Before my stroke in January 2017, like many, I used to volunteer my time but did it infrequently and only whenever I could find time. But after my stroke and the other adversities I faced, I started to volunteer my time by design. I wanted to pick myself up from the tragedies I faced. And helping others was the best way to do that. I wanted to be useful to others in whatever ways I could.
In January 2019, as I was rehabbing from the stroke, in-spite of my health condition, I started to volunteer my time to one of the councils of Inova Fairfax Hospital where ex-patients advise the hospital through monthly meetings on how they can improve their services, which I continue to do. It was extremely important to me to give back to the hospital in some way. I owed my life to them. I had donated some money, but I wanted to do more. Besides sharing my hospital experience, it felt good to also draw upon my 24 years of corporate experience and contacts helping organizations around the world to improve. I found volunteering my time at the hospital was extremely cathartic and was glad that I was useful.
As my mission to help others solidified further, and I realized doing that had an additional benefit of healing me, I decided to volunteer more of my time whatever my health permitted. This time in 2020, I decided to volunteer my time to be an advisory board member of my dear friend Kapil Sharma’s IT company, Streams Solutions giving business advice as they expanded. Kapil had helped me a lot as I recovered and was proud of him for starting his own company. Like volunteering with the hospital, I felt great that I could leverage my corporate experience to help my friend and his new company. Then later in the year I got involved as an editorial member of the Journal of Psychiatry and Mental Research, an esteemed research journal which publishes contemporary research findings pertaining to experimental, preclinical, and clinical analyses of diversified aspects of mental health management. I started to volunteer my time to assist the Journal to increase the quality of its articles and provide editorial suggestions.
The gratifying feeling of helping others energized me further. In 2021, I was invited to speak at a Delhi based stroke awareness group called Stroke Support India to share my experiences and lessons learned from my journey. The group consists of several stroke survivors and caregivers who meet regularly via zoom. I was hugely impressed with what this group was doing to spread stroke awareness. So, after my speaking engagement, I decided to volunteer my time by attending their zoom meetings on a regular basis to help the group with its mission.
Besides helping me to heal, volunteering is also helping me feel useful and productive and that I was giving something back to the world. It has helped me not only create a sense of purpose, but also create a sense of bond, making me feel grateful, and it provides stronger motivation to come out of my crises.
May I add one need not have a big medical crisis like me to start volunteering for healing. I am convinced whether your adversity is big or small you can reap the healing benefits of volunteering. Also, one need not have adversities to volunteer, anyone can at any time. There are many places one can volunteer your time to support their important missions. They need all kinds of volunteers – customer facing, internal facing such as clerical duties, managing inventories, or bookkeeping etc. So, based on my experience, I highly recommend volunteering your time. It helps support a noble cause and is extremely cathartic. I can guarantee folks will find it that way too.