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Why do people volunteer?

2017-11-18         Balaji Ramani

Why do people volunteer? This question was constantly on my mind until I began volunteering. At the end of the day, everything boils down to happiness. It may be in our selfish interests to help others and feel a sense of gratification, but as social beings, we want to be connected. I enjoy volunteering—the fact that I am helping others makes me feel good.

Involvement with the VTO program

In 2016, I came to know about a NetApp Volunteer Time Off (VTO) activity with Parikrma Foundation that was being organized by a teammate. I joined the VTO event, and we went to Koramangala Parikrma school. It was a day-long program where we organized games and learning experiences for the kids. There we met the Parikrma Foundation event coordinator, Vasant Chari. His energy was contagious. He shared that they were looking for mentors outside of the VTO program, too. I signed up to participate at the Jayanagar branch. Every other Saturday, I went there and mentored kids. During one of my weekend mentoring sessions, Vasant mentioned that he would be visiting NetApp with the 11th graders for an on-campus VTO event.

 When the students from Parikrma Foundation visited NetApp, I happily joined as a volunteer. That day, I came to know that the kids would be developing a computer game using the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Scratch programming environment, a free educational programming language that was developed by the university. The idea was that the students would develop an educational game using Scratch programming, which would then be used by 5th grade students at Parikrma Foundation.

 When I first met these kids, they were highly enthusiastic. With most of them entering a corporate building for the first time, they were absolutely thrilled to be at NetApp. When I interacted with them during the lunch break, they had lots of questions and also spoke about their dreams and ambitions. That hooked me on to the program—the energy of the kids was palpable, and I couldn’t resist it.

 When we were done for the day, I found out that this particular VTO activity would extend through the year, with monthly visits by the students to the NetApp campus. Knowing that, I told myself that I would be there for the following sessions too.

 Since then, I have attended nearly every session. During these sessions, I have gotten to know the kids better.

Their interest and determination is something that many of us can absorb. Even when some students fell behind other groups, they would start over and quickly catch up. Regardless of the challenge, they didn’t give up. They believed they could accomplish the task at hand and were unwavering in doing so.

What Drove Me to Support the Cause?

My wife, Vani, and I have always been interested in helping kids pursue an education. If they drop out of school, it’s very hard for them to get back on their feet. If they complete schooling and have a thirst for learning, they have a better chance of success. We have always thought about getting involved in government schools and this was a great opportunity. It was a no-brainer for me to get associated with Parikrma Foundation. I have also started the conversation with Parikrma Foundation to determine how I can serve as a mentor beyond the VTO program.  It’s really the fact that education is critical—that’s  what is driving me.

 How Does NetApp VTO Encourage Employees?

The fact that we have a VTO program is unique. As a company NetApp could have said here are your five days, go figure out how you want to use these. Instead, we have a dedicated team working towards creating the VTO experience and organizing activities. It’s the feeling of doing something nice that people walk away with. In all my interactions with fellow colleagues, not one of them has told me that this is not something they enjoyed.

Why Should One Volunteer?

Looking at the struggles these kids go through helps us realize how privileged we are. We need to be grateful for everything we have. Even though one may not initially see how impactful a few hours with these kids can be, I believe it is extremely purposeful. The kids ask for the volunteers by name. Even a few hours spent with them leaves an impression and to me that’s very meaningful. This is our way of giving back to society. This is a way for us to step back and see how fortunate we are and do something meaningful for others.




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