“ If you desire to make a difference in the world, you must be different from the world as well.”

This is a quote that many of us may have come across at some point in our volunteering journey and some of us may have understood it as well. But there are very few who embrace the thought closely enough to make it a mission in life. We are fortunate that one of our Chennai Volunteers is such a person. This perceptive, warm, sensitive, ever-smiling, gentle yet extremely driven person is our volunteer for this month, Reena Venkatesh.

Reena got to know about Chennai Volunteers from a close friend of hers and was an active volunteer from the start. She joined as a volunteer for Spoken English but soon realized that her heart lay in one particular cause – children with special needs.

Her journey began with We CAN, a resource centre that works for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Though not qualified to work with such children, what made her stand apart from others was her flexible nature and her ability to put the need of the school above her comfort. She was willing to do what the institution needed and was happy to be of help to them. WE CAN is a nurturing institution and they welcomed her cautiously, at first and then with open arms. Reena literally worked her way up as a volunteer – from clearing books in the library to making teaching aids, to admin related work. Very soon, she learnt how to shadow the teachers and help them in their sessions.

Somewhere around this time, she also realized that this was her passion and she actually took up and completed a course to become a qualified therapist for children in this spectrum, all the while keeping up with her volunteering commitments. It was incredible to see how she transformed from an easygoing person to a focused and determined professional once she stepped into her role as a skilled volunteer!

Once a specialist, she took to volunteering at another institution, Spastics Society Of Tamil Nadu, SPASTN -an institution that works with children with special needs. She began to spend an hour every week there as well. It was like she was on a mission to make a difference with such children. As she delved deeper into the special world of these children, she understood them better and was able to create content better suited to their needs.

Today, Reena volunteers relentlessly 4 days a week, between the two institutions and is our lead volunteer for children with different needs. Her hard work, focused approach to volunteering, endless energy and committed sincerity makes her a coveted volunteer. She has shown us how volunteering is no less than a profession and should be taken seriously. And she has been a volunteer at both NGOs for four years!

Ever willing to help with a beaming smile, Reena epitomizes Mahatma Gandhi’s quote that “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. “

We know that she has a long innings ahead and that she will touch many more young lives and brighten up their day with her infectious smile and energy, as a proud Chennai Volunteer.