In school I used to participate in painting competition every year. This was the one competition where you did not get on stage. That was my only qualification when I decided to join the painting committee for our apartment complex. It’s a large 650 home housing complex spread over several acres of land. For nearly 2 years, I have spent every other weekend on this project. Beginning from getting the residents on the same page, through identifying vendors, water proofing all the way through execution has been one huge effort.
Prior to that I had taken up treasury responsibility for the apartment. I was racked with self-doubt when I picked this up. I had only indicated I am willing to help. Soon enough I was drawn into picking up this portfolio. Primarily because no one else had come up to take the post. I don’t come from a finance background. The last time I had gone through P&L statements was during my MBA. I still think the Prof let me pass because I attended all his classes. This was my first stint at social volunteering. And boy, did it help?
The perspective it provides is amazing. For e.g. I realised we blow through 35000 Rs of diesel to keep our complex lighted for one hour. On a dark power outed night, when our complex is the only bright spark in the locality, the difference between the haves and have nots is palpable. First hand we realised what minimum wages mean to the house keeping employees and security teams. We realised the cost of water. We realised the cost of digging a bore well. I was painfully made aware that every household in our complex was spending more on water than we spend on milk.
There are so many more things we gain from volunteering. For a start, its made me a better person. Volunteers have a common purpose. Hence bonding is incredible within the group. Volunteers let their guard down. You can make lots of friends when you volunteer. You can work out of your comfort zone without feeling threatened. You end up learning a lot. You are accountable only to your conscience. Just the fact that you are volunteering commands respect. For many of us working in the esoteric ‘knowledge industry’, you get to do something tangible. The choice of colours and places where your brush stroked create enduring memories. My son still argues with me on why we chose ‘that grey’.
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