More often than not, during times of crises, the youth have emerged as our biggest crusaders, and the COVID-19 pandemic is no different. While young volunteers can help others in dealing with the crisis, at the same time, they themselves undergo a positive sea change while contributing to tackling such a calamity.
— Puja Marwaha
CEO, Child Rights and You (CRY)
Apart from wreaking havoc on the world with its deadly impact, COVID-19 has also brought out one innate nature of mankind – goodness. As we have seen many around us distributing stocks and ration to the distressed, marginalised and starving people out in the open, many of our tireless volunteers are looking at a world beyond corona – a world that is safe, healthy and bountiful.
At CRY, a team of more than 800 volunteers and 500 interns is involved in a mixed bag of activities including organising crowd-funding campaigns, launching social media awareness programmes, reaching out to children for online recreational and educational activities, roping in experts to mentor children or conducting online classes, arranging e-learning resources to make digital learning easier for children, and many other innovative things.
Ishita, a 16-year-old girl is among this youthful and ever energetic bunch who was part of one such crowd-funding activity. Yet, to complete her school education, this girl has been inspirational in many ways. This is what she says, as she narrates her journey through the programme: “After participating this crowd-funding campaign, I definitely feel that I’ve made a small contribution towards helping someone else; since before this, my whole life was just about myself and my family. I thank my fellow volunteers for the realisation that there are children in need whom we can provide with a better life with our small efforts.”
Vaanya Gilhotra, another girl in her early teens, almost echoes Isha, as she says, “The struggle of underprivileged children during these times is what keeps me and my team motivated. The project is small, yet very crucial for us, as it is one big opportunity for us to stand up for many other children. If we don’t, they will suffer – if not from the virus attack, then surely due to the lack of facilities.”
These are great examples of the miracles that happen when the youth force takes up responsibilities in their own ways to fight a humanitarian disaster.
Volunteering is often deemed as a meaningful exercise that gives every individual an opportunity to acquire life skills while helping boost one’s sense of self-worth and enhances our levels of empathy. Though volunteering is more commonly seen as an act of ‘giving’, the experience that a young person gets in return by serving distressed people is far more valuable and therefore it will be apt to say that volunteering as an act has transformative potential in a humanitarian crisis such as COVID-19.
As Ajay Raj, an intern working with the Research and Documentation team, says, “With my internship at CRY, I have had a lot of hands-on experience. I came here as an intern to carve a progressive career path. However, I ended up getting out of this experience with a much better understanding of myself, how I can contribute my bit to the smiles of little lives, and more wisdom about life. This has provided me with a reality check.”
Arun Narayan, another intern in the campaign team, harps on almost the same tune as he reflects on his journey through the short yet effective internship programme, “The experience has been one of great learning. I came out as a more kind and empathetic version of myself. It was more than an internship. Working for a cause feels far more rewarding and fulfilling.”
Also, it is crucial to understand that in our own way, each one of us is trying to adjust to the new normal as the lockdown has brought in a huge amount of uncertainty. Taking care of our mental health and wellness is of prime importance amid this crisis and the young population is no different. With schools and colleges shut, the youth, who are often brimming with energy, may find it difficult to this all-of-a-sudden shift to a mundane reality.
Though picking up hobbies or learning a couple of new skill sets might keep the young ones busy, indulging in an act of kindness by helping others in whatever possible manner can go a long way in boosting their confidence while reiterating that we would always need empathy and kindness to battle any sort of crisis. Thus, volunteering becomes a win-win situation for a youth during COVID-19 – while reaching out to help others, young volunteers in return get an affirmation that everyone is trying their best to weather the storm, a realisation that makes them calm from within and motivates them to keep pushing it through this uncertainty by serving others.
At CRY, right from its inception, we have always believed in the power of youth. After all, this belief flows from the feelings of Rippan Kapur, a young man who founded the organisation as he felt that the world can only positively change for our children if every person did their bit to ensure the change.
Thus began the journey of Child Rights and You, an organisation that would become the bridge between the intent and the action of individuals. That young man is long gone, but the feelings and spirit of youth volunteerism still run through the DNA of CRY with equal passion.
Much of this passion comes from our volunteers. And the simplicity of this time-heart equation evolves from the fact that volunteering, in its very essence, is a personal choice. One cannot be forced to become a volunteer.
To understand why more and more young people keep coming to volunteering year after year, the Volunteering Action division at CRY conducts a survey every year, the latest edition of which was organised in February this year, just before the pandemic struck. Titled as Study On The Impact of Volunteering, it was conducted among 644 of its volunteers, 85 per cent of whom are in the age group of 18-25 years. For a generation that is often identified as ‘self-centred’ and ‘detached,’ it may be surprising to know that most young volunteers donate their free time and skills to contribute to a cause.
Going by the findings of the survey, 87 per cent of the volunteers said that they grew more respectful of others, while 89 per cent of them reportedly started appreciating others’ views and values.
Respondents also reported a marked growth in their personal development as an impact of volunteering. Almost 88 per cent volunteers said that they learnt teamwork, while 90 per cent of them noted a major improvement in their communication skills. Over 83 per cent of the respondents reported that they saw a growth in their creativity.
That volunteering for a social cause could also be a great idea to keep one healthy and stress-free, while being more empathetic and appreciative about others’ views, seemed to be the biggest take away for most of the respondents. A whopping 92 per cent of them felt that they have made a useful contribution towards making the world a better place.
While volunteering for a cause, 90 per cent of the respondents reported experiencing contentment and satisfaction in life, 83 per cent highlighted that volunteering boosted their self-confidence/self-esteem and 81 per cent accorded better mental well-being due to volunteering, which clearly establishes the fact why it is crucial for the youth to engage in volunteering, especially during times of crises.
And what stories do these numbers tell? Well, at CRY, we have seen many inspiring stories of self-discovery. Having worked with hundreds of young changemakers every year, we kept on hearing from them how they have become better versions of themselves, how the children they were helping out touched their lives, and how they felt more confident while confronting any situation here on. Before we could tell them how wonderful they were, they would have told us how wonderful the journey had been.
Convinced that volunteering makes you a better person, especially now more than ever, go sign up for volunteering and contribute to the global fight against the COVID-19!