Austinites volunteer for Service Day

Sarah Lawson

Sunday was the 142nd anniversary of Gandhi’s birth. Gandhi’s words of wisdom, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” sparked the “Be the Change” National Day of Service held this Saturday.

Last year was the first time Austin chose to participate in the event. There were approximately 500 volunteers for 15 different service projects in attendance. This year, about 1,000 volunteers participated in 20 different photo projects.

Ramey Ko, associate judge of the City of Austin Municipal Court, was emcee for the day’s kickoff at the State Capitol.

“Last year, approximately 3,000 people in the country participated. We have a third of that number here today,” Ko said. “Think about what a tremendous accomplishment that is.”

Keynote speaker Vinay Bhagat said the National Day of Service is a good way to kick start community members into becoming involved in helping others.

“We have to view ourselves as a conduit for other people’s giving and other people’s want to help,” Bhagat said.

In his speech, Bhagat used the examples of three active volunteers to make the point that volunteers are inspired by passion.

“All three of these people I just spoke of are change agents,” Bhagat said. “They have mastered Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘be the change you wish to see’ philosophy.”

Bhagat said he founded a social venture entrepreneurship company, Convio, to aide nonprofits by technologically advancing their software.

“At Convio, we help nonprofits be more efficient and reach more people with the software we have created,” Bhagat said.

Following Bhagat’s speech, volunteers got to work on various service projects around Austin.

“I love being here as a community on this day to start this great work,” said Harish Kotecha, volunteer and founder of Hindu Charities for America. “Our purpose is to give back to the local communities where Hindus live.”

Volunteer Sandra Tinney left the event quickly to begin working on volunteer grounds.

“We couldn’t waste a minute of time. It is so thrilling for us to be a part of this day and this community, but we definitely have a lot of work to do,” Tinney said.

Bhagat ended the speech by telling community members to find what really moves them and to find a way to contribute to it.

“[Poet] Kahlil Gibran once said, ‘You give but little when you give of your possessions,’” Bhagat said. “‘It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.’”