Good karma

Volunteering not only helps you make a difference but also gets you brownie points with recruiters. It teaches you necessary career skills too, says Chandana Chandra 

  • Published 11.09.18

These days many college students are opting for volunteering experiences. Some take up community service to make their college applications stand out while others simply want to give back to society. Whatever your reason, if you're able to make time for some volunteering, you get to learn a lot. Taking time out to help the less fortunate means not only are you aware of the harsh realities of life but also that you're a team player - a quality appreciated by many recruiters.

Take Riya Reddy, a second-year student of Journalism at Raja Manindra College in Calcutta, who has been into volunteering since last November. As a member of the start-up social organisation, AsTHA, she has been involved in running spoken English classes for poor students and arranging for their training as beauticians. AsTHA distributes study material, clothes and food to children on the streets and in villages. It also helps the old and the infirm.

"This work gives me immense pleasure as I always wanted to do something for society. I don't measure this in terms of profit or loss," says Riya. "Now we are planning to add courses on yoga, guitar and nursing. We will have professional teachers for all these courses." The members of AsTHA meet at the centre at Hatibagan in north Calcutta on Sundays. "Our members are busy with college, office or business through the week," she explains.

"The organisation is run with funds from members. Every member donates Rs 50 to Rs 200 each month," says Rajdeep Ghosh, the founder of AsTHA, whose day job is selling soft toys.

Srijita Banerjee, a second-year BCom student of J.D. Birla College, teaches poor children thrice a week and also volunteers at bootcamps. She's been involved with the National Social Service (NSS) - an Indian government-sponsored public service programme -at Jadavpur University for the last year. "Camps are organised on different themes, such as to spread awareness on hygiene, provide training in self defence, to donate blood and so on. We also distribute exercise books, old textbooks and used clothes."

To join the NSS, you have to know three languages - Hindi, English and Bengali, in Srijita's case - and have basic skills in some handicraft. "The candidate must have a willingness to do charitable work and contribute time for such work," says Srijita. You also have to submit an essay on why you want to join the NSS. To become an active member, you have to participate in at least two activities per semester. After three years of active participation, you become eligible for a certificate. "Such certificates are a great help in landing a job as most corporates have a corporate social responsibility (CSR) wing or at least CSR projects these days," she adds.

Volunteering is a great way to pick up skills and meet people. It also gives you an opportunity to work in a new field. It will train you to think out of the box to maximise the limited resources you have to work with.

"These experiences enrich a student as well as impart on-the-job training. Volunteers usually work on live projects and so are able to see and understand how their work is helping others. Added to this is the joy of making a difference," says Mohammed Tanveer , relationship manager of iVolunteer, Calcutta, a social enterprise that promotes volunteering among students.

Noorul Hoda Khan got involved in volunteering, courtesy iVolunteer. "I grew up in Sultanpur, UP, surrounded by a lot of greenery. I missed that in Calcutta. My favourite part of volunteering was planting trees and seeing them grow," says the young man who is now pursuing a master's in Business Administration from Presidency University in Bangalore.

This interest led him to offer to supervise the Yuva Utsav - organised by the non-government organisation Seva Kendra - to raise awareness among the youth on the importance of greenery. "Volunteering not only gave me an opportunity to work with people from different fields but also made me confident of my capabilities," says Noorul.

Volunteering helped Mayank Giria, a third-year student of BCom at The Bhawanipur Education Society College in Calcutta, polish his skills. iVolunteer arranged for Mayank to shoot pictures of the work several NGOs do, which would be used by them for publicity. "This helped me gain the necessary experience in photography," he says.

Volunteer work as a great way to showcase one's skills while building the resume. "This is what sets one student apart from another and adds value to the CV," says Tanveer.

In short, volunteering is a great way to challenge oneself, gain knowledge and hands-on experience, make a difference, sharpen one's skills, build a network, make new friends and, last but not least, have some fun.