How to volunteer

Even though the milk of human kindness was not part of the National Dairy Development Board's 1970 initiative called Operation Flood, this kindly emotion is in full spate, especially at the beginning of each year when people are filled with all kinds of resolutions to make the world a better place in the New Year. Hemal Ashar tells you exactly how you can do that in 2012

With drum rolls in Mumbai beating to anti-corruption rhetoric and ordinary citizens told to plunge into the cauldron of campaigning and corruption -- activism or even volunteering, has never been so important or fashionable as it is now.

Go green with curiosity: Animal Rights volunteers can raise
awareness with these campaigns

The canvas of causes may be wide, but one can glean straightaway that above all skills and attributes, well-intentioned volunteers need a four-letter word to begin with. No need for that sharp intake of breath, we're talking about time.

Just fake it: To raise awareness about not using leather, these
volunteers target India's most popular sport

Speak up for animals
Says Sachin Bangera, manager, Media and Celebrity Projects of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), "You have to speak up for animals, because they cannot speak. For instance, you might see a group of children stoning a stray dog on our streets. You need to speak up to stop them from doing it or engage them in conversation, even as you ask for help. That's the first step to taking up animal activism."

Various skill sets are in demand at PETA: photographers, "who can take pictures for our calendars, or for documentation"; "we also take help from graphic designers, who work on a variety of leaflets and literature that we send out to create awareness," Bangera says. Even if you do not have a particular skill, Bangera exhorts people to dedicate a few hours a week. Their activism may be project-based, or long-term.
"College students have helped to set up stalls in colleges, where we have sold merchandise, distributed literature about forwarded petitions and pledges about animal rights," he adds.

Bangera says
> Have a passion for what you espouse.
> Have the courage to speak out, because animals cannot.
> Make some time to dedicate yourself wholeheartedly to the cause.

Get involved
PETA volunteers may be asked to help to conduct workshops for children about animal protection in schools, set up an information stall for local college festivals, conduct research for campaigns or assist in the preparation of protests.
Contact: Jalaj on
Call: 40727382 (extn 200)
Log on to: to become a member

Organise a blood camp
When Marine Drive resident Deepak Kapadia announces that he is going to the bank, he does not pick up the mandatory bank documents or reach for his chequebook. The bank Kapadia heads to is different from those where the rustle of currency and the slam-bang of lockers predominate. The 61 year-old is heading towards the Indian Red Cross Society's Blood Bank, which is part of the Asiatic Library Complex in South Mumbai.

Kapadia, joint honorary secretary of the Indian Red Cross Society says, "I organise blood camps in areas across the city. This blood is collected, checked and put into our Red Cross Blood Bank from where it is given to needy individuals. Individuals are told to bring a letter from the hospital that they need blood of a particular type. If we have it, then we give it to them. We charge them a nominal amount for a bottle."

The priority is not just getting blood, but getting clean blood, he says. "We throw away unused blood in 30 days. I have heard of small centres, though I do not want to name them, who change date labels on blood bottles so that the collected blood does not read expired. In this way, they are playing with people's lives. We put a premium on transparency and accountability."

Kapadia, who also gives his time to a number of traffic-related projects in the city says he is motivated, "Simply because I want to give back something to mankind. I have been inclined towards social work since my school days. It became concrete in college when I joined the Rotaract Club, which is the youth wing of the Rotary.

That is when I saw things like how blood camps were held and how motivated doctors treated the needy without charging a penny. " Now, years later, he says he is planning to set up branches of the Red Cross Blood Banks both in the eastern and western suburbs. "We have the technical know-how, now we need the space," ends the businessman, who gives at least three hours of his day to various projects.

Kapadia says
> People are generous and give money if they believe you are genuine.
> Get organised, as social work is all about eking out and allocating time to the cause.  
> Awareness about giving back to society should begin early.

Get involved
Contact: Ramdas U at Red Cross Blood Centre, Indian Red Cross Society, opposite the Reserve Bank of India, Asiatic Library Compound, Town Hall, Fort, Mumbai - 400001.
Call: 40500400

Use the RTI act to know more
In a complicated world accelerated by social networking and the Internet, things are not what they seem. Or, what they were. Some years ago, ask Mumbaiites what RTI stood for and they would say Ratan Tata Institute at Hughes Road, where people went for kid's clothes and to buy Parsi-style food.

Today, it is the Right to Information Act (RTI). Touted as one of the most powerful tools for the common man, it is said that this act, if used persistently, is designed to weed out corruption. RTI activists have been murdered in certain cases and ironically, these murders only prove that despite loopholes and long-winded procedures, this is a way to eke out information, bring about change, solve a problem, or just participate in the way things work.

Some RTI clinics
Public Concern For Governance Trust (PCGT)
Call: 23526426/93 2288 2288

Indian Merchants' Chamber with PCGT
Call: 22046633

Giants International with PCGT

BCAS Foundation

Branch out on your own
Though makeup artiste and professional, Cherag Bambboat renders pigmentation marks invisible and covers up acne with an expert flick of the brush, he also proves that beauty is not just skin deep. Bambboat, a freelance makeup artiste (he was the makeup expert for the Simi Garewal's show India's Most Desirable) sponsors three girl children every month for Rs 300 each through an organisation called Umang.

He says, "I work on the principle 'givers are gainers'." Bambboat has also helped differently-abled girls learn to apply makeup; "I used to give one day in a week earlier, to school drop-outs and girls who  had passed the age barrier to go back to school. They needed skills like these so that they could work in salons." 

Bambboat says that people in the beauty industry are often looked upon as flippant, but different skills can transform lives. "Some do that with the pen which is more powerful than the sword, others with an easel, while we use makeup paraphernalia," says the Altamount Road resident.

Make a change
Gita Bhatia decided to stand as an Independent candidate from the tony Malabar Hill area for the forthcoming Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections to be held in mid-February this year, from a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) called Mumbai227, which is giving a platform to independent candidates. Bhatia looked to a past defeat to gain strength.

She had stood for election in 1997, and while she then, it "did not put me off," she says. "It only cemented my belief that if we want to change the system, we have to become part of it, not stand outside and criticise. I also believe that if a candidate is good and loses the election, it is society on the whole that has lost, not just the candidate."

Bhatia says that if elected, it is the area's footpaths that will be her priority. "The first step to getting footpaths on roads where there aren't any, is to initiate a dialogue between residents, especially several from Walkeshwar who are opposing footpaths, because they take away parking space for cars." Bhatia says she used her social work as a springboard to jump into the hurly-burly of politics. She used to hold English classes for domestic workers: "I used to teach them English as part of the literacy initiative in a room given free of charge in Elizabeth Nursing Home."
Bhatia also used her beautician qualification to conduct courses in beauty for under-privileged women earlier.

The Art of Giving
It would be na ve to think that every Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) or non-profit organisation is squeaky clean. Yet, one also would also be cynical to think that every NGO is involved with a cause for personal or monetary gain. If you are thinking of joining an NGO or even starting one, here are a few guidelines from activists who have worked with several causes and issues.

> You need to have passion and heart for the cause you espouse. If your heart is not in it, it will show in your efforts.

> If you plan to start an NGO, besides getting familiar with the legal aspect of how to register one, work with an NGO affiliated to a similar cause so that you have some idea about what NGO work entails.

> You must be prepared to give a chunk of your time to your projects. That is vital.

> Don't expect monetary gain in activism. On several occasions, you might pay out of your pocket to support the cause you work for.

> Don't expect appreciation, rewards or awards. While a pat on the back is always welcome, if you are doing this for recognition/ acknowledgement, you are in it for the wrong reasons.

> Learn to use social media. A lot of retired persons use their free time volunteering. While this may give them satisfaction, they might feel left out in a world where networking is important. A working knowledge of the Internet is a huge help and is often essential these days.

> Expect obstacles and drawbacks. Just because you are doing something worthwhile, don't expect a smooth road. Like in work, in activism too, there will be heartbreaks and setbacks. People may even question your motives, or attribute selfish reasons for your work. You need to be thick-skinned.  

> You need to network and convince people that you are genuine. How you do this differs from person to person and from cause to cause. But remember that because NGOs and volunteer work often require outside funding, credibility is all.

> Don't bite off more than you can chew. Take on smaller projects or just one project, which you are sure you can dedicate your time to.

Log on to:
for some knowledge on how to start a NGO.

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