Suresh Ediga is lifelong volunteer who stands by the marginalized. He spearheads I4Farmers, is a member of NRISamay, part of many volunteer organizations, an avid advocate of RTI and is involved in countless projects that concern community and welfare of citizen. He also happens to be a father of two beautiful kids, and has learnt the art of balancing work, family and community. You can follow his blog at sureshe.wordpress.com or follow him on twitter @suresh_ediga or on facebook.
What do you do or how do you describe what you do?
I’ve a full time job and I’m a full time volunteer. By full time volunteer, I mean, I spend at least 2-3 every day on the social issues I’m volunteering for.
How do you make time on a daily basis?
Quite honestly I never made a conscious effort to make time. I don’t take time or make time. For me it’s not any other job nor I do it out of charity, I do it because it’s my responsibility. Similar to how I’m responsible to my kids, my wife, my parents – I’m also responsible towards my society.
How did being a volunteer change you?
I don’t have a communication degree but I’ve done interviews, hosted debates. I don’t have an event management degree, but I’ve organized fund raisers, concerts with with the greats like Ustaad Amjad Ali Khan & Hari Prasad Chaurasia. I don’t have any political background nor money power, but I’ve engaged with the MLA’s, MP’s. I was able to do all these and many more by just being a volunteer. Being a volunteer, gave me opportunities, which otherwise I would never have gotten. It helped me grow as an individual and also instilled the confidence in me that whatever may be the scale of the problem, I can do something about it, not matter how small or big it is.
What made you become a volunteer in the first place?
It was a lonely walk on the beach, Just kidding. Nothing dramatic had happened. I always had the instinct to react to what I see around me in a positive and constructive way. The only way I knew to take this forward was by being a volunteer. In the process I met so many individuals and groups who have been working relentlessly and selflessly. For many of these individuals, society was there full time job.
What kind of activities/projects have you done?
The list if actually quite long, since I’ve been doing this for the past 15 years now. I was very fortunate to do what i did and continue to do so, with the help of many friends, individuals on the ground, groups and organizations. For a lack of a better way and for simplicity i will organize the activities into 4 broad categories
Campaigns & Awareness
- Bhopal Gas Victims, Soni Sori, Land Acquisition, Walks, Call Campaigns to talk to MLA’s, MP’s, Call campaign for RTI, NRISamay.com (an internet radio) etc.
- Help build toilets for govt. Schools, building reverse osmosis plants, analyzing government documents, understanding the policies to help leverage them, build websites for small non-profit organizations, sponsor mid-day meal for govt. Schools, providing immediate short term relief for farmer suicide victims
- Pochampalli weavers project to help revive a small group of 28 weavers, Working with PalleSrujana (PalleSrujana.org) in helping with their mission to identify rural innovators, Sustainable farming projects, Making phone calls to resolve basic problems such as electricity, ration etc via CGNetSwara.org, sponsoring kids education etc.
There are many more projects/campaigns – details can be found: sureshe.wordpress.com
How do you come up with projects or activities?
I didn’t start out with what I want to do. I learnt everything in the process of engaging with other individuals and organizations. And whenever I saw an opportunity to contribute something in a positive manner, I just started doing those activities. I’ve been very fortunate to have the support of my friends and sometimes even their friends.
How do you involve people or raise funds for your projects?
I always believe that to help someone is great, but to get an opportunity to help is even greater. And like me there are many others who I’ve found to believe in this. And in this day and age of technology, where a quick phone call can connect someone like me in New York to someone in a remote village in Bastar, Chattisgarh, is amazing. I use social media to the fullest. In fact I use social media to talk about the projects, about social issues and over a period of time have gained the friendship and trust of many other like-minded people.
There is a lot of good will around us, the onus is really to reach out to them in all honesty and sincerity and the results can be quite dramatic.
What are your current projects?
Farming and Farmers are the most important profession and professionals. We all depend on them being successful. And yet they are the most neglected professionals. About 2 years ago, a group of friends, started an organization called i4Farmers.org, a non profit registered in the US, to take up projects in India. This is an ongoing commitment and have very exciting projects lined up for the rest of the year and beyond.
There is also an active campaign called #OneMillionPostCards to support Soni Sori, the tribal teacher from Bastar, Chattisgarh and also to support the tribal people in Bastar. The goal of the campaign is two fold
- To raise awareness about the issues in Bastar
- To send #OneMillionPostCards to the Chattisgarh CM demanding a supreme court judiciary and CBI enquiry instead of the local police investigations into the law and order affairs of Bastar. (More details on sureshe.wordpress.com)
- Send an e-card: http://tinyurl.com/OneMillionPostCardForSoni
Be Someone, Be A volunteer and Become a leader to “Bring the Change” and not just “Be the Change“