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This NGO Is Giving A Reality Check On What It Really Means To Be A Volunteer

Thought volunteering is a piece of cake?

Here’s an NGO that will take the sugar coating off for you. – Milonee Sanghavi

When someone mentions that they “volunteer” with an NGO, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Probably that the person is philanthropic in nature, they have a lot of spare time (that too without gaining any monetary benefits), that they are passionate about creating change or even that they want to be fashionably charitable. Most importantly, one believes that volunteering is a noble act that makes a person a better version of themselves.

But U&I, a charitable organisation that impacts 1200 underprivileged children through the help of 1500 volunteers is here to show us the real picture.

A rather unusual video, recently released by the organisation as a part of its volunteer recruitment campaign, shows us the not-so-noble aspects of being a volunteer. It reveals that volunteering is often about discipline, hard work and, even, lost sleep. It’s a humorous dig at the testimonials volunteers give about how volunteering has changed their life. You can watch the video below:

The video indicates that volunteering can be rewarding – but there’s a huge cost involved. With this unusual message, U&I is trying to gain more volunteers to its tribe as it seeks to educate more children in the coming year.

“We have had the privilege of being associated with thousands of young, energetic and talented people who have volunteered with us. With the pace that their world runs in, they have no patience for sugar-coating truth or trying to paint a better picture. This video is our attempt to portray the truth about the effort and dedication that goes into being a volunteer. It’s painstaking and requires a lot of work, but at the end of the day, all the effort is worth it”, says Ajit Sivaram, co-founder of U&I.  

A regular day at one of the centres at U&I, especially one with kids below the age of ten, looks something like this – volunteers chasing after kids who are keen on perfecting their hide-and-seek skills, kids sprawled on the floor testing the wrestling moves while their ‘akkas’ and ‘annas’ try to separate them, volunteers desperately attempting to convince their kid to finish just one more chapter. Yes, this is not your conventional classroom. But there’s always the incessant laughter of the kids and volunteers as they commence their weekly lessons.

The relationship between the kids and volunteers is more than that shared between a teacher and student, they become ‘akkas’ and ‘annas’, or elder siblings to the kids, someone they look up to and go to when they are troubled or even when they want to share something that made them happy.

This bond turns the centres from a boring educational establishment to a place of fun learning via the various creative activities and worksheets that the volunteers bring to every class.

The tagline for the campaign is “Never easy. Always worth it.” It’s an attempt to urge young people to try their hand at teaching, sparing just 2.5 hours of their week, without making false promises about how easy a task it will be. If you still think that volunteering is going to be a way to give back and make a huge impact in some child’s life, you are mistaken. The impact that the child will have on your life is going to be much greater than the one you make in theirs.

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  1. Donate an Hour -DoaR India

    Volunteering has gained lots of popularity recently, partly becauseany of the schools have made it mandatory for its kids (without realising the actual need) and foreign University applications and some millennials genuinely wants to make the change. However most of the time people think that volunteering is like morning walk in the park, they don’t realise that it is a marathon. You feel pain, you losses your breath, your lungs crave for air, you loose your determination during the run but when you cross the finish line with the sense of accomplishment and the feeling you get is the same feeling with volunteering.
    If you want to make change invest uourself, your time, not your money. And target long term, you can not build a forest in one day. It takes years.
    P.S. I volunteer in Donate an hour, a NGO, which encourages people to give their time to teach kids.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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