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VT Seva Cary PVSA Award Ceremony

To make a difference in someone's world, you don't have to be amazing, rich, talented, or beautiful. You just have to be you and CARE. - Rebecca Fox

Volunteering in 2020 was unprecedented, with the pandemic, not being able to do in-person volunteering, and a lot of uncertainty. But, VT Seva Cary quickly adapted to these trying times by coming up with creative ways to volunteer. Our youth volunteers smoothly transitioned to volunteering their time either virtually or in other ways while maintaining covid protocols. Making cloth masks and distributing them at a senior center, providing lunch to our healthcare workers at Rex and UNC, a two-week online summer camp teaching various skills and subjects, pumpkin carving sessions, a bake sale, biking for donations, making greeting cards for our healthcare workers and patients at UNC, on-line tutoring and college app sessions were few of the ways our youth volunteers volunteered their time in 2020.

On February 21st, 2021, some of these VT Seva Cary youth volunteers received their Presidential Volunteers Service Awards at a small ceremony while maintaining social distance. In total, we had eight gold, one silver, and four bronze awards. Volunteers who received the awards are Ashrith Desu, Dhriti Koneru, Ishani Dasyam, Lakshmi Annugu, Mahathi Mallela, Manasvi Gudibandi, Monish Manne, Neeraja Boppana, Rohitha Sanka, Sribhaavita Nekkalapudi, Srichandrika Changalvala, Srinivas Tirunagari, and Thanuj Desu. Together, these kids volunteered a total of 1,617 hours in 2020. Hearty congratulations to them! We would like to thank their parents as none of this would have been possible without their amazing support!!

An award calls for a celebration and these kids wanted to celebrate too. But, they wanted to celebrate a little differently this year. So, they donated $35 each, thus raising around $500. With this money they sponsored meals for a day (24th February 2021) to all the students at all the VT Seva Sponsored schools in INDIA - Netra Vidyalaya (School for the visually challenged kids), Netra College (College for the visually challenged kids), and Tribal school (School for kids living in tribal areas), thus showing true volunteerism in their celebrations too. What a wonderful and inspiring way to celebrate any occasion!

If you would like to celebrate your special occasions similarly then please visit the below link to know more about the ‘Feed a School’ program.

To recognize the efforts of these kids, on February 28th,2021, the VT Seva Cary youth board directed their first PVSA awards ceremony. This eventful session opened up with a blast of energetic words from our directors Kalyani Sanka and Sowjanya Thungathurti, and our amazing emcee and youth board President, Chandrika Changalvala. Then, Thanuj Desu and Ashrith Desu talked about the various activities VT Seva Cary took up so far in 2021.

The ceremony started with some inspirational words from our guest speaker, Dawn Dixon. Dawn is the volunteer coordinator for FSSeries, a nonprofit organization specializing in marathon events to raise funds for the REX hospital and other organizations. These funds go towards research for incurable diseases. Recently, she funded education for two visually challenged kids. Dawn spoke of her experience in volunteering and service, helping our volunteers learn how to branch out to gain more experience. While sharing her experience of working with our VT Seva volunteers she said, “In the past, when I have worked with your group, they have been wonderful kids to work with. They have been dedicated and very focused on the task. It’s rewarding to see how much they want to give to the community and how they help the athletes.”

Then, our advisor Chakradhar Sriperumbudur spoke about the PVSA awards and volunteerism and the effect it has on the community. Here is an excerpt from his speech, “Do you know what it takes to be a volunteer?: Generosity... willingness... time... understanding... empathy... compassion... patience... dedication. You have shown all these qualities and much more. Thanks for the difference you have made. Because of you, my friend, someone will have enough to eat tonight, someone will have decent clothes to wear, someone will have shelter. Because of you, someone knows that there is at least one person in this world that cares for them. This world is a better place because you volunteer.”

Then our PVSA Award winners were recognized by Aravind Parankusam and Subrahmanyam Nekkalapudi. The award winners were asked to speak about their experience and journey that led them to this award. Each volunteer gave incredible speeches that were very motivational to the audience. Below are a few excerpts from their speeches,

  • “The events I went to have taught me that I should always be thankful and appreciative for the people around me.”

  • “Teaching in the summer camp helped me personally because not only did I gain life also helped me gain a career interest in STEM and computer science.”

  • “At an event I remember it was really cold...and at one point our toes got numb...but I realized that you need to give nourishment and encouragement to the runners and that’s what pushed me forward to just stand there and volunteer all I can.”

  • “Volunteering helped me understand what it means to truly give back to the community and helped me define who I am as a person.”

  • “Volunteering with VT Seva has edified me into being a better leader and bring the best out of me. It has not only taught me to give back but has also helped me get out of my personal box.”

  • “Through VT Seva not only was I becoming an active member of the community, but I was also becoming a better person.”

  • “One of the greatest things that VT Seva has to offer is motivation and encouragement. They will help you in anything you want to pursue.”

  • “VT Seva made me realize how much an individual can do for the community, how important it is to respect and be thankful to people who do so much for us and how much of an impact I can have on the community.”

After the open mic with the award winners, Ishani Dasyam introduced VT Seva Cary’s monthly spotlight performance by one of our very own youth volunteers, Sribhaavita Nekkalapudi. Bhaavita played an improvised piece on the drums, in quite a unique circumstance. She had just returned from a seven-hour fundraiser video shoot for our local temple and was fully decked in traditional classical dance attire. It was quite a unique combination of traditional meets western. She gave an energetic performance which left the audience speechless.

Session was concluded by conducting a quick game of Kahoot, run by youth volunteer Rohitha Sanka. It was both engaging and entertaining, thus bringing the week-long celebrations of our PVSA award winners to an end. Needless to say, it was a very successful event, leaving all of our volunteers inspired and motivated.

Kudos to the volunteers for all their efforts and continued support to this great mission.

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