“Be of service. Whether you make yourself available to a friend or co-worker, or you make time every month to do volunteer work, there is nothing that harvests more of a feeling of empowerment than being of service to someone in need.”
– Gillian Anderson, Actress and Philanthropist
In the past couple of years, Bangalore has seen various individuals and groups stepping up to further a cause that goes beyond meeting their own personal agenda. Whether it means being a part of a resident welfare association or participating in a clean-up drive or organising an event to spread awareness about the importance of waste segregation, there are several thousands of people in our city whom we can draw inspiration from. And most often than not, by volunteering, these individuals and groups are contributing their time, skills, knowledge and money even, with no strings attached.
How often do we pause to commend them for the good work they are doing? While most schools and colleges incorporate a mandatory community development activity into their syllabus, how many students continue to volunteer once they leave their institutions? Even in corporates, many individuals step forward at the time of a CSR campaign and that’s that.
If there were to be a way of incentivising volunteering, there would perhaps be more people doing it. Incentivising does not necessarily have to mean being awarded a sum of money, even mere recognition would do. This will not only serve to appreciate volunteers and acknowledge the work that they do, but also spread the word about it and possibly inspire others to volunteer as well.
And that is exactly what the iVolunteer Awards is all about.
A platform to celebrate volunteers
Instituted by iVolunteer, a social organisation that promotes volunteering, the awards recognises the contribution of volunteers, as well as organisations that engage with volunteers, thereby creating an environment that encourages more people to volunteer.
Vinelle Vaz, Marcomm Manager at iVolunteer states that currently there is hardly any impetus to get people to volunteer. While the work that volunteers, especially those in the social sector do, contribute greatly to the country’s social development, it merely continues on in the background, with their efforts hardly acknowledged. And that’s what the iVolunteer awards seeks to change.
Since 2013, the awards have been recognising those individuals who volunteer, and organisations that create a sustainable models for volunteer engagement. The awards are given out in three categories—Volunteer Hero, Leader in Volunteer Engagement and Leader in Employee Volunteering.
This year, two Bangalore-based NGOs, Children’s Movement for Civic Awareness (CMCA) and Say Trees Environmental Trust, have made it to the shortlist of ten finalists in the Leaders in Volunteer Engagement category. Both organisations follow a model where they have used a large base of volunteers to further their social cause. The winners for the iVolunteer awards will be announced in mid-June, and in addition to being recognised on a national platform, will be awarded a sum of Rs 1,00,000.
Shalabh Sahai, co-founder and director at iVolunteer states: “I firmly believe that an India of 1.2 billion will not change unless we undertake the change ourselves”. The number of citizen-led causes in Bangalore alone is a testimony to the fact that the volunteer movement is picking up momentum.
Children’s Movement for Civic Awareness (CMCA) is a 15-year-old volunteer driven organisation that rolls out Civic Club Program in schools across the country. The program aims to sensitise children and youth to civic and democratic issues, and nurture active citizenship among them.
In Bangalore, CMCA has been at the forefront of involving school children in several public service initiatives ranging from organising clean-up drives, to felicitating civil workers like pourakarmikas and traffic policemen, to even campaigning for road safety. An initiative of theirs called Positive Strokes which recognised and reinforced good road use behaviour on Bangalore roads, won an all-India road safety innovation challenge in September 2014.
Read about some other initiatives that CMCA has been involved in:
Ashish Patel, National Coordinator of the Civic Club program at CMCA had this to say about being nominated as one the finalists: “It feels extremely gratifying and satisfying. We have been doing this for a long time now and we have hardly ever been recognised. The nomination for the iVolunteer award is all the more special, considering we are one of the two Bangalore-based organisations who have been nominated.”
CMCA is currently looking for Kannada-speaking volunteers for its Civic Club program in government schools in north Bangalore. So if you live in Yelahanka or thereabouts and would like to pitch in, drop a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org by June 2nd. The program will involve visiting a government school in the area, once a week for nine months.
About Say Trees
Say Trees started in 2007 as a weekend pursuit by a bunch of enthusiastic tree lovers in Bangalore. In 2013, it was registered as an NGO. They engage with volunteers and corporates to green the city. From organising actual plantation drives and conducting sensitisation sessions, this bunch of nature lovers now includes a 1000 strong volunteer base.
While planting trees may seem simple enough, there is a lot of research that they put into their work. They start by identifying potential areas for plantation. While this was mainly within city limits until now, they are expanding their footprints into villages and forest areas around Bangalore as well. Once they have sought the required permission from the authorities, they get around to the actual planting. Here they keep in mind the biodiversity and ecological environment of the area before they close on the types of trees they will be planting. In addition, they try to ensure that they plant trees that offer more than just green cover—fruit trees for instance.
Avineet Prakash, a core team member of Say Trees says that since 2007, they have planted more than 19,000 trees in and around Bangalore. Some of their projects include planting 600 saplings around Kasavanahalli lake and greening a wasteland that had become a dumping ground in KR Puram Colony with 1200 saplings. Of the 3,500 saplings that were planted in the Army Area at ASC Centre, Ejipura, 3,200 are thriving. The entire set of greening projects that Say Trees has undertaken can be found here.
Avineet also mentions that the trees are typically planted just before the onset of the monsoons, so that for the first two to three months, they are continuously rain-fed. Between January to April, the team does weekly maintenance on the plantations—this include de-weeding, spraying insecticide, watering etc. Once the plants are about 1.5 years old, they reach about ten feet in height and can self-sustain.
On Say Trees being nominated for the iVolunteer awards, Avineet says, “We are extremely happy. We had a group call and celebrated. At the end of the day, we want to reach out to as many people as we can. And the nomination will certainly go a long way in getting the word out.”
To volunteer with Say Trees, click here. Based on your skill and the time that you can contribute, you can choose to be a Tree Planter, Crew Leader or an Invisible Hero.