Sarita Chauhan, a long-term resident of Reston, VA is deeply involved in her local community. Just a couple of weekends ago, she was seen volunteering behind a concession stand, serving popcorn and cotton candy to the visitors at the Reston Spring Festival.
We asked her some question about her volunteer work.
You are often spotted at the senior living center Hunter Woods Fellowship House, chatting with the residents. What motivates you to spend so much time with the elderly?
I like talking to the senior citizens; they have so many great stories to tell. They have so much great wisdom to impart as well that I never get tired of spending time with them.
Talking to and showing interest in our seniors is a simple way to help make them feel acknowledged and respected in the final stages of their life, it’s easy once you realize how much you can learn from them.
You do a great deal of community work, what drives you?
I want to fill each day with that feel-good spark that comes from making the world a better place. I keep my philanthropy super simple and commit to doing one act of kindness every day.
Sarita will be on the panel of judges for the Annual Miss India DC Pageant which is held in August.
Could you tell us more about the Miss India DC Pageant and its purpose?
The purpose of this show is to provide the younger generation a platform to showcase their talents and an opportunity to participate in something culturally enriching. While working as a judge I also act as one the mentors for the participants.
Sarita also does virtual volunteering for Taproot Foundation (writing policies, making presentations, creating employee handbooks etc.) for start-up non-profit organizations.
Could you elaborate on how you started virtual volunteering and what kind of skills it requires?
I wanted to help but it is not always possible to be physically present. Virtual volunteering is simply being able to help without leaving your home, over the internet.
For example, non-profit start-ups often have the need to put policies and procedures in place, since I do it for a living, it just comes naturally to me. There are several websites that have these virtual volunteering opportunities. I have created employee handbooks, new hire orientation, fund-raising presentations and more.
What advice would you give people who want to do volunteer work but struggle to stay committed?
People should pick a cause that is important to them, that motivates them. If you cannot connect to the cause, you will lose motivation.
One of the most profound moments for me was in India. I was visiting India and was strictly instructed by my mom to not eat street food (I did it anyways, sorry mom). A very old man sat under this big oak tree, with few other people around him. He was brewing tea in a huge teapot and selling tea to the other people sitting under the tree. I went and sat under the tree as well, and as he handed out tea in the little clay tea-cups, he gave one to me too.
Everyone paid him, I think it was a rupee per cup, I also took out one rupee and gave it to him, he gave it right back to me saying that he didn’t take money from his daughters. That was the moment that I felt if someone so poor can be so charitable, why can’t we all be.
One just has to feel it from the heart. Once you feel it within you, it is easy to stay committed.
With all the volunteer work, do you enjoy your day job?
I absolutely love my work, to the extent that it does not even feel like work, more like a hobby. I work for a federal contractor based in Reston, VA just a few blocks from my house. Imagine all the time I am saving not having to commute, all that saved time makes it possible for me to be more involved.
In your opinion, how can people change their approach so that they give more and take less from life?
I think as human beings we are all compassionate and want to help others in need. Charity comes in many forms, one does not necessarily need to commit to donate to a charitable organization, even a $5 given to a homeless person counts or recycle. Every little thing counts.