You read about it. You hear about it. But the moment of realization occurs when you see it. One such moment came to me last weekend when Maitreyee, Sohini and I went to volunteer a few hours at Unicef. The fact that we did so was an event in itself, because it made us so happy to give a little time, a little of our energy and a lot of our love for people we don’t know. What was even more noteworthy is that more than 500 people – far beyond what Unicef expected – responded to the request to help pack 10,600 health worker kits that had to be urgently shipped to Pakistan for the victims of the recent floods. In fact, a colleague from Unicef said many of them had to be turned away because there was not enough space in the assembly lines to accommodate them. Next time, they would split the task into two days, he said.
All these volunteers, many of them school children, were of different nationalities. From the 8 or 9-year-olds to experienced workers, they came together and after brief instructions worked so efficiently without any fuss that it seemed that they have been a team for years. There were several small teams of volunteers at various parts of the warehouse and their members seemed to have carved out suitable roles for themselves without any need for leader, hierarchy, command line or job description.
In two different teams that I worked, everyone seemed to know who is doing what in the assembly line sequence. If I was getting slow in preparing the small boxes for medicines, then someone in the team was silently stepping in to give a hand so that other volunteers don’t have to wait. And when the empty boxes piled up, some young volunteer or the other quietly put them away at the right place. Everyone worked with assembly-line efficiency, although most of them I doubt ever have done a similar task. In fact, they were so efficient that the job was finished earlier than expected.
This efficiency proves only one thing: when we do something with passion it automatically pulls out the best in us. When we enjoy doing a task, when we take pride in it and when we do it out of love, it doesn’t matter whether we are the lowest-ranking worker or the head of the organization. And, the result is not dependent on any command line or hierarchy. Of course, structures and decision-making lines have their values in organizations and are essential in certain situations, but efficiency and results do not have to depend on them.
It was really amazing and uplifting to see the enthusiasm of all these people – especially the small children – who selflessly and zealously helped each other to help people in far away Pakistan. What added to my amazement was the fact that the medicines we were packing for our brothers and sisters in Pakistan came from India. The paradox of the situation did not escape us because we are used to hear of the war and retribution between India and Pakistan: of course all that is due to political games that have serious implications for citizens’ lives on both sides of the border. But here was an instance when help was coming to Pakistan from different parts of the world, including India, extended by hands of different nationalities, colours and faith.
Of course, what the 20 million people affected in Pakistan floods need is much more than what a few hundred volunteers can offer or the money and material that has been collected so far: much more money, political will and voluntary spirit is needed to help them return to a normal life. But the spirit of solidarity and altruism that I witnessed this weekend strengthens my belief that if each one of us does her best to help those suffering from poverty, diseases and disasters, then we can leave this world a better place.
Here is how you can help the people affected in Pakistan floods:
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