 3 days. With so much of excitement, I was marking my sessions and was trying to figure out what all other sessions I should not miss out. I had planned to visit the Georgia Aquarium (which is a world famous and the largest aquarium of the globe) in the evening but networking with people took me a lot of time and I couldn’t do anything else except meet people (There are 6000 registrants! huh!!!). At 6.00 we had the bus ready to pick us up for the America’s Sunday Supper, a networking dinner for the conference attendees. There was a concert as well at the King’s memorial but I planed to attend the Supper given the fact that it would lead me to get to know a lot of new people. The Supper was at Paschal’s a restaurant which had a history associated with it where people spoke about the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King and the history of the city!. It was very interesting to listen to people from all over the world come together and talk one single thing, that was Volunteering and Services!. After the dinner, I moved to another volunteer’s house which was closer to the conference venue. I was excited and was looking forward for the next day!
16th June, Monday : Day 1.
The sessions this day was planned from 8.00 in the morning and I had opted to attend Strategic Volunteer Engagement. The session had around 150 participants and the hall was full. The session had a lot of interaction planned and not just was on a presentation mode. I happened to interact with almost everyone at my table. Some of them was amazed to learn that I had 10 years of volunteering experience and one of my table made said that I must have been the presenter at this session :-). Probably next year. I could relate to almost everything that was presented at the session!. The second session I had opted was also on Strategic Volunteer Engagement but it was meant more for companies. I thought it would be helpful for me to use the ideas I get from this session when I interact with corporates in engaging their employees to volunteer. However, this session was focused more American centric and I was not able to connect to it for a while. I must say that I got a little bored in between at this session. This went on till 12.00 noon and immediately after this we had international meet up session for the international paricipants.
Gared spearheaded the session and he updated that we had participants from 35 different countries and this session was the most engaging one because everything in the session happened on interaction mode. Gared would post a question and ask us to connect with someone who we don’t know and get to talk to them. We learned about perception, optimism, pressing issues and why and what different people were doing across the globe. Below is a photo from that session. Caroline from Handson Network, Honkong with me.
Immediately after this I had to attend the next session which was on Entrepreneurial Volunteering. This session had to discuss the possibilities of social entreprenuership opportunities that companies should offer to their employees to bring out the best of volunteering service to the society. Very interesting and gripping session. In this session we were given a group activity where the groups were posted 4 different problems and were asked to come up with a solution and the best solution would be awarded $4000 to get it implemented. (Hypothetical though). Amazingly, almost every table had to present the solutions (i.e is a working business model) for the problems posted and it was amazing that within 20 minutes of time everyone could device a plan!. That was the kind of experience people across the table had. The judges finally decided that every solutions of ours were brilliant and declared we all won! :-). After the session I got time to talk to the jury of judges and build network with them. I learned that Glaxo has a program where it offers their employees to take 6 months break from work and assign them to a non-profit to work with them. This was a skill based volunteer opportunity and I felt that I can induct some volunteers for our program.
The session ended at around 3.30 and that is where I realized that I hadn’t taken my lunch. It was 30 minutes before we had the Opening Planery. We quickly rushed to the Main Street Exhibit hall where there were a few restaurant counters and grabbed something quick to eat and moved to the Opening Planery hall. The event kicked off with Neil Bush welcoming all and then the Mayor of the City of Atlanta Mr. Kasim Reed giving a welcome speech. Then we had 2 great panel discussion, one moderated by Dr. King’s daugther which had 3 panelists who closesly worked with Dr. Martin Luther King and they shared about their experience on civil rights movements. On a whole the entire discussion was something which was invaluable and they all summarized that love, peace and courage are the things which keeps everyone going!. Very inspiring. This panel was followed by another discussion which had Chelsea Clinton moderating it!. It showed how optimist people are and threw light on so many great things happening across the globe!.
Then we had the hollywood actor Tyler Perry share his life and the Points of Light he had at every phase of his life. That was too inspiring!. After the closure of the Opening Planery, I had to rush to find out the venue for the Corporate Service Council dinner and it took a while before figuring it out. Learned that it was happening at Metro Atlanta Chamber but before moving there we also briefly went to the restaurant where A Bilion Change networking meet was happening. Then we went to the Metro Atlanta Chamber were I had to briefly present the story of my volunteering over a decade. After having a couple of round of drinks everyone got settled over their table and the evening began with the POL President Tracy welcoming the guests and Neil Bush setting the stage for the people to share their story to inspire. We had Mr. Kewku Mandela, grandson of Mandela sharing his work in South Aftrica through the africa Raising Foundation and finally Shalabh opened the stage to me. I spoke briefly for about 4 minutes (I’ll write what I spoke in a separate post) and later people who gathered around me said that the speech was so much inspiring. The dinner had top level executives from Fortune 100 companies across the table. Some of them came to me and discussed the possibilities of working together. Many said that they’ll need help in getting their employees engaged in volunteering in India. I had exchanged business cards with them before I left for the evening around 9.30. I was too tired and was hoping to catch up with a quick shower after reaching home!…
It was overall a very happening and fruitful day!.. I am looking forward to more excitement in the next couple of days!