Caring calls and spreading smiles – New Indian Express | News Bharat

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Volunteering for a cause is often painted in serious colours; buckle up and work hard to create measurable results. And in many cases, this is true. For volunteers Chennai, however, an exhilarating day of volunteering involves relaxing, busting moves, singing tunes and taking satisfaction to an immeasurable effect. Nivetha Shankar is one of them. Just a few months ago, she came across an opportunity with Chennai Volunteers (CV), an NGO, while looking for a viable volunteering option. Soon she found herself in the company of many children and was given a simple task — to make them happy.

These were residents of CanKids, an organization that works across the spectrum of childhood cancer care, who spent most of their time between hospitals and home. “All the children had shaved heads. Some have had (medical devices) injected into their arms, some have just come back from treatment, and others from chemotherapy. Nevertheless, they were active. We started handing out colored papers and they took pictures with great interest. Everyone loved coloring the pages and it allowed them to communicate and collaborate freely. They felt relaxed when they talked to us, and we had a good time with them,” he recalls, adding that they got a speaker and many children got excited about the music.

Recreation areas
It is the immeasurable but undeniable impact of recreational volunteering that Chennai Volunteers has brought back after a two-year hiatus. But what does recreational volunteering really mean? “It’s basically the fun part of volunteering, there’s no focus on impact. This is the most social volunteering, where you just want to spread joy and engage people in games, chat and art. We have set up recreation corners (like CanKids) in these places where we keep the material,” says Rinku Mecheri, founder of CV. This type of volunteering is not uncommon in Chennai, he explains, and you might have seen it in the form of medical clowns going to hospitals, or volunteers singing songs, reading a story or just playing indoor games with patients. “Recreational volunteering happens in nursing homes, with children who are being treated for illnesses, children with special needs and those who are vulnerable because of their circumstances,” shares Rinku.

While pre-Covid freedom of movement allowed for much more activity, the pandemic has crushed any possibility of this in the past two years. And while things have opened up and activities are welcome, bringing recreational volunteering back to CanKids kids has required careful preparation and care. “We work with children in CanKids and VHS (for children with thalassemia), who are both immunocompromised. So it took us some time to come back and make sure the volunteers were vaccinated. They are always masked and in small numbers. If they have the slightest cold or cough, we tell them not to go,” he adds.

Rewarding results
Despite the simplest offering of socializing, art and entertainment, recreational volunteering seems to have shown positive results not only for children, but also for parents. Latha Mani of CanKids observes the uplifted mood of families at home. “For the most part, mothers are the ones who stay at home with the children; we also encourage fathers to return to work so that they will have the money they need when they return to their hometown. We ask volunteers to work with them or give them motivation, because despite the fact that we have our own psychologists, sometimes a child can get sick and other parents automatically start to worry and think about what will happen to their child. And even though childhood cancer is curable, parents are worried. When volunteers come, they are very happy to see their child laughing, running or doing activities. Otherwise, they are usually in the hospital or sleeping on a bed. So that the mothers are happy that their children are active, and they also feel relaxed that day,” she says, adding that if the volunteers don’t show up, the mothers often ask about it.

But not only mothers are waiting for volunteers. The children also look forward to these days, especially when they establish a relationship with the volunteers. “If they spend even half an hour, it may not seem like anything special to us, but for children, meeting new people and various activities give them a boost. Some volunteers even come and celebrate birthdays, weddings or some functions and distribute sweets or clothes,” says Latha.

Who’s ready?
If the story so far has inspired you to smile and take your music and dance skills home, you might want to consider a few things. While there are no specific skills or requirements for this type of volunteering, it still may not be for everyone. “You go there to spread joy and happiness in someone’s life. So you need to be in that positive and happy frame of mind. Because if you’re not, then you can’t share it either.

Anyone can definitely volunteer, but if you are a person who is not used to addressing people, then this might not be for you because it is active participation,” says Rinku, while Nivetha adds, “I recommend it. but not to all. Those who are service-oriented can definitely visit the place and create good memories for these children.” That being said, Rinku mentions, there were people who visited with others and found that they could do it. “Volunteering is also about stepping out of your comfort zone and discovering a new aspect of your personality. And recreational volunteering is the easiest way to do that,” he concludes. For details call: 9840182299 or visit:

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