Volunteering has been part of my life for the last few years.  I am an engineer with a masters degree in business management and used to work as a business analyst till I gave it up to pursue giving up. I was always engaged in small volunteer assignments here and there for my personal satisfaction, which motivated me to do more, over time.

Though I enjoy being part of many different social projects, my primary interest was to serve the seniors.  I have seen seniors living alone in their houses in my native village.  Most of them were lonely, helpless and some were even depressed. This bothered me a lot, so I thought of starting a senior home, in which I envisioned a small group of older adults living together with a caregiver.  After thorough research, I started a charitable senior home and ran it for eighteen months.  Unfortunately, I had to wind it down as senior homes are still considered a taboo and not accepted by society.  Though it was a short run, it gave me a lot of satisfaction and the seniors who lived there had a great experience.  If an opportunity or a need comes up again, I’ll definitely consider reopening. 

In 2017, I volunteered at a school in Tambaram, through Chennai Volunteers. I taught English for a small group of 6-7 students for an hour.  Each session, I worked with a different set of kids. Though I enjoyed the sessions, I felt I wasn’t able to make a bigger difference in their lives.  Also the commuting took a toll.  

I reached out to Chennai Volunteers again and this time they referred me to Samarthanam, a trust that works for physically challenged people from less privileged families.  At Samarthanam, fresh graduates from remote villages are given job training with accommodation and food for three months. Volunteers provide training on computer knowledge, communication skills, and conversational English. The organization facilitate job interviews and help them get settled down once they land their first job.  CV had been working with Samarthanam and this seemed the perfect fit for me.

I have been volunteering at Samarthanam for over two years, since February 2018.  I focus on Conversational English and communication skills.  I help them conquer their fear of learning English in those three months.  This helps them overcome their fear and change their attitude towards learning.  When every batch graduates and is ready to leave Samarthanam, it gives me an immense pleasure in seeing the big difference that we volunteers made in them.   

I also volunteer for Arappor Iyakkam in helping them research policy reform commissions. This will help them work with the government to have the recommended policies implemented and practiced.  I also participate in their workshops where we help computer illiterate citizens to avail government schemes and services which can be done digitally.

Looking forward to do more for the community using my skills and experience.  By helping others, I help myself see a sense of purpose in life which brings me fulfilment and satisfaction. 

Valli Manikumar is a returning volunteer who has successfully integrated volunteering into her life