Giving Back to Society: How his volunteering journey began.
Shri. Prasanna Kumar is 58 years old. He has been staying in Bangalore since 1986. He was born and brought up in a village near Tumkur and completed his higher studies there. He came to Bangalore in search of employment. After a glorious career of 28 years in the field of Civil engineering, he retired from his full-time job in 2014.
2014-15: The Beginning
Post his retirement, he got into volunteering and started bringing about societal change. “I ran my own company for around a decade before which I worked as a project manager at an architecture firm. Once I retired, I realized that it was time to give back to society,” he recollected.
Since, 2014-15, Shri. Prasanna has been a full-time volunteer with Youth for Seva(YFS). He is especially fond of teaching kids at school. However, once he decided to dedicate all his time to volunteering, there were many options in front of him. There was the option of donation to support the society. “Monetary or material support has a very short shelf life and is not an effective way to bring change,” he said. He realized that education; teaching children what he had learnt would be immensely helpful to the next generation.
“My wife suggested that I contact YFS to take forward my interest in volunteering. She works in Bosch, and previously worked in Wipro. There she had a colleague named Vikas, who had worked in YFS. Further, another colleague, Keerthi, had also worked with YFS. Through their references, I came to know about YFS,” he explained. From there he enrolled himself as a volunteer with Youth for Seva and attended the orientation programs.
During the orientation programs, the volunteers were briefed regarding the projects and activities that are conducted in YFS. Each volunteer has the freedom to choose where they want to work. YFS only guides where a person can volunteer, the rest is left to the volunteers themselves to bring about change in the society. Post orientation, a senior volunteer from YFS introduced Shri. Prasanna to a school where he began teaching. Soon, with the help of a coordinator, he got the opportunity to read to blind kids through an NGO called Premanjali. Further, he also began volunteering as a scribe.
Qualities that build a volunteer:
When asked what he believed were the key qualities of a volunteer, Shri Prasanna shared that the first and most important quality is self-motivation. Every single day, a volunteer must find a way to motivate themselves. They also need to have both short-term and long-term goals. In Shri Prasanna’s case, his motivation is the happy faces of the children he teaches, especially the primary school children. “Further, a volunteer must also be ready for both acceptance and rejection. When you begin volunteering, you might be accepted immediately and your efforts may be recognized but sometimes, you can also be rejected. You have to be ready to face both,” he continued. He also believes one should learn from their mistakes and should not repeat them. He said , “Make different mistakes, not the same ones.”
Role of YFS in Shri Prasanna’s Journey
“Collaborating and working with YFS has resulted in my volunteering efforts being amplified beyond what I could have imagined. Alone, I probably would have taught 1 school, or 2 schools, but with YFS’ efforts and volunteers we have been able to reach 16-20 schools now. With YFS’ association we were also able to reach out to the department of education as well, and were able to enact systemic changes in many places,” he shared with a smile on his face. YFS has been very influential in his volunteering journey.
2016 – NMMS and changing the lives of children
In 2016, Shri Prasanna started attending regular meetings of local volunteer bodies of YFS. He learnt about NMMS there. NMMS or the National Means Cum Merit Scholarship is a government scheme through which children deserving of financial assistance studying in government schools get the assistance they need.
In the first year, His team trained around 10 children for the NMMS exam out of which 1 child obtained the scholarship. Over time this number increased and he started focusing on training more volunteers to help children with the NMMS program. Even this year, in collaboration with YFS, he had begun training children for NMMS virtually. He has been the driving force behind YFS’ NMMS program. He also narrated various experiences he has encountered in his many visits to teach at schools. He reminisced about how he began with one school at Tavarekere. Once NMMS began, he began going out of Bangalore as well to give training for the exam. Now, they have begun training for high school as well.
Shri Prasanna’s life is an example that age is no bar to being a volunteer. It all depends on your motivation and drive. Through his motivation and dedication, he has changed the lives of many children and has guided them to a better future. He is an inspiration to everyone and he is at the forefront of societal change