Youth Forward Scholarship Summer 2018 – Why I Volunteer

Name: Nainika Ravichandran
From: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Grade: College Freshman
School: University of New Mexico
Votes: 0

I have been volunteering for as long as I can remember. It is one of my
most cherished memories because that was the beginning of one of the
most important parts of my life. When I was in 3rd grade, my mother
took me to Roadrunner Food Bank to package what must have been
hundreds of bags of cereal for the Food for Kids Backpack Program,
which provides children with food for the weekend if their parents
are not able to do so. It was an experience I held so close to my
heart as well because some of my closest friends took part in the
program and being able to help in the smallest way gave me a feeling
of fulfillment I had never felt before.

Now, I still volunteer because of what my mother told me nearly nine years
ago. Seeing my friends who struggled to even have enough food for the
weekend truly upset me at the time and I could not seem to understand
why I was allowed to have things they could not afford. One day I
asked her: “Why do I have more things than them?” She
simply smiled at me and told me, “You were given more so you
could give back to those with less than you.” Almost 10 years
later, I carry that thought with me every single day. That sentiment
drove my desire to help others purely because it instilled a strong
sense of humility within me. When I see a homeless man on the street,
I don’t see a man who is inferior to me or made bad life decisions; I
see a human being, just like me, who I want to help in any way I can.
Ultimately, I volunteer because I have been given so much in my life
that I feel as if the only way to show my gratitude is to make a
difference in someone else’s life. Simply, pay it forward.

            I joined my school’s community service organization when I was in 6th grade, and seven
years later, I was the president of the organization. My senior year,
I spent hours upon hours organizing projects, playing fundraisers,
and planning service trips to better our community. The most
rewarding projects were always about helping young children and the
homeless. From creating projects such as making blankets for the
homeless and putting together blessing bags to winter drives for
refugees and buying books for young children, every moment made me
even more sure of what I wanted to accomplish in my life.

I have always seen volunteering as making even the smallest difference
in the life of another. Whether it is giving a homeless man a blanket
or donating food to a food bank, volunteering is about what you hold
in your heart. If you truly want to make a change, you will make a
change because I believe there is no such this as too small of a
difference. However, I only realized this just recently. Last year, I
tutored young refugee children through the Refugee Wellbeing Project
for 2 hours only once a week. Most of the children didn’t even know
my name despite asking me each week. I did not believe I was making
such of impact since the children didn’t even remember my name, but
that all changed during the last week. There was a young girl,
Nasreen, who was in 4th grade and was expected to know division, but
still had not mastered addition. By the end of the year, she told me
she was doing division faster than all of her friends and drew me a
“Thank You” card with my name on it. Even just making a
difference in Nasreen’s life was all I needed to know that my work
mattered. Since then, I have gone into every life experience telling
myself that if I just make a difference with one person, that is
enough for me. It wasn’t just a sentiment for community service, but
my entire life. I knew then that the number of people I helped no
longer mattered, but the fact that I was helping someone is what is
important to me.

After high school, I no longer had an organization through which I could
partake in community service or volunteer. It was then that I
that being an adult meant I had to take even more initiative to make a
change in other people’s lives. It was then that I began developing
a project I coined “Making a Miracle”, an initiative to support
expectant mothers through care packages and HIV prevention and
promote sexual health education among youth in Africa. Though this
project was entirely different from my past community service
experiences, it addresses issues I have held close to my heart for
several years. Throughout high school, I participated in Model United
Nations and represented various developing nations including the
sub-Saharan nation, Senegal. Through months of research and drafting
resolutions at the conference as the delegate to these developing
nations, I became aware of the high rates of maternal mortality in
these areas due to a lack of access to the proper medical care and
resources. Though we developed resolutions on paper during the
conferences, I hoped to bring those resolutions to life through
service work. Now, Making a Miracle is my way of reaching people who
need assistance by distributing HIV test kits, sending prenatal
vitamins to expectant mothers, developing a nutrition education and
access program, and creating a sexual health education program for

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