By N. Mehetab Nasreen:
When I first began doing volunteer work, I realised it was no cakewalk.
One of the first issues I ran into was an insufficient number of volunteers who could sustain the work. And, of course, it was difficult to manage my time between studying, volunteering, and spending time with friends and family. But there were bigger hurdles too. I remember my parents getting annoyed about how much of the time I had dedicated to volunteering. They were also worried about my safety. An orphanage I was working at was located in a remote area and commuting to and from it was risky.
That’s how my volunteering journey began in the Ananthapuramu district of Andhra Pradesh.
My motivation came from a deep feeling of empathy. I simply couldn’t stand the sight of people suffering—the homeless sleeping on the roads on freezing nights; the children begging on the street without even basic footwear; poor patients waiting at my district’s hospital for some kind of care. It was the last of these with whom I interacted the most. The moment I saw them, I asked, “What can I do to ease their difficulties, and bring a smile to their faces?”
I began speaking to my parents and reassuring them about what I was doing. I spoke to the parents of other volunteers too. And I kept motivating my team.
Today, I work as Vice President for the Vision Youth Association and an executive committee member at the Pragati Padham Youth Association, both rural-based clubs affiliated with the Indian Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. Through my work, and looking back at the beginning of my journey, I realised that we needed a framework where volunteers are recognised for their work. I believe this is crucial in a country like India, where we can harness the demographic dividend into a crusading social capital.
While working on different campaigns, I found three main learnings:
I’ve had a chance to represent my state at the National Youth Parliament not just once, but twice. The 2018 NYP was a very memorable experience and a proud moment for me. It increased my exposure to (and make friends with) many like-minded people all over India and was the perfect opportunity to form a network of change makers planning pan-India campaigns in the future.
Today, I work as an insurance medical officer at the Employees State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) Mangolpuri, Delhi. I am 24 years young and aspire to become a member of the IAS.
Administration is a versatile field with immense scope for creating change if efforts are put in the right direction. My areas of interest are health and education—especially female health and female education—and simple ways for people to inculcate the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in their lives to make our earth a better place.
I learn something new with every campaign and activity I do. There’s a lot of satisfaction that comes with the work, and it has helped me become the person I am today.
To other young change makers: dream big, work hard, and, when you’ve achieved what you want, dream bigger.
The real feeling of satisfaction lies in being the reason behind someone’s smile.
If you want to change the world, start with yourself.
Never think “Oh, what can I do alone?” Small or big, your actions matter. You can make our world a better place. And our planet is in desperate need of such small but consistent action.
About the author: Dr N. Mehtab Nasreen is 24 years old and belongs to Anantpuramu district of Andhra Pradesh. Currently, volunteer at heart, she is working for as an insurance medical officer at the Employees State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) Mangolpuri, Delhi and aspire to join Indian Administrative Services. She was one of 10 candidates shortlisted for the National Youth Parliament 2018, organised by the UN Volunteers and Ministry of Youth and Sports Affairs.