SMOM - January 2012 Swapna Konka

Star Member of the Month - January 2012

Aashayein Foundation recognizes the volunteers for their exemplary work, dedication and commitment and rewards them as Star Member of the Month.

Swapna Konka has been selected as the Star Member of the Month for the month of January 2012, for her untiring efforts to revive and structure the Volunteer Management at Aashayein Hyderabad.

Please read the interview of her on life, Aashayein and her views.

1. Tell us something about yourself.

My name is Swapna. I was born and brought up in Hyderabad, and have been working with Wipro for the past 5 years. I am very close to my parents; they have always supported and encouraged my choices and aspirations. The things I value most are simplicity, contentment and the ability to find happiness in the small joys in life. My circle of friends is ever-expanding, and I get a great deal of joy out of helping others.

Mantra of my life: "Where there is a will, there is a way”.

2. What are your hobbies?

As with most, my hobbies keep changing with time. My current passions are books, photography and cooking. Whenever I can, I still indulge in some of my past favourites –travelling, movies, music and sketching. Pets and Gardening are pending for my next phase… :)

3. Mention about your professional life.

As a B.Tech. graduate, like many others, I struggled to get my first break. I did not hesitate to work as a receptionist too. Interestingly enough, that is where I got the opportunity to learn the technologies that helped me land a job with Infosys. Later on, I also got the opportunity to work with TCS and Wipro, thus fulfilling my dream of working with top-tier software companies. And, by God’s grace, I got the chance to travel abroad and to live in the U.S for 2 years; it was a truly eye-opening experience for me. My professional life has made me independent, and has given me incredible opportunities to explore and understand the world.

4. When did you join Aashayein Foundation and why did you join it?

Perhaps, due to the circumstances of my own life, and the many ups and downs I’ve faced, I’ve always felt this drive in me to do something for the society and to make a difference in people’s lives. But, I did not know how to get started. One day, my good friend Dhanraj invited me to attend the Indradhanush painting event for underprivileged kids, held by Aashayein Foundation. And there, for the first time, I saw this group of passionate young professionals and students organising the event with such masti…I was immediately drawn in, and there started my beautiful journey with Aashayein.

5. Share your experiences in your involvement with Aashayein.

Though I have spent little time volunteering on the ground, I’ve always been involved in sharing ideas and suggestions for Aashayein’s growth in offline discussions, while I was in US. Being an introvert, I started off as a rather silent participant in the email threads. But under the able mentorship of Suyash, I slowly gained confidence and started participating more actively. On my return from the U.S., I took on the responsibility of revamping the Volunteer Management structure with the help of Girish, a core member. I felt that it was important for AF to focus on optimally using the time and varied abilities of our volunteers, and to fill in the gaps in the organisational structure. It has been an excellent learning experience, and I feel that I've grown and become a better person in the process.

6. Which has been the most memorable day in Aashayein for you?

During the Indradhanush 2011 event at the Aman Vedika School, I was trying to capture photographs of the kids with my SLR camera. I was mesmerised by the Kids inquisitiveness, and their eagerness to understand how the camera works…they wouldn't budge until I showed them how to operate it, and the look of accomplishment on their innocent faces was priceless.

7. What are your expectations from Aashayein?

We all have come together to work towards a cause, and to make a difference in society through Aashayein. Let’s not depart from this noble challenge for any reason, and give our best all our lives by working together and enjoying every moment of it. I would also like to see Aashayein start an initiative in rural development, focussed on improving the quality of life there and on establishing a self-sustainable model for progress.

8. Tell us 2 things that you like in Aashayein and 2 areas that need more attention and how can we work on them?

I love that Aashayein has such a diverse pool of volunteers with a varied mix of talents such as creative writing, designing, social media, marketing, and event organising. This is invaluable in creating and spreading awareness about our programs and services.

In the past 4 years, a group of passionate individuals have established a real brand for Aashayein in the Community. It is quite a difficult task for an NGO to accomplish, and now it’s time for us to work towards scaling up our operations across regions and to become a self-sustaining organisation. Volunteers need to become more proactive in taking up initiatives and working on them. Being a coordinator of the Volunteer Relations team, the responsibility lies in my hands to engage them in responsibilities well-suited to their interests, and to provide the required guidance.

9. What are the different responsibilities that you would like to handle in Aashayein?

In addition to working on volunteer management, I’d also like to work on fundraising and other self sustainability initiatives. After 2 years, I would like to become a full-time volunteer with Aashayein and work towards the betterment of society.

10. Where would you like to see Aashayein in 5 years from now?

I wish to see Aashayein as a professionally organised NGO with its programs spanning across various states in India, and making a difference in countless lives. I’d like to see Aashayein improve the quality of life of children everywhere through education, and of adults through employment opportunities with Aashayein Social business programs.

11. Any message for Aashayein and its members.

Aashayein is ‘Masti ki Pathashala’ and it rocks…lets spread a smile everywhere we go!