On Tuesday, April 15, Apna Ghar will celebrate its annual Volunteer Appreciation Event. There’s still time to RSVP; see details here.
To highlight the importance of volunteers to all that we do, we sat down for a Q&A with loyal volunteer Syed Rizvi. Syed, 42, is a technology director who lives in Avondale with his wife and son, 12-year-old Nicholas. Syed and Nicholas have volunteered at the Stride Against Violence 5K Run/Walk for the last several years (3 or 4 so far, they don’t count).
Q. How did you end up volunteering with Apna Ghar?
A. I have an Indian background, and I was aware that Apna Ghar started with the intention of helping women of Asian descent. I felt this was an organization I could relate to more closely than other volunteer work I had done. I didn’t have the emotional connection to the other charities. With Apna Ghar, the organizers came from the same culture I did, helping those with the same issues I had experienced firsthand.
Q. Why bring your son along?
A. As his father, it’s my responsibility to be a good role model to him. I’m trying to raise him to one day be a good man, a good husband, a good father and to have empathy for others.
Q. Do you talk to Nicholas about violence against women?
A. My son is very aware of how my father treated my mother as well as my brother, my sister and me. He was emotionally and physically and verbally abusive. It is very clear to my son how I feel about cowards who treat women as anything less than equal.
Q. What does volunteering at the 5K entail?
A. I try to get to the walk early and leave late to make sure I do as much as I can. I’m a bit stronger, so I can help set up and move heavier stuff around. Last year I got to work the food tent where we passed out water and fruit. I try to do whatever is needed. It’s very rewarding for me because there is so much important work that the people in the organization do. If I can help out with the basic things, it will allow them more time and energy to do more important work.
Q. What effect do you think the experience has had on Nicholas?
A. About a month ago, he offered to volunteer for an organization that sends hand-packed meals specifically formulated for malnourished children to be shipped to nearly 70 countries around the world. He asked me if I would join him. Obviously I had to say yes, to make up for all the early mornings he came with me. It’s great that he’s coming up with his own ideas and desire to help.
Q. Did you feel proud?
A. Yes. I am, without any doubt, the luckiest father in the world.
I remember when I found AG’s Executive Director Serena Low’s email in my inbox asking to speak to me on the phone about a summer internship. It was March, and I was gearing up for finals, a campaign for Class Council president, and my trip back home to Chicago after an adventure-filled sophomore year at The George Washington University. Summer swiftly approaching, I was eager to have my summer plans figured out. Being from a small suburb, there was never much to do at home but watch Netflix until my eyes drained from my skull and read books of different of characters making a true difference in their worlds of 400 pages.
400 pages were all it took. A character could break away from her ordinary life, strive to be something greater, and end up showing her entire society what it means to be a hero. She could be Emma Woodhouse, Jane Eyre, or my personal favorite, Hermione Granger. The pages of these books were filled with struggle and adventure, something I thought I knew little about. I truly believed that in order to be great, you had to accomplish a feat that would change the course of a society. Small acts didn’t cut it.
My time at Apna Ghar has taught me that there is so much more to strength, bravery, and independence than what I knew. From the bubbly and outgoing legal advocates to the sweet and caring counselors, each and every individual on the Apna Ghar staff excels in their department professionally and flourish even more as kind and genuine people. What I have learned is that working in non-profits takes dedication and big heart, true signs of today’s heroes. During my four months here, I’m sure that there were more than 400 small acts carried out by these wonderful staff members. Each act made a difference in the lives of survivors of domestic violence and changed their path for the better.
I would sincerely like to thank the Apna Ghar staff for welcoming me with open arms and becoming more than co-workers. You are all friends I will never forget!
This post was written by Kulsoom Jafri.
Kulsoom is a junior studying Political Communication and Philosophy at The George Washington University and was a summer intern and volunteer at Apna Ghar