Bangalore has a strong community of professionals who volunteer — whether it is to work with the disabled, to help in emergencies or everyday traffic tangles, caring for neglected animals, or cleaning up lakes. We introduce you to some people who make Bangalore a better city to live in

B.N. Umesh

A pharmacist

He joined the Indian Institute of Hams as an amateur radio operator between 1992 and 1993. He was among the team of Ham radio operators who helped provide communication in Gujarat, after it was struck by a devastating earthquake in 2001. “We arrived there within 24 hours. We slept on the roads, there were mild tremors for ten days, and we worked through the heat during the day and the bitter cold during night.” There were many moments of despair, but there were moments of hope too. “We rescued a family who were under rubble for a week. It was an amazing feeling to see them alive,” he says, smiling. In 2004, Umesh went again as a Ham radio operator to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, after the 2004 Tsunami. On both occasions, Umesh thought nothing of his own safety. “My mind was set on rescuing and giving prompt communications.”

Umesh’s desire to give back to society motivated him to do other kinds of volunteering work, including administering polio drops to children on trains organised by Red Cross Society and Indian Railways. One of his most memorable volunteering moments, was when in 1996, on December 31, Umesh was among the team to help a herd of elephants move safely from the city to the forest. “36 elephants had come into Bangalore, in Bannerghatta, near Puttenahalli Lake. The Forest Department needed volunteers, and I was one of them. We burst crackers to get the herd to pass safely across the Lake into the Forest. The operation lasted till six, early morning.”

Umesh now volunteers as a city traffic warden, having been awarded the best traffic warden last month. “I have been a traffic warden since 2003. “Traffic is an emergency everyday,” he laughs and says, “I do 3 hours duty five days a week.” But it is not the awards that matter for Umesh. My true reward is when I get the blessings of the elderly people who I help cross the road and helping others.”

Umesh doesn’t believe he needs “motivation” to help people. “It comes from within. If I want to do something, I will do it. And my family has been very supportive.”

Chinthana Gopinath

Chief baker at Pupcake

She has been volunteering for a year-and-a-half with Compassion Unlimited Plus Action (CUPA) and Animal Aid Alliance (AAA).

In November 2012, a batch of 28 beagles was rescued from a lab in Bangalore. Chinthana took immediate action to help out. “The release happened over night and the beagles were sent to the CUPA shelter. A shelter is not the space for dogs who have lived in a sterilised lab to go into. So there was an urgent need for people to come forward and take these dogs home. At that point, I didn’t think it through, I just went. There was this one boy, he was 10 years old at the time. He was stuck to the back of the kennel. Everything was puzzling and bewildering for him. I brought him home. That was the first time I got to interact directly with an animal from the shelter. And I took care of him for a few months till he was adopted by a friend of mine.”

In February last year, 102 beagles were released from a lab. Yet again, Chinthana volunteered to alleviate the situation. “I heard that two dogs were returned because people were not prepared for what was going on. I went with a camera with the intent of sharing their stories, and I ended up coming back home with one dog,” she says as Sasha, the gentle beagle she adopted, cuddles up to her. “That’s how my involvement with CUPA deepened. I started volunteering at the adoption camps and subsequently visited the shelter.”

Chinthana spends quality time with the dogs at the shelter. “I give them a lot of love. People that run the shelters are caught up with the operational things, keeping the kennels clean, taking care of their health, etc. Nobody has the time to cuddle or talk or walk the dogs. I do that. I take pictures, I tell their stories, and a lot of times people connect and that’s how adoptions take place.”

For those who want to help abandoned dogs, but cannot adopt them, Chinthana says they can donate money. “A certain amount of your income can go to a shelter.” If you want to volunteer, Chinthana advises thus: “Don’t always read up what is available on Facebook or online, go and visit the shelter. In CUPA you can register with it and with AAA, since it is a start up, you can get in touch with the trustees directly. And then you can ask them how you can help. You can offer transportation services, if you have space in your homes. There’s also passive adoption, you can pick a dog, sponsor his or her expenses, till such time he or she gets adopted.”

The biggest satisfaction Chinthana gets from taking care of abandoned dogs is when they get adopted. “It makes up for everything. I have to admit that sometimes it is a drain, not in terms of money, but in terms of emotion, because you are dealing with absolutely hopeless stories of dogs being given up for no fault of theirs. But all it takes is a phone call to any of the families that have adopted the dogs, and to hear of how happy the dog is staying with them,” she smiles.

Dr. Sheelu Srinivas

An ENT surgeon

She was a volunteer with Spastics Society, Karnataka from 2009 till June 2013, worked for two years as a volunteer at Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health and is at present an honourary technical adviser for deafness at National Rural Health Mission. “My focus is on paediatric ENT. I work with the local Rotary where I screen children for deafness. I want to bring deaf children to the mainstream. The term ‘deaf and dumb’ is redundant’. I want children who are deaf to communicate. Children who are deaf are now determined to speak,” says Sheelu.

Dr. Srinivas says volunteering comes naturally to her. “It’s what I want to do, so I do it. Children are lovely to work with.”

Vijaya Kumar M

An IT service delivery professional

He prefers the term responsibility rather than volunteering. He has been working with Akshara Foundation for three years as a volunteer. “I always wanted to work in the area of education. I have helped in planning and executing their 10K Run initiative and even helped in fund raising.”

Uma

FX Artist

She has always been a volunteer at heart. “As a child, I used to tend to trees and saplings. I volunteer to upload videos of social relevance on KarmaTube. I have gone on protests for lake clean ups. I have also done a lot of tree planting.”