Youth Connect: Volunteer from Home was a virtual session organized by MASH Project Foundation with Bhumi as the partners which is one of India’s largest independent youth volunteer non-profit organizations on 30th September 2020 from 4:30 PM to 5:30 PM (IST).In order to connect with the audience and to engage them, #MASHkot Nandani Agarwal who was the moderator of the event, began a little chit-chat session with the audience about volunteering.

With the current pandemic situation going on, the situation and the lifestyle has changed altogether. With the imposition of social distancing and staying at home, many challenges have arised. But, if we employ this time in a right way, we can do a lot of things that are beneficial for ourselves as well as for others. There are a lot of things that can be done staying within the walls of your home.

This brings to our notice the concept of volunteering from home which is required more than ever now. Through volunteering we get new perspective of the world, we practice empathy and we actually become the teacher that we never knew we were. Most importantly, through volunteering we actually contribute our bit to change the world. It’s an effort to change the world which might look small to us but it’s actually very huge. 

This thoughtful session was organized under Daan Utsav: the festival of giving week. It is celebrated every year across India from 2nd October to 9th October. It is India’s biggest festival of giving during which people come together and perform acts of kindness by giving their time, material or money in interesting ways to any cause(s) of their choice.

Four speakers were invited in the session, who shared their volunteering experience. They were the young leaders from diverse background working in development sectors. They shared their experience and encouraged the volunteers to contribute their skills and efforts in this time of crisis.

Our first speaker, Ms. Maniti Modi is the co-founder of ConnectFor. She herself was a volunteer when she was a student. She wanted to do something in the development sector for which she co-founded ConnectFor which is a platform that ensures proper and funded volunteering opportunities for all those who want to volunteer. ConnectFor is a platform that connects volunteer to different NGOs. They have worked with 450 NGOs across India. The main vision is to make volunteering accessible for all and making it impactful. According to Maniti, there are great benefits of volunteering from home. It’s a good time to pick up a new skill, it helps in reducing the stress levels, it gives a sense of fulfillment and helps to connect with people who really need our time and skill right now. It also helps us unleash our creative skills.
Mr. Prabhakaran K was our second speaker guest for the event. Prabhakaran is an engineering student and he started with startup and volunteered with organisations like Teach for India. He wanted to utilize the energy of youth in an appropriate manner which is exactly how he started working with Bhumi and it’s been more than 3 years of experience there. He began with a question that “Do you think volunteering is still relevant and who’s in the most need today in the country?” to which the audience replied with great answers. Bhumi has put five specific campaigns for Daan utsav which include simple acts of kindness like feeding a needy, planting a tree, giving something to the housemaid, feed the animals and show them some love as they are also worth it. Go out individually or in groups maintaining social distancing for cleaning up the streets and help the small vendors in any way possible.

Our third speaker of the event was Mr. Rishi Banshiwal. He is a youth development professional currently associated with United Nations volunteer. He looks after the V Force program which is a very largely mobilizing youth initiative for creating awareness basically about SDGs. He is also the founding member of Reaching Sky Foundation which is a youth led organization. They work on “Learn, Act and Engage”, i.e. learn about yourself that what you are passionate about, what cause do you stand for, what role you can play to solve problems, how you can learn and be happy. He further explains that one must analyze and understand that what kind of ecosystem of volunteering interests them, understand about sustainable development goals. He suggests to think about the problems which are prevailing in the society. He tells the audience that SDGs will tell us what the global challenges in our society are. He told the audience to think from a very simple concept and make it large and increase the impact.

Ms. Shreya Bhatia was the fourth speaker for the event. She is a social entrepreneur and a development professional with an experience in economic research and program management. She is the co-founder of Those in Need. She wanted to do something with data and create an impact. Those in Need is a matchmaking platform for organizations, NGOs and volunteers. Sharing her experience from three years back Shreya says volunteering means stepping out of your comfort zone, meeting amazing people and finding your true selves in the process. We can volunteer in teaching sessions, designing and creating content, helping the needy, not using the plastic, feeding the animals etc.

After the motivating words of all the four speakers, questions from the audience were taken. ‘Volunteering is considered as a good deed but is there any negative consequence of volunteering?’. ‘Volunteering definitely has negative consequences if there is less knowledge or wrong knowledge about it. Always think about the safety of yourself and others before doing something. Not taking the right decision might cause a negative consequence’.

‘How to convince parents to cross the threshold of conservative houses and volunteer and it’s even more difficult to do so being a woman?’. The solution is to have conversation with parents. They always have the right intentions and they are just worried. Make them understand that what will you be doing and you will be all safe. Be brave and patient while communicating about what you stand for and what you are getting out of it.

‘How can volunteering be as impactful virtually as it is in doing it person to person?’. The impact is there even if it’s not visible. In whatever way you can volunteer, you should do it, even if it’s virtually.

‘Does volunteering hurt someone emotionally or someone’s personal feelings as everyone comes from different background and people have different kinds of views and opinions?’ Volunteering is culturally sensitive, so never force your thinking or your culture on others telling them that this is the only way to live or this is the only way to do a thing. Be really humble, kind and culturally sensitive.

‘How to check that what actions we take are in line?’. As a solution we must do the right thing and not get distracted. The whole idea of volunteering is to go beyond your limitations and comfort zone.

The session ended with the host thanking the speakers and the audience for joining in and making the webinar so informative and enlightening. The main aim of the session which was to bring out innovative ways of volunteership from home was fulfilled.  

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