How Volunteering can help Change the World | Trishya Screwvala | TEDxChennai

How Volunteering can help Change the World | Trishya Screwvala | TEDxChennai

July 31, 2019 7 By Kailee Schamberger



I think we can all agree that everyone wants to see change in our world today despite the over 3.1 million NGOs in India alone the prolific rise of social enterprise the world over multiple innovations somehow we still seem to be far away from the change that we're looking for and I think the question that many of us ask ourselves is what can I do how can I create an impact in our world today I started volunteering when I was still in college studying abroad and when I say volunteering I mean to voluntarily act in recognition of a need without expecting anything in return so volunteering for your resume doesn't quite count and I remember when I came back to Mumbai I realized that there were very few platforms for sustained volunteering even though there were many youngsters like myself who were very passionate about contributing in some way outside of their own world at the same time I noticed a glaring gap in essential life skills in children post-standard 10 particularly in children from under-resourced communities today communication skills technological proficiency confidence exposure managing emotions these have become as important as literacy when we think about someone's future socioeconomic success and these are skills that our education system doesn't always get at all and so as a result we seem to have a growing number of first generation learners who are educated on one hand but are unable to make that transition into the organized work space and actually often land up in the same job as their parents were not so educated as vegetable venders cleaners truck drivers etc so seeing this growing need I started the lighthouse project a youth mentoring program that connects working profession with children from in under-resourced communities with the goal of developing these life skills and social skills and employability skills while exposing these children to world beyond their own and what I realized very quickly was that volunteering can be one of the most transformative experiences not only for the person you're volunteering with but actually much more so for the person volunteering themselves and our vision as an organization expanded to include the goal of creating and strengthening the culture of volunteering in India so why is volunteering important what is it about volunteering that makes it such a transformative experience I'd like to share three reasons based on my experience the first volunteering reminds us what it means to be a human being to volunteer is to let go of my own comforts my own needs my own likes and dislikes and preferences and just for a little bit of time to put the needs of someone else's over my own it really pushes us to bring the best of ourselves and to volunteer to commit myself to commit my time to commit my skills to commit my energy over and over again for someone else that builds that builds grit that builds generosity that builds that builds incredible character in a human being one of our bright young lighthouse mentees actually had a very difficult home environment she she lost her mother very early on her father abandoned her and she suffered from some serious health issues so in her 10th grade exams right before her attendance at school dropped so much that her school was concerned that she wouldn't be able to sit for her exams and it's at that time that the presence of a consistent and reliable adult in her life made all the difference there was somebody who was was able to take her to her exam holls everyday to accompany her for doctor's visits and even later on to convince her family of the importance of sending her to college the reason I mentioned the story is because it what the girl needed was something very simple she needed somebody she could trust somebody she could look up to and somebody who would be there for her no matter what the girl I speak of did pass her tenth grade exams last year and she's finished one year in a very well reputed college in Mumbai and I think it really reminds us that it takes much less than we think for us to step out of our own shoes and really be there for someone the second point volunteering reminds us of a very fundamental principle in life that we are all connected and I think that something that's really important today because we often live very disconnected very individualistic lives it's easy in a city like Chennai or Mumbai to go from my home to my car to my work and back almost numb to the sprawling slums that I cross every day on my way to work although uncomfortable knocks of children on my car window and so we fall into apathy because how can we let ourselves be affected everyday by this horrific squalor that surrounds us so we disconnect ourselves we create boundary after boundary until we convince ourselves that it's only me and my small little world my life and maybe a few just around me that's all that matters the Buddha said the greatest illusion is that of separation and perhaps this is what he meant because how can I think i am so disconnected from the world around me that if my own home is clean and beautiful that's all that matters regardless of what's happening right outside my doorstep if I throw waste in the lake outside of my home eventually I'm gonna have to drink that water right or if the if my car lets out fumes outside of my home eventually I'm going to have to breathe that air doesn't the smallest actions each of us do have an unavoidable impact on so many around us volunteering reminds us that we are part of this beautiful web called life and that brings me to my third point volunteering demonstrates that sustainable change starts with him the term citizen was coined in ancient Greece but it wasn't a title given to everyone who was just born in Greece like we do today it was something you had to earn a citizen was somebody who took on a certain responsibility in their community in their society and so to volunteer is to be a true citizen it is to fulfill our royal our duty as contributing human beings in our world and it's not just something that's nice to do when it's convenient when I have the time when my job allows me to when I buy that home it's something we must all do while we live our lives at the Lighthouse project we witness everyday that the most effective way to bring about change is through one's own example if I want to teach my mentee to be punctual first I need to show up on time if I want to teach my mentee about compassion I need to bring that in my relationship if I want to teach my mentee about overcoming obstacles I need to demonstrate my ability to turn pitfalls into opportunities and to bring my best session after session regardless of external circumstances volunteering is an attitude it's a way of life and a simple act of opening our hearts to somebody outside of our own little bubbles has an indelible impact on everyone involved because the truth is we cannot create systemic long-lasting change without first being the examples that we are looking for so instead of us constantly asking what can I get what can I get when I come to a conference like this what can I get when I go for dinner with my friends maybe we need to start asking what can I give because that is truly to embody the spirit of a volunteer and with that yes each and every one of us one step at a time individually and collectively can undoubtedly change the world thank you [Applause] you