Murshitha got responses from 10-12 places and shared their details on her social media. Soon, many homechefs expressed their interest in serving food -- quickly, she made a Google form and send it out to people to register. Today, she has a database of many homechefs in and around Chennai. A freelance photographer by profession, Murshitha didn’t know that she was turning a virtual volunteer with her noble act. “I have finished all my shoots for time being and have some extra time in hand. Though I started online volunteering to help my friends, soon I could reach out to more people in the city. I spend at least 5 or 6 hours collating information about homechefs and share their details on social media. I verify everyone who registers, and whatever requests we receive in the web app, I see to it. We are going through a tough phase and I feel this is the least I can do for my city and the people. This is my first time volunteering and am looking forward to helping more people in the future,” says Murshitha Sheereen.
When the pandemic broke out last year, the curator and licensee of TEDxNapierBridge Shyam Sundar launched the web app COVID19 Chennai Help (chennaicovidhelp.in) to help people with credible and verified information. “I am happy to see citizens coming together and doing their best to support each other. A lot of youngsters from our state are social media savvy and they are aware of what’s happening on the ground. Social media has helped a lot of people to get into virtual volunteering. Everyone is staying at home and is doing their bit for society through volunteering. There are many volunteering activities an individual can do from home. Considering the current situation, I think the best is to share verified and updated COVID-related information,” Shyam Sundar tells DT Next.
He goes on to add that volunteers should be careful while resharing information. “Sometimes, people reshare messages without verifying — the messages they received can either be fake or outdated. My request to those who share information digitally is to verify it or collect the information from reliable sources,” he adds.
When Shyam started virtual volunteering, he thought it would be an easy task. “Daily, a lot of information pours in — apart from the requests on the web app, I get a lot of direct messages on our social media pages. Managing both is quite a task. But what keeps me motivated is the work of frontline workers around the world. They are not even taking a break and working round the clock,” says Shyam.
Karthee Vidya started Team Everest NGO to promote virtual volunteering and provide education with the help of passionate volunteers. “If more people take up volunteering we can create more impact in the society. We are motivating individuals to volunteer at least once a month and make a difference by providing quality education to financially challenged children through volunteering. Since 2018 we have been doing virtual volunteering programmes on a big scale. Post the pandemic, the number of volunteering programmes and beneficiaries has increased. As of now, we have 25,000+ volunteers from across the globe and 50+ corporate partners. So, if there is any new programme, we reach out to volunteers and ask if they are interested. Then we circulate the poster of the programme and those interested sign up for volunteering,” says Karthee Vidya.
He points out that the best part of virtual volunteering is the one-to-one connection between a volunteer and a student. “This will not be possible in a normal classroom because the student-teacher ratio is different. We have done assessments with our virtual programmes and understood that there is significant progress on the children’s part. I am not stating that virtual teaching can replace real-time teaching, but both can go together. Virtual volunteering will become more powerful in the future and one of the biggest advantages is that one can do it globally; you are not physically restricted,” sums up Karthee.