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Annu Gaidhu

IVHQ Volunteer of the Year Finalist - Annu Gaidhu
IVHQ Volunteer of the Year Finalist - Annu Gaidhu
2407 votes
Annu Gaidhu
Occupation: Student
Home Country: Canada

Why should you be the IVHQ volunteer of the year?

Being a volunteer with IVHQ has changed my life. It opened up the door to an experience that has sent multiple shock waves rippling throughout my life and others. My experience with these Tibetan monks has touched my heart so deep that my life’s work and purpose is dedicated to them, and creating ever-lasting change.

My volunteer experience began in May, 2015. As the reigning Miss India Canada titleholder, I went to India to begin my childcare service initiative; I called the ‘Healing Hearts Project’. As part of a five weeklong awareness-raising initiative, I was teaching yoga and life skills to vulnerable children and orphans within communities. One of my stops included volunteering in Bir, for the IVHQ teaching English project at the local monastery.

The Dirru Monastery cares for a total of 90 monks that have come from Nepal and the Himalayan regions. Most are orphans, or from single-parent families, that are sent for a variety of reasons including education, poverty and lack of family support. The monastery is these children’s sole place of refuge and it struggles to provide the basic needs of adequate food, nutrition, shelter and healthcare. Many of these children do not get to see their parents and many have lost them due to the recent earthquake in Nepal.

Although volunteering was extremely rewarding, I realized these children deserve a chance at education and a chance at living a life they deserve. I came back from my trip and started a nonprofit organization called the ‘Healing Hearts Project’ that specifically focuses on raising awareness and funds to help support sustainable and long-term development goals for the children at the Dirru Monastery.

In the past 5 months through fundraising efforts and offering donation based yoga classes, we have raised enough money to enable life-changing projects to take root. Such as, the construction of the first ever playground, to give these children constructive and safe places to just be kids. We have also found sponsors and community partners to help support 20 new students at the monastery who currently do not have sponsors for food, education and healthcare.

But much more needs to be done, the funding from IVHQ will help in the implementation of these crucial resources to meet the pressing needs of the Tibetan refugee children and orphans the monastery cares for.

Our long term goals includes the implementation of water storage tanks, water purifier filters, crop production and crop diversification for self-sustaining food resources, food security and balanced nutrition, the planting of trees, construction of underground garbage pits, procurement of waste bins, segregation of degradable and non-degradable wastes.

Thanks to my experience with IVHQ, I learned that volunteering plays a huge part in so many people’s lives - not just the people who dedicate time and energy to volunteering, but also the people who benefit from it. This award is not just for me, but it is for these children who deserve a chance at living a life they deserve.

We can heal hearts together.

What motivated you to get involved with volunteering?

Yoga is a practice of service to humanity. Kindness, compassion and service are all inherent parts of the yoga culture; and it was through the discipline of yoga, I learned the importance of volunteering and selfless service. As an instructor, I became passionate about teaching and mentoring. I felt that I had been given a gift in yoga as a healing practice—and while I knew that yoga would not be a cure-all for everyone struggling with mental health, I felt strongly that I wanted to help children and teens find their own “yoga,” whichever strategies they needed to overcome the mental and emotional challenges in their own lives. This past summer, I also got the privilege to compete in the Miss India Canada pageant, that I am proud to say I won. With my platform I made a commitment to myself that I would share with my community the importance of health and wellness.

There are children raised without parents or in abusive conditions that often lack basic social skills, quality education or confidence, they don’t ask to be put in that environment, they are born into it. Yoga has been my healing tool and has taught me how to love myself; being an educator I have an obligation to share with others what yoga gave me so they can too, transform their lives and feel empowered to build that sense of self. This is what motives me.

How much time do you dedicate to volunteering?

Working with Tibetan refugees was a transformative experience that led me to take seriously my obligation as a global citizen. It also affords me the opportunity to marry my commitment to child welfare with my own practice of yoga. My philosophy is to provide donation-based yoga classes as a way of raising funds to support the community of children in India—as a result, I hope to create a sustainable model of philanthropy that heals both the benefactors and the children who benefit from the donations. Therefore my life work, research and commitment are dedicated to volunteering.

What is the most rewarding part of your volunteer work?

Volunteering has become a rich and rewarding part of my life. I have found that my volunteer activities remind me of what I value as important and the impact on the community. Volunteering allows you to connect with people, make new friends and empower communities together to make a real difference. We can help others find new meaning and purpose in their lives by selflessly devoting our time and knowledge for a greater cause. The most rewarding part is knowing that you are making a difference and contributing to meaningful work that is true to your core values and beliefs.

What is the greatest challenge of your volunteer work?

The greatest challenge with volunteering is the exposure to social welfare and development needs developing countries are facing. Experiencing life in a developing country is life changing, eye opening and extremely challenging. Especially as a child and youth care worker, for me it is hard to learn how a large part of the world’s population and their children live. The challenge is being prepared to adapt to new cultures and new ways of living that we may not be used too. It can be extremely difficult to see so many individuals in need of help, dealing with social problems, or suffering from various medical conditions. You may lay down at night feeling helpless, like you can never possibly do enough to make a difference or help all the people who need help. The key is to ultimately accept that one person alone cannot help every single person in the world or in one nation for that matter.

Why do you believe you will be effective volunteering within a community abroad?

My passion lies in helping others and providing opportunities for them. I will be an effective volunteer abroad as I am committed and prepared to make a difference with an open mind and open heart. I am prepared for continued learning, understanding and have experienced the unexpected aspects of impoverished and developing cultures. My undergraduate degree, in child and youth care work has prepared me with the skills and knowledge to work with youth and families experiencing emotional, behavioral and mental health challenges.

My platform as Miss India Canada has equipped me with the public speaking and communication skills that have allowed me to develop a deeper understanding of the importance of community connection, empowerment and involvement. As a yoga instructor, I am passionate about teaching and mentoring the importance of health and wellness. I am eager to learn and am committed to making a real difference. I have been fortunate to have a social media following and platform to raise awareness for pressing issues around the world for my community. This is how we create change.

What are you hoping to gain from an international volunteer experience?

I am hoping to gain unique opportunities that will allow me evolve as a person and to give something back to the world. I want to use my skills to benefit others to succeed and make a difference. I want to see a new culture from the inside, interact with new cultures, speak new languages, meet new people. I want to evolve as a person and share my stories with others so they can evolve and have a new perspective too. I want to gain new skills and experiences. And most importantly do something that is out of my comfort zone - it is through these experiences that the real transformations, personally and for others happened.

IVHQ Volunteer of the Year Finalist - NolanPrevious Volunteer Nolan Moore
IVHQ Volunteer of the Year Finalist - IanNext Volunteer Ian Ferguson

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