Friday, May 10, 2013

Essence & benefits of community service.

Philanthropy, courtesy, chivalry, conscience, even ulterior motives and many others are the driving forces behind the need to perform community service. The above apply to a single individual or an entire nation. No matter what the driving force, we all have, at some time or the other, voluntarily or involuntarily, performed and continue to perform community service.
In my experience, one of the end results has always been what I characterize as “My good deed for the day”. I walk away with a sense of purpose, accomplishment and fulfillment. Performing community service with a team of family, friends, temple or church goers, professional associations, adds a team spirit dimension making the task or project more valuable and fun. I am fortunate to have a teenage son who shares my values.

On Saturday, April 6th, 2013, my son and I worked with two organizations, Project Management Institute’s Houston chapter and Rebuilding Together Houston, to renovate the home of a financially and medically challenged and aging couple. My initial motivation was to have a sense of belonging at PMI Houston and get my son a certificate showing XX hours of community service. I was impressed meeting many of the stalwarts with impressive credentials, lifetime accomplishments and fascinating lifestyles.

Our team comprised of 10 members with a project manager, subject matter experts, while the rest of us were dedicated & enthusiastic volunteers. The project manager broke down the project into parallel & sequential tasks, with individuals & groups responsible for getting it done within a predefined time. Risks & safety issues initiated the first round of on-site discussions and became part of every conversation, till the very end. We split up into 4 groups, each one working on a task to be completed within a fixed duration. Some of the tasks included removing old & putting new boards, pressure-washing sides, fixing A/C unit, painting, caulking, landscaping, etc. To make the tasks more interesting, each group worked on different tasks at various sections of the project. The project manager effectively communicated with groups, shuffled & reassigned them when needed, updated the checklist of tasks and provided status reports periodically. In the end, we were delighted to see a home in much better shape than when we arrived first. No more rain water leaks, better cooling with A/C, flower beds, rose plants, and an aesthetically looking home.

My son and I talked to the owner of the house. She was very grateful for the volunteer service we provided. Her held-back tears, choked voice and a trembling handshake made us realize that we actually didn’t do her any favor. She did us a favor by giving us an opportunity to realize that we all have a hero inside us. This hero needs to be freed from our chains of greed, selfishness, ignorance and arrogance. This hero needs to be let out and breathe the fresh air of humility, community service, and appreciation for what we have. My personal take-away from community service, which I haven’t already stated above, can be listed as follows:
  1. Work on common goals and core values with people we occasionally interact.
  2. Learn and share new ideas outside our professional competencies.
  3. Acquire and improve skill-sets, both management and technical, we are short on or didn’t even know existed inside us.
  4. Quality time with our near and dear ones, while playing the role of a mentor, partner and team player.
  5. Social networking with both like-minded and diverse people, peers and role models.

I leave this blog with two slideshows posted on YouTube showing the work we group of volunteers performed on this project.
  1. Slide-show 1 of 2
  2. Slide-show 2 of 2