By Merril Diniz:
In the early 2000s, a conversation on volunteering was typically met with questions like “why should I volunteer?” and “what is the benefit to me?” as opposed to statements like “I want to volunteer” or “I want to help”. In 2016, the conversations have changed. “More and more people want to volunteer. They want to teach in a school, help in fundraising, do events, help organisations sell, read to the blind or mentor a young adult,” shares Rahul Nainwal, Founder of the India Fellow program, a structured opportunity to work with an organisation that’s making a difference.
Nainwal, in a personal capacity, himself helps a variety of organisations in the mountains with a bunch of things – fundraising, social media strategy and sourcing good volunteers. In between, he even took off to volunteer in Sierra Leone with VSO. So, Youth Ki Awaaz got this seasoned volunteer to tell us what people should really know about the volunteering experience and volunteering fellowships in particular, before taking the plunge. Here’s what he had to say…
Yes, volunteers can play a seminal role in making a difference to an organisation. “We had volunteers who wrote proposals and the organisation received a lot of money. One volunteer helped the organisation with their IT problem but the organisation liked him so much that he was invited to serve on their board,” he shares.
Some of these are related to the programme or the project that you are working on during your fellowship. But there are a variety of other skills that you will pick up irrespective of where you are placed. “Most fellows will learn problem-solving, working in teams and how to get things done with very little resources. Most of them will learn how to write good proposals. They will become familiar with tools like monitoring and evaluation, theory of change and design thinking, to name a few,” he shares. Depending upon the kind of work, you may also get an opportunity to work with the Government, and learn about schemes and programmes that Government has for the social sector.
Often, college students, even with the best of intentions, struggle with time as they have a lot of things going on. So, evaluate realistically, if you will have the time to do a volunteering assignment before anything else. “It’s very important to honour your commitment. You also need the ability to learn first before giving a lot of advice,” advises Nainwal. “Most importantly humility and empathy are needed to be effective on the job,” he adds.
It is made up of many different kinds of organisations – from non-profits to social enterprises, which are all attempting to solve an array of social issues. “We have large NGOs like Seva Mandir, which basically works on every aspect of rural community development as well as enthusiastic start-ups like Aakaar Innovations, which work on a niche area of menstrual hygiene and sanitation,” shares Nainwal.
“The India Fellowship has enough structure to help you navigate and at the same time enough flexibility to explore the sector,” shares Nainwal. According to him, several India Fellows have ended up picking jobs in the social sector, starting a social enterprise or studying further.