April 11, 2019
United Way’s ELEVATE awards, held earlier this year, gave guests a chance to come together and celebrate the work of some of our city’s most active philanthropists, as well as raise awareness on the topic of food insecurity in Central Indiana.
One of this year’s finalists for the Volunteer of the Year award, Ranjana Chandramouli, has a unique perspective on volunteerism; from her ELEVATE nomination to her involvement in the STEM space, her diversity both as a volunteer and a first generation American adds tremendous value to the Central Indiana community.
We had the privilege of chatting with Ranjana last week.
Talk about how your experience as an ELEVATE award nominee connects to some of the volunteer work you’re a part of.
ELEVATE was a great way to showcase the different avenues you can get involved in in Central Indiana. Personally, I’m very passionate about STEM outreach – but it was inspiring to see what other people are passionate about, from assisting refugees to being a Starfish Initiative mentor. United Way can help you find a way to give back or it can help you find a path that aligns with your interests.
Who or what inspires you to serve?
My mom was very service oriented. We lived a very blessed life and she always said, “What matters most is what you can do for other people.” She was a proponent of volunteerism at a young age and that was inspiring to me both as a child and an adult. Just hearing her voice in the back of my mind and having a strong support system – I want to spread that love around as much as possible.
How do immigrant families connect to service opportunities in ways that differ from people who have lived in an area for longer periods of time?
My parents grew up in India and they were middle to lower class. Even then, compared to that status in America, it’s entirely different. They wanted an opportunity to live a fruitful life, especially for their children. It has put a lot into perspective for me. Immigrants place a strong emphasis on community– it comes from being out of your element and coming to a different country. As a result, you learn to depend on others around you who aren’t necessarily your family but become as close as your family.
What volunteer organizations are you a member of?
I’m an engineer, so I work with Engineering Explorers Post, which is part of the Boys Scouts of America. We teach high school students about engineering – mainly about what engineering careers can do for them. We organize tours and do hands-on activities.
Advice to someone who wants to volunteer?
You get out life what you put into it. So, if you’re looking for something to fill a need in your life, know that volunteering will benefit you in the long run. The dividends that result from it are exponential. Sometimes, finding time can be a challenge with our busy schedules. A lot of people wonder if they have the time or energy to commit to something. It helps to be intentional about setting aside a time you’re comfortable with and sticking to it.
Indy is ripe with opportunities – find what you’re personally passionate about and lean on organizations like United Way or even IndyVolved to help guide you. It’s as simple as narrowing down your interests and jumping on Google or looking at Facebook groups. The people you meet volunteering are the best people – they go into it with the best of intentions and so when you meet those people, you’re surrounding yourself with a lot of positive energy.
Looking to surround yourself with people who love to give back like Ranjana? Join United Way’s young professional group, LINC! We’ll get you connected to the people, places, and causes that matter to you.