“In these uncertain times of COVID-19 with waves of the pandemic hitting the nation, nothing can be more crucial than to make a positive difference in whatever way possible. And as yet another International Youth Day is round the corner, we count on the league of youth playing the role of torch bearers – lighting up the lives of people by volunteering for a social cause.”
– Puja Marwaha, CEO, CRY – Child Rights and You
This year, as the new variants of the deadly coronavirus hit India and death toll crossed lakhs, an atmosphere of gloom and fear gripped the country. Children, who were just getting accustomed to adjusting to the new normal with online classes sitting at home and missing going out and playing with friends, were deeply impacted. Thousands of them who lost their parents and relatives are still struggling to weather the trauma and come back to normalcy.
During these grim times, when children and young adults were grappling with the trauma, many of them showed significant grit and resilience to fight the pandemic woes by engaging in volunteering work. Child Rights and You (CRY), with its large base of volunteers and interns, has been a prime witness to this.
Since the beginning, the 42-year-old child rights organisation believed in the power of youth and had been one of the first to let young adults harvest their energy in meaningful work through ‘volunteering and volunteer action’ in India.
As the popular Star Wars tagline goes, “May the force be with you”, likewise at CRY, the (youth) force has always been with us indeed. And with the help of an army with over 4600 volunteers and 1100 interns and counting, the organisation has been privileged to multiply its endeavour to transform the lives of children in India.
Last year, as the first wave hit us unprepared, we witnessed zealous volunteers and interns from all across the country come together and swing into action to offer whatever help possible.
From raising money through various online fundraisers to roping in experts while reaching out to mentor children or conducting online classes and arranging e-learning resources to make digital learning easier for children – the youth brigade seemed to keep no stones unturned in harvesting their energy in the right direction and reaping benefits of their power and energy.
However, this year, it was more difficult and possibly the toughest one in many decades. Therefore, banking on out of the box activities and campaigns to minimise the disastrous impact brought in by the pandemic’s second wave was the key.
From launching education internships for high school children, virtually mobilising children and the young adults for working towards a cause of launching crowd-funding initiatives and social media campaigns like #LearnNotEarn, #UnitedAgainstCOVID, raising awareness among the youth against child labour, and hosting webinars on topical issues impacting children – CRY’s volunteers and interns had a lot in store for them to learn and contribute to.
And, no doubt, the gifts of volunteering were enormous! “The amount of satisfaction you get after working for this noble cause cannot be defined in words. Now I am full of courage and will contribute towards the society and bring in a positive change in the world,” says Sahil Dudeja, a boy of 15 years, interning with CRY.
To decipher the triggers that prompt these young individuals to dive into volunteering, CRY conducts a survey every year, the latest edition of which was organised this February, just before the second wave of the pandemic struck the country.
The “Study on The Impact of Volunteering“, was conducted among 800+ volunteers, 85 per cent of whom were in the age group of 18-27 years. For the millennial and gen-Z populations who are often deemed as ‘lonely’ and ‘self-centred’ and ‘calculative’, it may be surprising to know that most young volunteers went way beyond their personal priorities in donating their free time and skills to contribute to a cause!
“Consent is crucial. However, this time, when I came across someone trying to force a child for answers which were a coursework requirement, I politely asked that person to stay away from pestering the child against her wish. To make the child feel comfortable, I even made sure that the video of the child answering questions had been deleted, thereby, respecting her sense of dignity and protecting her identity,” said a contemplative 20-year-old volunteering with CRY.
Talking about attaining personal development during volunteering, the respondents highlighted that they had experienced significant improvement in that area too. 80% of the volunteers said that they improved their teamwork skills, while 87 per cent of them noted a major improvement in their interpersonal communication skills and 85% reported enhanced creativity.
“I have worked in the content-creation team for CRY (North) volunteers for more than 2 years, and have handled a team of people across the spectrum of ages. I have learned how to be polite as well as effective in my professional communication and that has added to my leadership skills,” adds a 20-year-old volunteer working in the campaign and events team.
The survey also suggests that volunteering for a social cause can lead to tremendous growth in self-esteem among the volunteers. Volunteering not only helps in staying calm, but it also helps manage your psychosocial health and makes you remain stress-free.
And what’s more, the joy of doing good also propels you to give back more to society. A whopping 94% of the volunteers participating in the study felt that they have made a meaningful contribution while 79% reported of attaining a better state of mind and 81% reported an increase in self-esteem.
“One area where I felt I showed maximum improvement was self-confidence. Since I haven’t attended a physical conference or interaction in a long time while presenting or conversing with people I felt my self-confidence was on the wane. Ever since I completed the Content Creation task which involved storytelling, I believe my confidence has improved a lot,” says a volunteer still within her teens.
These inspiring testimonials and findings from the report only suggest that volunteering is a transformational journey – both for the doer and the receiver. And I can vouch for that since we have come across endless stories from youth champions and change-makers at CRY.
They would often cite that working with or for children has helped the young minds ‘grow’, making them more humble, more grounded and see the real world more empathically – all valuable life lessons that they get acquainted with at a tender age.
So if you are motivated and inspired to become one of the change-makers the country needs in this time of crisis, do make a move and get into volunteering. The right time is now, more than ever!