By Sanjiv Mirchandani, member of the Rotary Club of Panaji, India
Vocational Service is an extremely important Avenue of Service through which every Rotarian can truly Make A Difference.
I joined Rotary because I wanted to be able to reach people in underprivileged communities. India has a very large population and literacy levels are still very low. I wanted to help provide people with opportunities to learn new skills so that they can either seek employment or become self-employed and earn a living for themselves.
I also wanted to help women gain skills and become financially independent so that they could not only contribute towards the betterment of their families but also have an equal standing in all spheres of life. Financial independence can be a major factor in boosting one’s confidence.
Lastly, I wanted to assist differently abled people, especially the young ones, in acquiring skills they could use to earn a living for themselves. This would not only help enhance their levels of self-confidence, but it would also help change the perceptions of the society at large, which in India treats them with pity and as a liability.
In 2016-17, when I was asked by my then-President-elect Rotarian Nilesh Shah to join his board for the year, I immediately took up the offer and requested that I be given the vocational service portfolio, which was very kindly granted to me.
This was the opportunity I had been waiting for: to implement projects that would empower people in underprivileged communities. That year, our club worked on two significant projects:
- We conducted a vocational training program for 12 women, empowering them with garment cutting and tailoring skills. A qualified tailor led the training over 10 days for four hours each day. After the training was completed, all women were gifted a sewing machine so that they could start their own tailoring establishment.
- In collaboration with the National Association of the Blind (NAB)’s Goa chapter, our club organized a two-day workshop where 21 blind/visually impaired students from NAB ages 13-21 were taught the basics of digital photography to help them pursue a career in the field, in time to come. A trainer from the Beyond Sight Foundation of Mumbai taught the students how to use their senses of touch, smell and hearing to frame and shoot photographs. After the workshop, our club donated six digital cameras to students. Watch this video of a young man who was trained by the Beyond Sight Foundation of Mumbai in commercial photography. He was hired by a soap brand to do a commercial shoot with one of India’s top actresses.
Motivating my fellow club members to get involved in vocational service was not a difficult task. I sent out an email to our club outlining and defining the projects we would be conducting, including the volunteer time required for each one. I had broken up volunteer slots by 2-3 hours and members were happy to come even on a work day and contribute physically.
My experience as the Vocational Service Chair for my club was exhilarating and very satisfying. My club president and club’s board of directors were open to new ideas and supported me all the way through. Together, we were able to make a positive difference in the lives of others through vocational service.
I feel that Rotarians must incorporate vocational service programs in their club and district projects as it is a very important Avenue of Service. Through these programs we are not only able to teach people new skills, but also help them improve their lives financially and otherwise. Financial self-sufficiency also reflects on their personal family lives, which ultimately improve and helps them contribute positively to the society at large. Essentially, through vocational service programs, we can help empower people to enhance their lives in every possible way.
Above all, as a Rotarian, it is most satisfying to see positive results of one’s efforts in a short time.