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Developing Deeper Connection through Empathy and Volunteerism

by Siddharth Rajgopalan on 22nd February, 2014 at 1:24 PM CEST

Our generation seems to be the driving force of a global paradigm shift – with unprecedented trends of technology connecting people around the world, social entrepreneurship rising as a new form of socially-aware business and the democratization of education through platforms like MOOCs. However, if we look at the state of the current world closer and a bit more critically, we see a whole new dimension of worry. According to a UNDP report the combined additional spending of USD 40 Billion, required for providing universal basic social services [education, water and sanitation, reproductive health and basic health and nutrition] is less than the annual amount spent on cigarettes in Europe and about 5% of the world’s military spending. Clearly, there is drastic change that is required if our generation envisions a more equal, sustainable and cooperative world.

In the book, "The Third Industrial Revolution", Jeremy Rifkin says, “It is impossible to imagine how we might create a sustainable global economy and restore the biosphere to health if each and every one of us is, at the core of our biology, an autonomous agent and a self-centered and materialistic being.”

I choose to believe the future is not as a grim and our generation has the power to change the status-quo, one of the most important agents for this being, Empathy. In the inspiring talk below, Roman Krznaric mentions empathy as the ultimate art-form to discover who you are and what to do with your life by stepping outside yourself and discovering the life of other people and civilizations.

Education might take a decade before it effectively implements empathy into its system but there is little need to wait for that. We have an amazing platform for developing empathy in existence and it is called Volunteering. This often understated, overlooked and undervalued service in society has an incredible power to nurture the youth of our generation to be more “outrospective” in understanding the perspectives of fellow human beings, developing empathy and most importantly taking action starting from our own neighbourhoods before we can work towards big ideas like global change.

On a personal level I have been volunteering for the past 2 years at an NGO in Singapore, called Ground-up Initiative [GUI], which focuses on community development, nurturing values and sustainable living. I have seen how it has transformed youth including myself through various activities from farming, to building humanitarian products to teaching children about environmental sustainability. Indeed, I can say with conviction that volunteering isn’t just about giving, what we receive in terms of skills, empathy and satisfaction amounts to much more.

One of the greatest things I learned while volunteering at GUI is that change is indeed a big and overused word that is increasingly being used in top-down perspective at policy level. However, in reality, change is something that starts at an individual level where we learn our own prejudices and weaknesses in relation to the world around us and instead replace it with compassion and selfless service to those who truly need it. It then starts magnifying when a group of these people come together with a common understanding and work together selflessly to champion collective ideals and impact their neighbourhoods, communities and society as a whole in a slow organic process. Perhaps, this is why there is such an important and symbolic emphasis on farming at GUI. It takes great effort to nurture a seed and organically grow it into a healthy plant before we can even think of a flower bed or a garden with abundant produce.

So, go Volunteer! Develop empathy for the people around you and learn how to create tangible impact in small steps before we can work towards massive ideas of global change, together. The opportunities are endless from animal care to teaching to care for the elderly to awareness campaigns to organic farming to craftsmanship. Theodore Roosevelt was right to say, “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

Article by: Siddharth Rajgopalan, Action Team #12 Wilde chronicles 

Further reads:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeremy-rifkin/the-empathic-civilization_b_416589.html

http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats#src31

http://specialsections.suntimes.com/education/prek12/17574206-555/volunteerism-develops-culture-of-empathy-sincerity.html

http://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/empathy-and-global-stewardship-the-other-21st-century-skills/

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/six_habits_of_highly_empathic_people1

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Syed Mehmood Kazmi

Syed Mehmood Kazmi | Action team

Great Start my Friend! Volunteerism is very important and we all have to sensitize our roles for the betterment of this beautiful planet. One of my all times favourite quotation about Volunteers is, "Volunteers are non-paid, not because they are worthless, it's because they are priceless." Good job Sidharth!

22nd February, 2014 @ 2:19 PM CEST

Muhammad Ali Ali

Muhammad Ali Ali

Dear Siddharth Rajgopalan. its an excellent piece of writing from your side, once again.
its , indeed, a great humantrain activity to be involved oneself as a volunteer for a cause.its need of the hour. by devoting yourselves for other's befits, we can make a change in our societies.

very well done to be portrait such a nice article for us.

keep it up.......

22nd February, 2014 @ 2:30 PM CEST

Danna Joyce Chavez

Danna Joyce Chavez | Action team

This is a goo article that would serve as a challenge to the youth.
They say "no one beats the heart of a volunteer" and indeed that is true! Thanks for the insights, Siddharth. More power! :)

24th February, 2014 @ 12:52 PM CEST

Danna Joyce Chavez

Danna Joyce Chavez | Action team

*good

24th February, 2014 @ 12:52 PM CEST

KEDEI INAH

KEDEI INAH

Siddharth Rajgopalan you are a good writer, your work is précised and detailed too.

24th February, 2014 @ 2:49 PM CEST

Stefan Alievikj

Stefan Alievikj | C:F staff

Sid, you have made a great opening of this new Action Team! :)) CONGRATS! :)

Also everyone, if you will share contents of the team, please do use the hashtag #WildeChronicles :)))

CHEERS!

25th February, 2014 @ 4:29 PM CEST

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