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Volunteer Spotlight: Yogita Firoda

While all of Humanity Road’s volunteers work hard to save lives, some of us have uniquely awesome humanitarian stories to share. In the monthly Volunteer Spotlight, you’ll hear some more about Humanity Road’s best!

Yogita Firoda just joined HR during the Nepal quake, but she quickly got hard at work sorting out disaster info that helped save Nepali lives. An ordinary Indian who works in IT, she stepped up and joined us and Kathmandu Living Labs at the right moment to help.

First, tell us (readers) about yourself, and what you’ve done day-to-day at HR.

I started with HR in April… so fairly new with HR. It all started with the Nepal earthquake. I have been involved with crisismapping. Generally, that means trawling the social media and identifying calls for help – logging them into the quakemap, verifying contacts and location, helping with statistics from the crisismap, updating status, etc.

I also sometimes followed up with reporters to verify the status of crisis points, and helped with some training of new volunteers who joined with Nepal efforts

So, how did you get started with Humanity Road?

When the Nepal incident happened – I was trying to help raise funds and resources, to send to a village in Rasuwa (a hard-hit Nepal district.) In an online article, I came across a reference to Humanity Road and the work they do. So I applied to volunteer, hoping to get involved with some disaster response & help in the future. Luckily for me, HR needed some urgent volunteers for the weekends, to help with urgent needs. And there I was, working with them before I got any introductions or training.

Thrown right into the deep end, eh?

Yes 🙂 And I worked, like, 4 hours each day (half a working day!)

Props for your sheer dedication. What was it like working the Nepal disaster? How did you directly help? It must’ve been a massive workload and experience.

Yes, and I was working with a big team… I think there were 40+ volunteers at one point! It was a bit overwhelming in the beginning, and you want to help everyone. But HR quickly established a team structure – so we knew exactly what needed to be done, and how it would flow from one point to other.

HR helped local group Kathmandu Living Labs. Daily reports would be pulled out, and the Nepal army would act on them. KLL had ground staff – who would verify disaster reports, make calls, monitor SMS, verify needs, etc. This helped keep location and need information up-to-date. Which, in turn, made it easier for the army & distribution agencies to distribute aid.

We also sometimes helped with calls, and with social media followups via tweets and FB to get more accurate details about contacts, needs & locations.

Knowing that every action got a result gave me a big boost.

What kept you going? What’s your humanitarian philosophy?

Frankly, no philosophy…

Natural disasters happen too often now-a-days, but the max I had done so far was donate funds or other needs.

I’d used work, personal life, Bangalore traffic, etc. as excuses for not donating my time to relief efforts.

However, when I came across HR and the organized work they do, and the difference it can really make I jumped into it in spite of all excuses, and the personal satisfaction helps keep me going.

It’s quite rewarding to know that you can take some from your day to help someone, somewhere. Especially when they need it the most.

Anything else you’d like to mention about your work with HR that we haven’t covered?

It’s great to work & interact with people from across the globe and with varied backgrounds… got introduced to Binford for instance!

Nota bene: Binford™ products are fictional, and are a running gag in our internal Skype chat.

I also like the way it is mostly so self-driven! A lesson to take back to the IT world …. (we have large teams, team managers, and directors… 🙂 )

And we use simple technologies, like Skype, Google Docs etc., quite effectively.

Again, I come from a software-company background – we spend lots of resources, time & money into building fancy tools, security etc.

Nice to know you’ve gotten something out of HR that you can apply to your day-to-day job.

Yes… you’re always learning. 🙂 And I believe if the learning stops … the moving stops … the yearning stops.. and then it’s downhill!

True. A good way to avoid burnout.

Yes, that too!

Anything you would say to someone who’s considering volunteering for HR? Why is it a fulfilling cause?

If someone is seriously considering volunteering – I would say HR is the place.

What makes us stand out?

Mostly because it’s organized so that everyone can contribute to his/her areas of interest/expertise, and work whenever they’re free. The atmosphere is so genuine and fresh (even though it’s mostly just in Skype windows), and there are always such positive vibes even on grim days.

And of course, it’s such a genuine place to volunteer!

Also, there are always thoughts and plans on how to make things better. Like testing tools, partnering plans, etc. So there is not a dull moment!

Thanks! Alright, unless you have anything else to add, that should be all.

Ah, gr8! Whew!

Thanks for sticking with it. Have a good day!

Thanks a lot! Nice talking with you!

Have a good day too!

You’re welcome!

Yogita is just another person who wanted to help earthquake-ravaged Nepal. And help she has! By managing KLL’s seven bazillion case reports, she helped direct aid to the right earthquake-shattered villages, and probably saved Nepali lives.

Until next time, and our next volunteer’s story!

Joshua Nelson is a freelance copywriter from Virginia, writing pro-bono for HR. Literary champion of JUSTICE! (and stuff) by day, creative nerd by night (and also sometimes day.)

Yogita Firoda headshot