HYDERABAD: Ardulous, demanding and complex are some of the adjectives that define social service. And yet each time a trained social worker or an untrained volunteer mentions about working for the society, s/he is asked questions like why or how you juggle profession and passion. A fee cryptic also wonder--out aloud-- if one person’s effort can make any difference in the society.
“Volunteers are the ‘doers’ mostly from behind the screen and often have no desire to hog the limelight. It’s not recognition but the desire to do good that drives them,” explains Gaurav Gupta, communication manager with iVolunteer, an organisation that bring volunteers and organisations together to promote India’s social development.
While volunteers are always in background, they are somehow absent from the mainstream national psyche. iVolunteer has been striving to change this through their iVolunteer Awards that fetes the contribution of volunteers and organisations.
“Volunteering lays the foundation for people to actively build communities and the nation they thrive in. Yet there is no recognition for volunteering,” says Shalabh Sahai, co-founder iVolunteer and adds that the awards aims to “celebrate, reward and promote volunteers and volunteering in India.”
In its fourth edition this unique award has shortlisted 52 people and organisation across the country. The winner will be declared at an event end of September and will attend an international volunteering conference in the US.
Here are the unsung heroes from the city nominated for the award:
‘Happiness is helping’
“I never enjoyed clubbing or partying, so I started volunteering to teach slum children. Three months into it and I realised nothing is more appealing than the look of hope of a better future in the eyes of the kids,” says Mohit Sigh Arora, who moved to Hyderabad three years ago. He is associated with Robin Hood Army, Youngistan and Youth for Seva and devotes an hour every morning and alternate evenings and three-four hours over the weekend. Teaching and distributing food to homeless is how this 29-year-old likes to unwind. “When I could convince parents of a few girls to send them to be taught by us, when five-six students of one of the government schools with lowest pass percentage secured 75 per cent and another six students cracked a government exam, I knew there is nothing better than serving humanity through these simple activities,” signs off Mohit.
A voice for her
“Nearly 23 percent of rural Indian girls drop out of school when they first start menstruating. These girls are already battling poverty and social discrimination,” says Anusha Bharadwaj, executive director of Voice 4 Girls. The social enterprise is one such platform that enables 12-16 year-old girls from low-income or rural backgrounds learn English language communication and women empowerment during four-week camps every summer and winter. Since its inception in 2012, the orgainsation has reached out to 30,000 adolescent girls. “Girls trained by us over three modules go back to their schools were they teach the same to their peers,” explains Anusha and adds that winning the award will encourage college and school students to take up volunteering.
Serving food and love
Last Friday a 1,000 homeless people were fed between 6am-4pm around the city. ‘Serve Needy’ and its 1,500 members have been feeding hungry, at least 500 on a daily basis. “It’s not about the number, its about feeding the hungry,” says Gautham Kumar who gave up his high paying corporate job to feed the hungry and care of the orphans and unwanted aged and in the bargain get happiness everyday. “Our motive is to make the city hunger free,” he says.The NGO is also working with homeless, mentally disturbed, orphans, cancer patients, performing last rites of unclaimed dead bodies, education and running clothes bank are some of the initiatives of Serve Needy.
Chotus and chotis’ science teacher
K Yuvaneshwari has been into social sevice since her school days -- visiting old age homes and shelters for homeless and orphans and raising fund from family, friends and teachers. After college, she enrolled herself in Bhumi, as a youth volunteer. She would visit shelter homes and teach science to children for two hours each on Saturday and Sunday. After she moved to Hyderabad from Chennai this Feburary, she started an initiative call Chotu ki Education that aims at educating street children and those of migrant labourers. In a few months of operation, the Yuvaneshwari has inducted five street children in government school. “Over the weekend we teach these children basic math and communication skills and try to convince their parents to send them to school,” says Yuvaneshwari.
Mission: No potholes
Rs 500, 1,255 potholes, 12 drains, and a sexagenarian -- this, best describes Gangadhara Tilak Katnam. The retired railway employee spends Rs 500 every day on fuel, making sure that no pothole is left unrepaired. So far he has filled 1,255 potholes and 12 drains. At 68, Tilak says he has has sufficient strength and energy to fill the potholes and eliminate the “avoidable sufferings” to common people. “I volunteer to prevent road accidents. We are preventing accidents and saving many lives by filling potholes. Preventing increasing number of orphans and thus reducing the burden on society and our nation.” He has an app through which he receives the location of potholes in the city, which he fills alone or sometimes with the help of volunteers. Despite living off pension, Tilak does not have donations nor does he have any employees.