AIA team member Vik Pisipati: Thoughts on Volunteering

 “So what motivates you to volunteer?”

I feel my palms get sweaty, and my mind starts racing. Why have I never thought about this question before? I thought I prepared thoroughly for this job interview, but that question threw me off guard. My eyes start darting back and forth between my interviewer, the clock, the open window, my interviewer’s ever-buzzing Blackberry. “Well….” I stutter.

I was asked this question in a job interview while looking for my first job out of school. Without going into detail, let’s just say that the interview “didn’t progress as hoped”. I was a soon-to-be business school graduate applying for jobs in companies that were very much for-profit, yet entered the interview room with more than half my previous experience in the nonprofit sector.

This question stuck with me, and I’ve since reflected quite a bit on what has motivated me to get involved in my community. The challenge? Making a lasting impact for others? Interacting with diverse groups of people?  Even now I can’t properly articulate an answer.

This is the part of this post where I want to reassure you that I’m not going to delve into a cliché self-reflective essay on my volunteer experiences, but what I do want to take the opportunity to do this week is at least attempt to answer this question by sharing the three things that motivate me to volunteer as a part of the Achieve in Africa team:

1.       The AiA Mission              

What I love about AiA is the organization’s commitment to not just raising money, but ensuring that classroom and CLC building projects are managed from start to finish, with the emphasis always being on sustainable community impact. We’ve all heard the ‘If you give a man a fish …” adage, but to actually see the impact of sustainable development in community educational resources in the Olasiti and Ulolela communities changes this concept from a tired proverb into a dynamic concept that makes me excited to log-in to Skype on evenings and weekends to catch-up with the the AiA team and keep the momentum going on projects.

2.       Every day is a learning experience

Whether we realize it or not, all of us on the AiA team are learning something every day that we work together. I have not personally been to Tanzania, but the wealth of information I’ve learned about Tanzania from a socioeconomic and humanitarian perspective is unbelievable. I’m also learning things that continue to help me in my professional life like working with our virtual team across time zones and discovering which Starbucks in Mexico City has the best wi-fi signal for me to join our group Skype teleconferences.  Being a part of the AiA mission and team is challenging but also extremely rewarding, and that keeps me motivated day after day.

3.       Brendan Callahan

I’m going to try to write this paragraph without sounding like some creepy super-fan of Brendan Callahan, AiA Founder and President. I met Brendan several years ago while we were both at BU, but became involved with him in a professional capacity with AiA seven months ago. People like Brendan give me faith that our generation is truly capable of making a large impact and remind me of what it means to be selflessly devoted to a cause. I am constantly amazed by his drive and commitment to the people of Tanzania, and I consider him to be one of my strongest role models. Having the opportunity to learn from people like Brendan motivates me to work harder and support the team in achieving AiA’s mission.

Anyway, I’m rambling and am going to wrap this post up. This may be a good time to revisit the question of “What motivates me to volunteer”. I have my reasons, and other people have theirs. What I will say though is that if you are ever asked that question and aren’t able to give a clear answer, chances are you’re on the right track. It means that volunteering is just something that comes naturally to you. You don’t need to explain yourself to anyone.