Why would someone paint a railway station when they can simply hire a painter to do that job for them? Let’s be honest, the painter would probably do a better job than the person who hired him could. I was repeatedly confronted with these ideas when I was advertising ConnectFor’s latest event — Colour Your Tracks — to my social network. As part of Daan Utsav, we had organized an event where volunteers could get together from 9pm-12am on a Wednesday to paint the Sandhurst Road Railway Station as part of the Mumbai First and Making a Difference initiative to beautify the city.
It’s a novel idea, there’s no denying that. It’s all about community development, which is at the core of ConnectFor’s existence. We find volunteers who are good at Finance and connect them with NGOs that need help with their annual report or financial strategy. We find volunteers who want to teach kids and connect them with tutoring roles within non-profit organizations. Essentially, we exist to connect based on desired skills and common interest areas. And yet, here we were. How would we explain this?
It’s actually quite simple. This event was not part of our regular platform model. Here, we had a different goal. Our goal was to bring together like-minded, passionate individuals who wanted to spend some time painting a railway station so that the members of their community could have a more pleasant experience taking the Mumbai local trains.
Here, we aimed to bring new volunteers into our mindset; maybe you were shy and did not really understand what volunteering entailed, and spending 2 hours painting along with other volunteers was what you needed to come out of your shell. We wanted to give people the chance to just get out there and do some physical work while being surrounded by this city’s denizens rushing about their daily lives. We wanted to put things into perspective for people who might otherwise have led a sheltered life. These stations, on the other hand, are dirty, neglected and covered in the dust and spit. This is what a majority of the population in Mumbai encounters on a daily basis as they use public transport. We wanted to motivate our volunteers to think about the communities they live in and its inhabitants, and inspire empathy. Undoubtedly, engaging in something like this is an all-encompassing experience that doesn’t present itself daily and therefore, ConnectFor wanted to bring this feeling to its volunteers.
And then, of course, there’s this feeling of being part of the solution. We admit, we didn’t change much last night. But we tried. We took a step in the right direction. We stepped away from these conversations about how someone needs to do something about our country.. and we did it. We took our first baby step toward giving back to the city that has, for so long, nurtured and sheltered us. Additionally, there’s the feeling of togetherness that this brought on. To do physical labor along side someone is the ultimate bonding experience.
Now, if you still want to hire a painter, go ahead. In fact, tell us, so that we can put you in touch with the NGOs (like Mumbai First) who are helping to create a better Mumbai — you are most welcome to get involved or even sponsor a station should your heart desire it. But it all starts with getting out of that cocoon and exposing yourself to the glaring realities of Aamchi Mumbai.
Brought to you by the ConnectFor Team, who obviously believe that change doesn’t happen all at once, and that it requires a group of passionate individuals to take a step in the right direction.