Mukesh Mirchandani’s Vibha journey

How and when did your Vibha journey begin?

I started volunteering for Vibha in late 2000’s. We were still CRY then. The first event I volunteered at was a Hari Prasad Chaurasia Concert in early 2001. I was assigned to parking duty for that event and it was one heck of an experience. Right after that, the then ACC for Bay area asked me if I would be interested in leading registrations for the Dream Mile 5k/10k event. I jumped at the opportunity and there has been no looking back since then.

What was the main motivation behind becoming a Vibha volunteer?

Actually, when I started volunteering, I had very little understanding about what Vibha did. All I knew was that Vibha was a non-profit organization that works with poor children. It seemed like a good use of my free time (which I had lots of). During the first couple of years at Vibha, I met a lot of like-minded people (many of whom am still very close friends with) and I was having a lot of fun volunteering for an organization, that I knew was doing something good. However, my understanding of the cause was still superficial. It was only in 2004 and 2005, when I first started paying attention to Vibha’s projects, that I truly understood the impact we were making. That changed my perspective completely and I realized there was a much bigger purpose to what we were doing. Today, I do what I do, because I believe that if I have the ability to make a difference in someone’s life, and that it’s my duty to do so. Volunteering, to me, is no longer an activity that I do when it’s convenient for me. It’s a part of my lifestyle.

What do you like the most about volunteering with Vibha?

“The people”. I love being surrounded by people who care so much about the world. Their selflessness inspires me to do more. Another thing I absolutely love about Vibha is how the organization empowers an average Joe like me to make a huge impact in the lives of thousands of underprivileged kids. You don’t have to be pre-qualified and have years of experience to take up responsibility at Vibha. All you need is a desire to do something. And Vibha provides you the platform to convert that desire into positive action! You can’t beat that!

Tell us about your experience of working with fellow Vibha volunteers.

Someone once said to me in jest “I know the V in Vibha stands for Volunteer. What does the “ibha” stand for?” Without volunteers, there is no Vibha. And the Vibha volunteers are an insanely dedicated bunch. Yesterday (may 22nd), Bay Area conducted the first ever Dream Mile half marathon (13.1 mile race). The event lead, Suraj Nair, could not imagine, not running the first ever half marathon that Vibha was conducting. So he reached the venue at 5 am, helped with the setup, then started running the half marathon at 7:30, ran it in 2 hours and 20 mins, and then went straight back to the post-event cleanup which got done at 5pm. 12 hours, without a single complaint or frown. That’s the spirit of the Vibha volunteer. We don’t look to the person next to us to be the change. We believe in becoming that change through our efforts.

How was your first Vibha event? Did you take the lead for any event and how was that experience?

It’s been a long journey for me, so my memory of my first event is a bit hazy. I remember I was in the parking team and spent about 5 hours in the parking lot directing cars and ensuring pedestrian safety at a HPC concert. After that, I was the Dream Mile lead in 2002. Since then, I have been involved in every event that’s been hosted in the Bay area (that’s where I live) in some way or other. To me, that’s the most satisfying part of volunteering – working side by side my fellow volunteers to raise money for the cause and its awareness, that’s so dear to us.

Tell us about an incident that made you feel extremely satisfied with your contribution to Vibha.

That would have to be my first visit to Door Step School, a Vibha funded project. I took on the role of Project lead for this project in 2005 and visited DSS the very same year. Mrs. Rajani Paranjpe, who runs DSS, took me around the construction sites where classes were being conducted for construction workers’ children. I got an opportunity to see our fundraising dollars at work on improving the quality of life of these kids. That cemented my belief in what we do as an organization. Now, every time I visit India, I make sure that I find time to visit DSS and spend some time visiting Vibha’s beneficiaries. More details at http://projects.vibha.org/projects/nfe-classes-for-construction-workers-children/

What is that one thing you would say to encourage someone to become a part of Vibha?

To anyone who wants to become a part of the Vibha family – Volunteering is not always easy. Sometimes it gets challenging to balance volunteering with personal and professional priorities. So yes, volunteering is not always easy. But Volunteering is always satisfying. It’s the best thing you will ever do. When you end a long and tiring day with the knowledge that a small fraction of your time today was spent on bringing hope to a child who would otherwise have none, you will sleep with a smile!

Tell us three things you have learnt from your volunteering experience with Vibha?

Accountability at work – we have managers who hold us to our deadlines. We also have performance reviews and incentive plans that hold us accountable. But at Vibha, there is no performance review that you have to worry about. So accountability has to come from within. Knowing that if I drop the ball on the task that was assigned to me, the whole event will suffer and hence Vibha will not be able to generate enough funds to support committed projects has made me much more accountable.

Respect for my peer volunteers. Over the years, I have recognized that volunteers have very diverse opinions. Everyone feels that his or her approach is the best. Such situations often lead to disagreements. However, I have learnt that the only way to disagree in a volunteer organization is with respect and courtesy. Every volunteer is important to the organization and we will achieve our objective only when we treat each other with respect.

Who is your role model?

Yuvraj Singh of course! Just kidding 🙂  About 6 years back, I had the privilege of meeting Mrs. Rajani Paranjpe, who is the founder of Door Step School. Rajani Tai, as she is affectionately known, is well over 70 years old (maybe even older, I don’t really know her age) and instead of enjoying her retirement, she has been working tirelessly to provide services to the most marginalized segments of society. For over 2 decades, she has been running DSS with utmost professionalism and efficiency.

Rajani Tai is, without a doubt my role model. Read more about Rajani Tai at http://www.doorstepschool.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=190&Itemid=88

Tell us more about yourself and your hobbies and interests.

Ah. I’ll need about 12 pages to do that! Outside of work (I sell enterprise PLM software for a living) and Vibha (where I serve as Director of Fundraising Events), I try and maintain an active lifestyle. My wife and I are both fitness enthusiasts and just ran the first ever Vibha Dream Mile half marathon last weekend. I also enjoy indoor rock-climbing and Badminton. I am also a cricket freak and watched every single India game in the 2011 world cup. I’ve dabbled in theater and Dancing in the past as well. So in a nutshell, I’ll try anything once!

What is your message to fellow Vibha Volunteers?

Vibha’s mission cannot be achieved by a 100 meter sprint. It’s probably going to be a 26 mile marathon. So pace yourself. Create a professional-personal-volunteering balance for yourself. Don’t burn yourself out today or this week or this month by trying to do too much. Instead, do little, have fun along the way and hang in there for the long ride! Because that’s what it’s going to take to bring hope to the millions to children who will otherwise never know what could have been.

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