10 Oct Volunteer Den – Priyanka Sharma
I was part of a social service club during my MBA days in Chennai when I first heard about Bhumi. For 2 years, I volunteered for Siragugal (now Nakshatra). In 2011, I shifted to Bangalore and got all lost in busy corporate world for some time. The interest in Bhumi was rekindled
when one of my colleagues mentioned about Bhumi’s fest. I was a part of the fest, and it made me realize how free I was on weekends. The weekends were all mine to be utilized for a better purpose. As luck would have it, I met a college senior online, within a few days, who happened to be an active volunteer with Bhumi. He gave me a gist of all Bhumi’s projects, but not before I assured him that I was dedicated enough to join. The very next day Lakshya was going to start its first season and premiere episode in Bangalore. I made sure I didn’t miss it.
You were given an essence of all the projects before you joined in. What inclined you towards Lakshya?
It has been my observation that the curriculum that’s covered in Government Schools is mundane, academic stuff, but very less or nil attention is given to overall personality growth of chidren. “Survival of the fittest” is the mantra in today’s extremely competitive world. And this is where, I believe, Lakshya steps in. Lakshya aspires to groom kids enabling them to equip themselves with good communication, interpersonal and leadership skills, and not just good score cards. Apart from the serious business, you also get an opportunity to play every weekend. Now who would skip that? All these things excited me to choose Lakshya.
Luckily, I have been a part of Lakshya in Bangalore since it was initiated, in 2012, at Sri Krishna home. Rajaji nagar. We started with 15 shy kids and few new, unsure volunteers. After an hour of ice-breakers, it was hard to believe that we were just into the first session.
Tell us about your initial days as a volunteer. As you were a part of Lakshya since its initiation in Bangalore, how challenging was the experience?
Every session in Lakshya consists of group activities for teaching the kids a variety of life skills. I was appointed as the GA coordinator, whose responsibility was to prepare group activities for each session. It was a big challenge for me, as I had never done anything of this sort before. I was always unsure on the kids’ reaction to an activity, and If it will actually be effective in the endeavor to teach them life skills. The language barrier was also a persistent issue. Even if the group activity turned out to be awesome and extremely effective, it was extremely tough to have the kid’s attention for the entirety of 2 hours.
But Chennai Lakshya’s team, with their prior experience, was always there to help. Except for the recurring issues like language barrier, attention span etc kids always greeted us like their long lost friends. We never really had to put any effort to get into their good books. From the very beginning, kids welcomed us in their world with open arms. Every single session was like a learning opportunity for me.
Now that you have nearly 2 years of volunteering experience, how different is it now?
The biggest difference I can see is in my mind set. I have realized over time that language is never a problem/barrier. If the volunteers ever face issues in interacting with them, the kids themselves make efforts to talk in mixed languages, however broken it may be. I have now had enough experience in preparing and delivering activities. I understand a kid’s psyche much better and am able to gauge the interest levels of kids just by looking at the activities. I always have various alternatives with me and prepare myself well in advance for any kind of contingency. I can proudly say I am a much better mentor now.
Now that you mentioned mentor, Lakshya is all about mentoring. How different is it from teaching?
Lakshya is about imbibing life skills through group activities and equip the kids with enough ammo to face the cruel, competitive world. Life skills can’t be taught, they are learnt through experiences, they are passed on. This is where Mentoring steps in. Most important thing about mentoring is that you can’t be judgmental. A mentor must have the patience to understand the kid’s needs and guide him accordingly. This is what separates it from teaching. Thankfully, Bhumi makes us undergo mentor training program before we start getting into the classes. This equips us to prepare ourselves for any situation, which might arise during our sessions.
Your favourite Bhumi moment?
Last year, at the Rajaji nagar Centre, few kids were shifted to a different center; about 2-3 months after our program had started. The kids count had dropped drastically to about 5. It was getting difficult to conduct regular sessions or activities for such a small bunch of kids. We didn’t want to drop out from the center, and hence we decided to help the remaining kids with their spoken English. We were a bit apprehensive about the response when we started, but the enthusiasm showed by the kids was positively shocking to say the least. At the end of each session, every kid used to ask us several times if we would be coming the next week, what exactly we would teach them and how they were performing. It was an awesome experience, one to be treasured forever.
What kind of influence has Bhumi had in your life?
I have been a firm believer of one famous saying that goes something like this, “We should try giving back to society what we earn from it“. Bhumi is the medium which is helping me in living my belief. My experience with Bhumi has also helped in making a good leader and a great citizen out of me.
A sneak peek into your life outside Bhumi?
I am currently working as an Assistant manager in Genpact. Shoving the boring part of me aside, other interesting facts one must know about me are I believe in “Late to bed, Late to rise”, love dancing, singing out loud, big movie-freak and a very very very big Salman Khan fan, or as they say, Salmaniac 🙂
On a finishing note, any message you would like to give to your fellow volunteers?
Though we are volunteering only for couple of hours every weekend, even that requires utmost dedication on our part. Kids expect us to meet them every weekend and that smile on their faces when you do, is priceless. Take your role extremely seriously, and be completely motivated and dedicated to work towards the kid’s satisfaction every single time!