My journey of becoming an active citizen!!
“4 days, 20 plus participants and a roller coaster activities based workshop organised by Ignite India and Volunteer for India with the support of the US Consulate General, Chennai.”
With this pandemic, the lives of every individual have become a little more complicated and confusing. And to think about helping someone or volunteering is then not easy with so many complexities and extremely busy schedules.
However, one day a friend of mine sent an email that resonates entirely with our discussion of developing short-term courses online for social work students aiming to build capacities in working with communities and children during pandemic on a volunteer basis. I took this challenge and got selected for the workshop. Over these days, we together as a strong group got an opportunity to spend time and understand the importance of volunteering. It was an enriching experience that has broaden our perception of the world. By immersing in this workshop each of us created some enabling short project/activities for the community we target based on the chosen Sustainable Development Goal- with a dedication to contribute to the current knowledge database of bettering the world. Through this workshop, I could gain a unique sense of purpose by serving those around me, one which often manifests in other areas of your life.
I also believe that it can be hard to find time to volunteer but the benefits of volunteering can be enormous. Volunteering offers vital help to people in need, worthwhile causes, and the community, but the benefits can be even greater for you, the volunteer. The right match can help you to find friends, connect with the community, learn new skills, and even advance your career.
Giving to others can also help protect your mental and physical health. It can reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose. While it’s true that the more you volunteer, the more benefits you’ll experience, volunteering doesn’t have to involve a long-term commitment or take a huge amount of time out of your busy day. Giving in even simple ways can help those in need and improve your health and happiness.
The workshop provided an overview of various insights and learnings that were gathered through various discussions and sessions planned for the participants. One of the most beneficial was creating an impact or leaving the footprint of your small work in the community. I organised a webinar with experts as my first volunteer activity under this workshop program. Even though it was the smallest tasks but as participants joined in and exchanged their experiences I could a difference in their thought process on the topic select — “stigmas in counselling and gender response to it”.
This process was a stepping stone in building new friendships, expanding my professional, and ultimately able to boost my confidence further enhancing my social skills.
During the entire process of organising and implementing the webinar, I got a chance to interact and e-meet some great experts in the field and hear their valuable thoughts. I strongly believe that this journey and the challenges faces have strengthened my ties to the community targeted.
Another interesting thing which I realized while embarking on this journey of becoming an active citizen was, while some people are naturally outgoing, others are shy and have a hard time meeting new people. Volunteering during these activities conducted just not provided me to outgrow my social skills but along with my students, we could practice and perform active social skills as part of each day during the workshop.
“It became a lot easier to branch out and make more connections and friends with a common interest!”
There were a few researches that have reassured that volunteering or helping others delivers immense pleasure along with joy. Human beings are hard-wired to give to others. The more we give, the happier we feel.
As part of another volunteering task, I started to paint about gender roles. I was never confident about my painting skills but after envisioning the impact I could create through this, I became a lot more confident and volunteered actively to draw and paint individual life episodes during the pandemic. Earlier the journey was difficult because I did not have many people sharing their life narratives. Later when I pitched my painting as a free and volunteering activity many of them volunteered back….and shared their interesting life episodes during Pandemic 2020.
This gave me a sense of accomplishment and a feel-good factor. This role under the Volunteer for India as an active citizen/volunteer helped give the participants a sense of pride and identity. And the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and future goals.
Being the oldest among the participants, I felt strongly that if I would have given a chance of experiencing such a workshop during the beginning of my career, it would have expanded my horizon and area of interest. As volunteering gives you immense opportunity to practice important skills used in the workplace, such as teamwork, communication, problem-solving, project planning, decision making, and task management. This journey of becoming an active citizen through volunteering made me feel more comfortable in stretching my wings at work and look for raising this as a deep skill in my students at Jamia Millia University.
Almost everyone considers volunteer work is unpaid and this does not add any skills. Many volunteering opportunities provide extensive training and have room to experiment.
Volunteering can also help you build upon skills you already have and use them to benefit the greater community. For instance, if you hold a successful sales position, you can raise awareness for your favorite cause as a volunteer advocate, while further developing and improving your public speaking, communication, and marketing skills. Further, it provides multiple benefits to an individual.
- Scope of improving their neighborhood
- Meeting new people with different outlooks or experiences
- Investing in something rewarding
- Exploring new places or experience a different way of living
- Experiment with wider areas that you might want to pursue as a full-time job
- Expanding on your interests and hobbies
Going forward I would recommend strongly, I started late but you should not. Don’t limit yourself to just one organization or one specific type of volunteering. Sometimes an opportunity looks great on paper, but the reality is quite different. Try to visit different organizations and get a feel for what they are like and if you click with other staff and volunteers.