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A Fun Morning for DBS — Interacting with Mann Beneficiaries

Last Thursday, 6th July, 2017, was not like any other Thursday at the DBS Mumbai office, the ConnectFor office or at Mann — a center for individuals with special needs. Since the past 3 months we, at ConnectFor, have been tirelessly working with the DBS team to ideate, plan and execute a one-day volunteering engagement for their employees. After hours of brainstorming, trying to find the best possible way to ensure that the DBS team of 75 people can make the most of their Thursday morning and add value to the lives of beneficiaries, our NGO partner Mann seemed to be the best fit for this engagement!

We have been working alongside Mann for almost 8 months now and have saved the organization Rs. 25,000 and 72 hours in value savings. Mann works with young adults with special needs and provides generalized as well as person-specific training to its students, to help prepare them for a more meaningful and independent life, helping them integrate into society.

We wanted to ensure that this one-day volunteering engagement would be a win-win for the NGO, its beneficiaries, and the DBS team. Taking this into account we carefully planned out each activity to ensure that the DBS volunteers could interact with the beneficiaries and the beneficiaries could use this as a platform to display their talents.

On the day of the event the DBS employees turned up to the event in large numbers, totalling to almost 80 volunteers. The CSR event coordinator from DBS stated that “this event had a milestone turn out!” The day kick-started with an induction and a tour by the NGO members to familiarize everyone who attended with the centre, their beneficiaries and the activities carried out throughout the year by the NGO.

Post the induction, the DBS employees made themselves comfortable and immediately started approaching the beneficiaries. To our surprise, the beneficiaries really took to the employees and were soon flaunting their talents and skills. As part of a fun and heart warming activity, the beneficiaries taught DBS volunteers how to decorate coasters and envelopes, which they would then use to raise funds. The ones who were fortunate enough to be taught product making by the beneficiaries, were engrossed in the activity and left the centre with a sense of satisfaction. They were also impressed to see how talented the individuals at the centre were.

Before we bid adieu to both Mann and DBS, Mann had a little surprise for the volunteers where the beneficiaries danced and the volunteers sang along. Those of us who attended, from ConnectFor, were so pleased to see that the volunteers were deeply touched and went home either feeling like they wanted to do something more or left the centre feeling like a changed person. This definitely made all our efforts and time spent on this engagement worthwhile and made us feel like we created a win-win situation for everyone involved!

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ConnectFor has recently started working with groups of volunteers, corporate organisations and small teams of people who want volunteer together to make a difference. We understand your needs and requirements and then plan out volunteering engagements for you with one of our 115 NGO partners. Please reach out to us for any CSR needs/requirements you may have.

To start your volunteering activity and spread smiles, sign up here: goo.gl/1KN3TR 🙂

5 ways to volunteer from home

Do you wish to volunteer?

Yes? But then you hate leaving your house during vacations!

Or are you someone who ends up wasting an entire Sunday afternoon?

Well we have got the best solution for all of you.

Did you know you could volunteer from the comfort of your home? Yes now you can.

No more travelling, no more getting dressed, now volunteer in your pyjamas!

This type of volunteering is called remote volunteering. Here you do not have to physically visit an NGO but rather volunteer for them from any location convenient to you.

Here are some opportunities that would take only a couple of hours of your time but would have a lasting impact for the NGO and all from the comfort of your home.

  1. Volunteer as a web designer:

Help these NGOs have an online presence by volunteering to help them create and maintain a website.

(http://www.connectfor.org/opportunities/cf0922-website-development-volunteer/)

  1. Volunteer as a financial consultant:

Good at Finance? Then why not volunteer to help these NGOs maintain their accounting books and share your wisdom?

(http://www.connectfor.org/opportunities/cf0922-website-development-volunteer/)

  1. Volunteer as a graphic designer:

Showcase your creative side and create some amazing designs for these NGOs.

(http://www.connectfor.org/opportunities/cf0909-graphic-designing-volunteer/)

  1. Volunteer as a strategic consultant:

Good at giving advice? Then why not advice for a good cause, be a consultant. Share your strategy and planning skills to help these NGOs grow.

(http://www.connectfor.org/opportunities/cf0699-strategic-consultant-volunteer/)

  1. Volunteer as a content writer:

All the writers in the house come write for these NGOs help them create great content and spread the amazing work they do.

(http://www.connectfor.org/opportunities/cf0914-content-writing-volunteer/)

All we are asking is to try Volunteering! What better way to take your first steps in volunteering than to begin it from the comfort of your home. This would take only a couple of hours of your time but would for sure have a greater impact on the NGO.

Happy Volunteering!

One For The Ages (and the Aged!)

In India today, we have reservations for seniors in every form be it while travelling in a train or a bus or availing any facilities at a bank. Then why is it that we cannot reserve just a significant amount of space for them in our lives?

There are countless stories of the elderly, forgotten and abandoned by the families they once rasied, who seek to find new homes and to settle their lives in what should ideally be the time they are most cared for and looked after. NGOs play a critical role, providing them with alternatives, company, food, shelter and options to improve their lives, but nothing can replace the love of a home.

Senior citizens are the roots of our families, and our society, and they deserve to be treated with love and respect. It’s not hard to make them smile — and we’ve got some suggestions for you on just how to help them feel more cherished and celebrated, resulting in greater happiness and health for them and for you!

1. Just casual conversations:

This is probably the easiest! Whether it’s at home, or on the train with you, or randomly in your building make it a point to start a conversation with them, talking about anything under the sun, be it cricket, your day at work, politics or bollywood! You will be surprised at the insights they may be able to offer, and how involved they will feel once you initiate the conversation.

2. Plan outings:

If you have elders in your family, try and plan regular excursions with them. It doesn’t need to be extravagant — a day trip, or a weekend getaway, plays or movies, everything works! Just make sure to account for their comfort and convenience during the journey, or activity, and you’ll never see someone have a better time.

3. Be Considerate:

It’s not rare to see someone in the need of a helping hand — whether it’s giving them a lift, or letting them go ahead of you in a long line, just think of little things that you can do to make life a little easier for them. Remember, being patient with them is the most important consideration you can give them.

4. Encourage them to be part of some clubs:

A lot of people say, life starts after 60! Now, many people are healthy and happy but retired, so help them find great ways to pass their time like joining recreational clubs where they will be occupied and also get a chance to meet others and make new friends — yes even at that age. After all, you’re never too old to have a good time!

5. Spend Some Time Volunteering:

NGOs need volunteers all the time — if you don’t have any seniors around you (you’re missing out!!) so come interact with them and enjoy their enthusiasm and wisdom by spending time with them. ConnectFor’s organized an event just for that, so RSVP for it, and you’ll see what we mean!

It takes only a little bit of our time and effort to make a huge difference in another person’s life. The elderly deserve our love, respect and time more than anyone, so let’s all strive to be touch their lives through our thoughts, words, and deeds!

Join ConnectFor to spread some love and cheer to the aged, as we celebrate Mother’s Day with them, on May 13, 2018. Bring your friends and family along!

RSVP here: http://www.connectfor.org/events/one-for-the-ages/

10 Ways To Make Your Summer Fabulous & Meaningful

Stuck in town this summer and don’t know what to do? Done with college and still figuring out what to do this summer?

Are these questions running through your mind right now? Try volunteering!

We have some handpicked opportunities that will brighten up your holidays. Volunteer at these unique spots to contribute your bit towards the community you live in. Put your skills to the best possible use and help those in need. We have curated opportunities for one and all in Mumbai and Bangalore. Love teaching, dance, painting, animals etc. we have got it all for you, read on to find out more!

1. Love painting?

We have partnered with NGOs that bring out the creative side in you. Put your creative hat on and make the most of this opportunity.

2. Social media freaks, there is something for you too!

Good with social media, blogging and computers? Help these NGO’s built their social profiles and get them to reach many many people and share their great work. Also, put your stalking skills to use by using this great talent of yours to do some research and actually benefit someone.

Mumbai or Bengaluru we’ve got you covered!

3. Any Musicians and Dancers in the house?

Whether you are a professional or dancing/music is just a hobby that you enjoy, if you are already good at it then why not go and teach this amazing art to the ones who aren’t that fortunate to afford a professional class? Find out how, right here!

4. Love KIDS??

Spend some time every week with Kids and organise play sessions, go narrate some stories to them. Also, if you wish to do more than just storytelling, you can also Mentor/Teach a child and help him build a better future. Basically it’s win-win — cute kids, fun times, what can make for a better summer, right?!

5. Click Click *Say Cheese*:

Wedding photography, Pre-wedding shoots? Still stuck with the usual? Grab your cameras this summer and photograph some rather unusual experiences, whether you’re in Mumbai or Bengaluru; it’s time to get a new lens on (life)!

6. High on Meditation:

Are you as flexible as a pretzel? Swear by asanas and breathing exercises as the secret to a good life? Want to be a guru for those who need to know about the magic of yoga? Do it for those who need it the most by signing up here!

7. Meet some furry friends!

Did you know you could volunteer and have fun at the same time? Grab this unique opportunity and spend time with some furry friends in town and make it an experience to cherish for a lifetime. You may even end up taking one home!

8. Paradise for all the book lovers!

Spend some time at local libraries in town and also book sorting drives and enjoy your day with nothing but books around. Shut out the world, bibliophiles, and do it for a cause! Sounds too good to be true? We’ve got you covered!

9. Just do it!

All the sportsmen here take a break from the day long practice sessions and visit these NGO’s to inspire and promote the importance of sports to these budding sportsmen. We’ve heard (and seen) that some of them are pretty amazing, so let’s see how you measure up against their raw talent!

10. First time volunteer?

Volunteering for the first time? Overwhelmed with the options? Don’t want to commit to volunteering every day? Never fear, test it out with these incredible weekend volunteering opportunities (Mumbai or Bengaluru) which will turn you from novice to expert in no time!

Summer is for fun, for adventure, and for making memories that will last forever. Why not enrich lives simultaneously? Remember, volunteering through ConnectFor is always all about being win-win for a cause, and what a waste of summer if you don’t spend it #winning!

Happy Volunteering & Happy Summer!

Shrutika Patil is a ConnectFor intern who is practicing what she preaches and doing good with her summer (we can already see the difference she’s making!)

On the Ground, but Flying

“To wear dreams on one’s feet is to begin to give a reality to one’s dreams.”

DBS has always been an ardent supporter of social causes, and with the support that Greensoles has received from DBS and their engagement with them, it became apparent that their impact could be doubled with intervention. Greensole recycles discarded footwear to provide shoes to those who need it most, thereby reducing waste in landfills and serving an unmet need for the less privileged. Greensole identified an Adivasi Ashram School, in the Gandul Wada Shahapur district where the children are not exposed to the luxuries of having decent shoes or even basic necessities that get taken for granted in a city like Mumbai.

The children live at the Ashram where they are provided Education, Healthcare and basic meals such as dal rice twice a day, but during their holidays they travel, by feet to their nearby village homes which takes them roughly 3–4 hours, walking. Unfortunately, these children didn’t have basic footwear to manage this journey, and that led very severe blisters and bruises and immense pain as they attempted the journeys without shoes. DBS worked with ConnectFor to create an activity for DBS employees to visit this ashram and distribute shoes to all the children there. In total, 300 pairs of shoes were given out, reaching every child that the Ashram served. DBS’s distribution of Greensoles shoes have helped these children not just by enabling them to meet their families, but also by putting the biggest smiles on their faces.

The response to DBS’s initiative was tremendously well received. All the people from the Ashram were incredibly kind and welcoming expressed their gratitude by a welcoming ceremony followed by a thank you speech. This speech outlined the dramatic impact this distribution would have on their children, and how it was such a thoughtful and much needed act — the shoes would give the children comfort during the ardous distance they cover, and give them relief from heat-related ill health. This was followed wonderful dance performed by the young girls of the ashram, after which the volunteers at the event were served a wholesome meal made with the vegetables grown at the Ashram!

The whole experience was overwhelmingly heartwarming and left all involved with a sense of gratitude toward the littlest things in life.

2 Years of ConnectFor

Exactly 2 years ago, on December 5th 2015, to commemorate International Volunteer’s Day, ConnectFor Mumbai was launched. ConnectFor had started of as an idea to connect people that had the impetus to do good with non profit organisations already doing great work!

My journey as one of ConnectFor’s founders has been incredible. Initially, I think I was so drawn to the idea of a start-up, the social sector and just about creating a service that was one-of-a-kind from scratch. We started out with the vision in 2015 to create a #WinWinForACause and to make volunteering more accessible.

Today, 2 years later we realise the tremendous potential for a program like ConnectFor. The social sector in India is growing and there are millions thousands of organisations that are working at the grass root level to solve issues like illiteracy, lack of education, gender inequality etc. In order to become an aware citizen, contribute back to society and help these grass root organisations one needs to spend some time in understanding the work they do. Philanthropy in India is growing, and personally I believe the first step in becoming a philanthropist is giving back your time. For me the importance of volunteering is being validated on a daily basis.

Whether one is a student, a corporate, a homemaker, a retired individual, a designer or a doctor, ConnectFor has connected each of these volunteers to an organisation where they have given their time and skill to create value. In the last 2 years we have created a community of volunteers who gone above and beyond to contribute back to society. We have seen volunteers who have built websites (which would have costed NGO’s lakhs of rupees), who have painted NGO centres who have dedicated their mornings teaching children. We have seen success stories of corporate volunteers funding a specially abled child’s education after volunteering at their centre for one day. Some of our other corporate partners have volunteered to skill the underprivileged youth and then offered them a job. The power of volunteering goes far beyond spending a few hours at an NGO, and the impact of a few hours is multifold on the NGO and the volunteer.

ConnectFor currently works with over 120 NGOs in Mumbai, and has a community of 5000+ volunteers. Cumulatively, these volunteers have given more than 13,000 hours of volunteering, and saved NGOs more than INR 30,00,000 in value saving. These numbers are incredibly significant; it shows that skill and time has measurable value, and that together as a resource each of us has the potential to do something at this very moment in time.

On ConnectFor’s 2 year anniversary, 05 December 2017, ConnectFor is launching its Bangalore chapter, and taking one step further in its mission to demonstrate the value of human resource for non-profit organisations, and getting closer to realizing our vision of developing the culture of volunteering across India, encouraging both individuals, groups and organisations to realise how to best use time and skill to add significant value to the space.

Our journey at ConnectFor has been one of growth, but it has also been one of incredible optimism. Every day we see a reaffirmation of the goodness and potential of people. 2 years, 2 cities later, we are excited to see what’s coming up ahead!

Maniti Modi is one of the founders of ConnectFor, and it’s essential building block!

The Best of ConnectFor

Top 3 Moments at CF

“Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision is merely passing time. But vision with action can change the world.” — Nelson Mandela

After being a part of the corporate banking sector for the initial years of my career, I decided to change paths and move over to the social sector and join a start-up. My first thought to share is that working for an NGO doesn’t automatically grant the grace of helping others better their lives, or saving the planet. It is practical to assume that your efforts in this space may not be realised in the short term, but the work satisfaction that I get is incomparable to anything I have done in the past.

I have been working with ConnectFor for about 1.5 years now. The beauty of working in any start up, is like seeing a child being born and growing up. You can identify different phases and factions of growth — such as the phase of intense growth, the phase of operational stagnation or even the phase of chaos! And each phase strikes a chord close to you, because you have a been a part of each moment of this.

While it is impossible to extract and isolate just one or more favourite moments of mine at ConnectFor, there are definitely a couple of them that vividly stay with me, as if they just happened yesterday.

1. When we hit the jackpot for the first time — 1,000 volunteers! The most fun part of this was the build up to hitting the first 1,000 volunteers on ConnectFor’s website. 965..980..993.. and the next day 1,000. If you want to compare this feeling to something — the last kilometre when you’re running a marathon for the first time ever. And the 1,000? When you run over the white finish line, sweat streaming down your bow, and you think, wow I really did this.

2. That touching moment while running a corporate workshop at an NGO… — ConnectFor ran a corporate workshop for an esteemed bank at an education after-school center where the children are taught English and Maths. It was the first event at which I was going to lead and compare. Part of the workshop involved interaction between the employee volunteers and the children. The children at the center came from all walks of life — someone’s mother was a domestic helper, someone’s dad was a daily labourer etc. We had one 12 year old child ask the bank employees — “I want to become CA, my dad tells me becoming CA very respectful. Please tell me, how do I become a CA.” That moment of realisation — that child, all of 12, with no financial support, who doesn’t know if he will get his meal the next day, has bigger dreams and aspirations than all of us. It was the most beautiful moment I have ever experienced in my professional life — my eyes welled up with tears of happiness and hope for this child — who changed my life in so many ways.

3. When I learnt to change my apathy to the power of empathy — The perks of working at ConnectFor is that they keep you grounded and make you realise that no problem is unsolvable. My favourite part of working at ConnectFor was conducting visits to our NGO partners, meeting the beneficiaries of each center and pitching to them how we aim to make this world a better place. On one of the NGO visits, we had to make our way to an NGO which was in a remote area. Not only that, my first impression on seeing the NGO center — this is dodgy. Dilapidated old building, no lift, no stairwell light, no other residents, isolated area and not another person in sight. Since it was just my colleague and I on this NGO visit, I was feeling a little apprehensive seeing the center. Once inside the center, it was refreshing to meet the beneficiaries. This NGO center has been made for runaway girls who were forced into labour or marriage against their will. The NGO center trains the girls vocationally in order to have a support for themselves for their future. As we left the center, I voiced out loud to my colleague that getting to this NGO center and seeing the facilities from the outside is so dodgy; I doubt any volunteers will come here. At which my colleague said, “It’s so sad. Can you imagine the girls having to grow up and spend their childhood here.” That’s when it struck me, I am so selfish. The first thing I thought about when I came here was myself as opposed to thinking about the children who are brought here and stay in these facilities day in and day out. One more thing I was taught at ConnectFor.. Changing my apathy to empathy!

The best part of working with a small team closely and meeting each other for most of the day is that they become family for you in so many ways. You spend more time with them than you spend with your parents or your spouse. And there are more moments of laughter, inside jokes, moments of sadness when someone is leaving and moments of togetherness with each other all the time.

“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” — Henry Ford

Why Children & Youth Matter

The birth of a child is the highest moment of appraisal in parent’s life, especially the mother. Dating back to the ancient time, till the contemporary period there are varied events depicting the valor of children. Every child represents a new idea, new perspective, and countless innocence leading to a bundle of curiosity. They are the ones in whom we can sow the roots of development and reap the fruits leading to prosperity. A child molded with virtuous values turns to be a responsible youth and consequently proves to be a boon to the country. Irrespective of the fact that, the practicality of situation suggest the ignorance towards shaping the future of the country, some aspects presently have changed since past few years.

The policy towards children is gaining significance with time. There is a realization of the importance of the role the children play in bringing about a change in society. Attaining the position of one of the most populous country, India is exceptional in the fact that, there are higher number of young people comprising the population. This suggests that, a potential to contribute towards the development and rational thinking or rather, a change in the conventional practises is effortlessly present at our doorstep. Then the question arises that, why are we turning oblivious to this fact?

Resources already present, will definitely contribute to the country’s progress. It is crystal clear that, they are an inspiration for the generations to come. The children of the country develop their foundation based on the observation of the opportunities taken advantage of in the past. The more positivity the youth reflects, the brighter shall be the future of the country, thus, contributing towards prosperity. However, they are being portrayed with a negative practicality resulting in stagnant or rather degrading the impact on the country, which prolongs with time. No doubt that with time the traditional mess is clearing up, slowly stepping towards the growth and development of children. Yet the ignorance and the pace at which we realise the significance of these two inter-related issues will entirely shape the future of the country’s potential. So will it be utilized to its best or wasted for the worst is an account awaited. Rectifying the traditional attitudes towards the children especially girls, and protecting the child rights can augment optimistic attitude of masses, resulting in growth of country’s potential. Right attitude and right actions by parents, training institutions and the country’s policy makers shall contribute in betterment of the child’s personality and consequently, aid to accomplish the country’s goals.

Today, it is in our hands whether to exploit the available opportunity and utilize, maintain and water the seeds to bear the fruit or wastefully step towards degrading the future of the country. To do your bit, volunteer with children and youth, by exploring opportunities here.

Aditi is passionate about nurturing our future. This is also the first time she has ever written a blog!

Volunteering for a Volunteering Platform

I have been volunteering with ConnectFor since last July. I wanted to work somewhere, where I could make a difference with my IT industry background and I wanted to work pro-bono. The choice was between a start-up and a non-profit organization, and with ConnectFor I found both!

ConnectFor works with NGOs and Volunteers, forming a bridge between them and hand holding them in the journey. They also measure the impact of this volunteering. When I joined them, they already had a successful tech platform and wonderful processes in place. A small but very dedicated team led at the helm by two young girls who infused it with their strong sense of commitment, leadership and work ethics.

I initially thought that I would help them with Business development but then while making presentations and applying for funding from trusts and participating in competitions, I figured out that a lot of the good work they did, was not getting documented or recorded in the way it should be. It was also because of the way the data was entered manually with human errors and also because some aspects of personalizing the volunteer calls were more dependent on the team member rather than the system-optimized opportunities. So I shifted my entire focus to Data: how it would be captured, at what level would impact be measured and how would the statistics emanating from this, feed back into the same to create further growth. What really helped at every stage of my volunteering is the total support from the leadership team and the long brainstorming sessions where we would argue back and forth between capturing too much and too little.

The Operations team too had a big role to play as we would keep on tweaking the data every month to see if the process of connecting the volunteer to the NGO could be better optimized and if we could narrow down the right fit for the volunteer.

We gathered a lot of insights from the data we had after one year of operations and held a small workshop for our NGO partners. Our aim was to share our findings with them and help them understand the world of volunteering better by providing our unique insights which were more formal and structured as we had the data to back it up instead of simple intuition and experience.

They really loved it and we realized that we could get better at this, more focused and learn lessons using the data we gathered and the experiences we had, connecting our 5000+ volunteer family to our 100+NGO partners and make ConnectFor even better at the work we do!

I volunteer full-time 3 days a week and whenever it is not possible for me to travel to work, the team has been quite flexible in letting me work from home. If there are any urgent team meetings, I dial in or attend via video calls. When you volunteer with an organization for a long period of time, there is an implicit trust and faith that you will deliver on what you have promised so there is no nitpicking or micromanaging.

It has been more than a year for me, volunteering for ConnectFor,and the takeaways I have from this long stint are

  • Volunteering for an organization which is able to leverage your existing skill set is more satisfying than simply writing a cheque to the same NGO (but please..also write the cheque)
  • There is level of personal satisfaction when you see the fruits of your labour almost immediately, instead of waiting for years. You fulfill a certain niche for which the organization may not be able to afford someone full-time and that has a ripple effect on the work which would not have been done if you were not there (self pat ha ha!)
  • You meet altruistic and like-minded people when you volunteer
  • You never fail to be amazed at how people are working at the grass-roots level to change the society and get rid of poverty, hunger, illiteracy and abuse! Suddenly your cynicism at the world around you ceases and you know that people are working towards uplifting the society and you are doing your bit, directly or indirectly.

Amisha is a full-time volunteer with ConnectFor, and arguably the most valuable member of our team! Talk about practicing about what you preach 🙂

From #MeToo to #NO-Vember

On the 16th of October 2017, Alyssa Milano, an actress, tweeted — “If all women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me Too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” This tweet was in relation to Hollywood’s worst kept secret — the scandal of the casting couch of Harry Weinstein. Within 24 hours half a million people were talking about this tweet and it took the social media platforms by storm. While some wrote about their stories anonymously, many were very vocal about their experiences, and some just shared a ‘#MeToo’ on their wall. What started as a simple experiment to get people to understand the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault in society and the magnitude of it has now become a full-fledged revolution.

Women world over have in their own way shown participation in this movement. The #MeToo hashtag has been used more than a million times in the US, Europe, the Middle East and beyond. The French used #balancetonporc, the Spanish #YoTambien, and in Arab countries the hashtags وأنا_كمان# and ‏وانا_ايضا# were predominant. This movement has accentuated the awareness of how sexual harassment is not more or less in certain parts of the world but prevalent everywhere in some form or another. As Ellen DeGeneres correctly puts it — “This is not a male thing or a female thing. It is not a Hollywood thing or a political thing. This is a human thing. And it happens in the workplace, it happens in families, it happens all over the world, and we are all the same. We all want the same thing — we want respect and love and kindness.”

This sheds light on yet another problem. All the victims have raised their hands and told their stories, but what about the offenders? The #MeToo movement put the Weinstein scandal in the spotlight, and to imagine this man only saw any implications for all of his actions after so many years. The #MeToo movement lists the victims and the profundity of the issue, but will these victims have to bleed themselves dry again? The consequences that have to be faced by these offenders, how impactful are they going to be for their crimes and how effective are they going to be in preventing such incidents in the future?

In India, women are designated second-class citizens and I do not know even know where to begin on transgenders. This is a country where it’s looked down upon if women eat dinner before their husbands! If you are born a girl, they teach you everything you need to know to score the best husband or in-law family; when you are born a boy, you just have to exist and that will make people happy and proud of you. No amount of degrees, accomplishments or job position would ever make a girl’s parents as proud as finding a good husband of the same or better social and economical background, no matter his job status or accomplishments. Because of this mentality and dominance of a very patriarchal society, women are taught to be quiet; they are taught to not have an opinion. In a country where marital rape is not yet a criminal offence and where domestic violence exists in 55% homes, women are taught to be quiet. Dowry is illegal here since 1961, but still the parents of every girl are expected to give a specific amount of funds, in cash or kind, when she gets married, but everyone watches quietly. In India, what does a free and independent woman mean? An unmarried woman who has a respectable job, earns enough to manage her expenses and live comfortably, would she ever be termed empowered in the full sense? While, she might be making path-altering decisions for an MNC, her clothing choices would have to depend on the men surrounding her, be it the watchmen of her building or a sleazy neighbor or co-worker. She would have to think a hundred times before doing something as normal as just leaving the house after dark or returning home late alone. Can any woman truly be free and empowered in the true sense?

There’s a monumental amount of work to be done in provoking a climate of male dominance in this society — one in which women are belittled and undermined and abused and sometimes pushed out of their industries altogether. But uncovering the colossal scale of the problem is revolutionary in its own right. With this being said, it is extremely important to raise your voice and ask an even more pressing question — Did you? Did you as a man harass, intimidate, sexually or verbally abuse, belittle, not give a promotion to, pay less, discredit, cat call a woman? Did you as a woman watch another man do any of these and not interfere or even encourage your sons or husbands to be a part of this? Did you mistrust or dismiss a survivor who confided in you or told them to “be quiet”? Did you raise your daughter and son unequally?

We would like to, and should take the necessary action and take #Movember and turn it into #NO-vember. We would like to encourage woman from all walks of life to speak up and stand up to everything that they disagree with — whether an opinion affecting their life, or verbal, sexual or physical abuse, whether they are unmarried independent women or a sex worker or a housewife. They need to be made aware that only they have a say when it comes to their life and body — not their husband, parents or relatives. The crux of the society and mentality needs to change in order to truly be progressive. We learn in school that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of a cell, or the life-cycle of a frog, but is there a curriculum teaching students to respect and be decent towards the opposite sex or be more open toward understanding people of different sexual orientations and people of different sexualities? Do we learn how to tackle assault, rape and eve teasing? Are we made aware about mental-health issues of an abused child or about PTSD after being assaulted? Together, let’s advocate this open, accepting behavior of kindness and respect within the society, and empower the weak and work on making them realize the true meaning of the word ‘no’.

Lastly, #Me too. Not just for all the times I’ve shaken it off as inevitable, but all the times I’ve censored my clothes, movements, words and reactions in order to feel safe.

Parishi Shah Jogani is a volunteer with ConnectFor, and a strong advocate for Women’s empowerment, and equal rights.

Weekends With Meaning

“Ask nothing; want nothing in return. Give what you have to give; it will come back to you — but do not think of that now, it will come back multiplied a thousand fold — but the attention must not be on that. Yet have the power to give; so give willingly” — Vivekananda

While travelling through Mumbai local train everyday I come across lot of discussions, talks, debates and fights. I get to know people’s opinions, interests, and routines. I realized that no one talks of real sense of work joy or happiness in what they do. The satisfaction of work and rewards or the fact that I have done something or contributed somewhere is always missing. Well, while many feel bored with the regular things and routine they are in, all of a sudden in the middle of all these conversations of how ‘I was getting bored’ and ‘I just slept in all day’, etc., I hear a lady saying she had best weekend!

She explained how she had visited a shelter home distributed drawing books, taught and drew some paintings herself with the kids, she smiled with joy at the memories, and showed the photos to her friends. She had a different calmness and energy on her face while sharing that she had picked up a painting brush almost after 12 years.

Well in return to her satisfaction and joy of started painting again, it gave some meaning to the kids too, and hence was a win-win way of spending time. This time spent is actually a resource for organizations that are actively looking for resources to fit into the same, in order to reach more people with benefits, joy and those smiles.

People have numerous passions they wish to pursue in life, but not everyone can turn their passions into carriers or part of daily routine, hence weekend volunteering is one of the best ways to do so. While you also are fulfilling your passions but indirectly you are also donating your time to do so. Connect For is a platform where you are connected with the need that matters to you. Find your opportunities based on your hobbies, experience, passions and interests that will be matched with the existing needs. It is convenient, satisfying way to cap off traditional work week also it sends you off into the weekend feeling good.

I have learned that half the fun in volunteering is the joy of spending your time accomplishing a task with others. Whether you’re stacking books at school library, participating in clean-up drives, or running a class for street children at the end of the day what and where you helped become less important than the fact that you just got out and helped. One doesn’t feel the sense of happiness by just donation of money or material. The real pride and happiness comes when we have memories added to the timeline.

Volunteering in its essence is very powerful and important expression of our common community and empowers change across a spectrum. This comes in many different forms but whatever forms or structure it takes place volunteering makes a difference. Material and money donation cannot be compared with this as this resource can be gained and earned again but a person’s time is something that cannot be replaced. It is an expression of solidarity we should all encourage, recognize and support because this potential that people have is a renewable asset that needs to be tapped.

Let’s give learning to someone, meaning to our time, joy to our mind and pride to our heart by contributing our small amount of time.

Manasi is the Operations Lead for ConnectFor, and spends a lot of time (especially in the train) wondering about how to add value and meaning to everyday life.