Giving back to the community can be fun!

Have you ever used a “shake table” in school to understand the effects of earthquakes on buildings? I haven’t! I had never seen one, let alone build one. So I was pleasantly jolted (no pun intended) to see a “shake table” kit being built along with many other innovative modules at the Resource Area For Teaching or the RAFT center, here in San Jose, California. It was surprising to learn that, teachers in U.S spend an average of $1200 per year out of their own pockets to help their students. RAFT, which is held together by none other than volunteers like you and me, collects discarded, unused or surplus supplies donated to them by companies and individuals. Materials like thumb tacks, foil, plastic pipes, old office folders,books etc are collected and these simple yet powerful kits are designed. RAFT’s mission, is to provide low-cost and hands-on teaching materials to teachers, collaborative and fun activities to students and to improve the outcome of education as a whole.

As we are all aware that Vibha works to empower children in India by facilitating their education, health care and overall development, we should also acknowledge the fact, that we are able to achieve our goals mainly through operations and fund raising in the U.S.A . In this effort, the local community is an integral cog in the wheel. Whether it is participating in the Dream mile event in hordes, or providing resources to organize purely Indian events like the Dandiya, Vibha would not have reached where it has today, had it not been for the support of the local community. At the Bay Area Action Center, we feel strongly about volunteering to support local non-profit organizations and try to do this once a month.

Apart from assembling shake table kits, there were a number of fun projects to do at RAFT. They invite volunteers to package the kits designed by them so that they can be sold to teachers. I was at the reading-kit section and we were supposed to put together books in bundles of ten, classified into categories like work books, religious books, textbooks and cook books. These books would be used by teachers as extra reading material for students over and above their syllabus so that they are able to learn new things. Also these books provide a welcome relief to the students from their everyday foray into regular school books.

An attractive side effect of this entire exercise for us Vibha volunteers, was the camaraderie it brought among us. Many volunteers in the action center, do not get time to come to the weekly meetings or be a part of organizing big events. A weekend volunteering opportunity gives them a great platform to meet fellow volunteers, get to know them better on an informal level and generally have fun in a group activity. We did have our fair share of funny moments like finding a book called “Doga – Yoga for dogs”. It is also a team building exercise which is key for a volunteer based organization. Many volunteers also look for some hands on volunteering work which is usually not the case when it comes to event management. Such activities truly give people the feeling of giving back. I really hope more action centers take the step and get involved in their local community and also have fun while doing it. Love to hear your thoughts on giving back and what it means to you. Please leave your comments…

More information about RAFT can be found at : http://www.raft.net/main

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