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For Roshan R., 49, getting involved in the volunteering activities of his company was not only about bringing a positive change in the community but also about reconnecting with his childhood passion of painting.

Bengaluru-based Roshan, who works as a deputy general manager in Toyota Kirloskar Motor’s strategic partnership division, has been taking part in almost all the volunteering efforts of the company through its ICARE initiative which covers areas such as education, environment and health. Under the initiative, he, along with other Toyota employees, recently volunteered to carry out a plantation drive at a government school at Vajjarahalli in Bengaluru. The volunteers also painted the school premises, constructed a playground using recycled materials, made charts on eco-education and created a kitchen garden.

Similarly, in December, Roshan and other employees participated in painting the walls of a 140-year-old government school at Ashok Nagar, near Garuda Mall, in Bengaluru, where children from nearby slum areas are taught. Volunteering, Roshan says, is not only a means of giving back to the community, but also a way to contribute towards the well-being of the next generation. “It helps me connect with my colleagues, make new friends, and (gives me) an opportunity to do activities I enjoyed doing in my childhood, like painting, etc.," he adds.

The ICARE initiative

ICARE was started in November 2017 with the launch of a mobile medical unit and specialized health camps in Ramanagara district of Karnataka.

Through this initiative, employees are encouraged to volunteer for social and environmental causes. These also include creating awareness on issues such as lake restoration, plantation drives and solid waste management.

According to Naveen Soni, vice-president, Toyota Kirloskar Motor, the volunteering initiative is in line with the company’s commitment towards community development and ecological awareness. Through volunteering activities, he says, the company seeks to provide a platform to its employees to give something back to society. “These activities also strengthen employee-organization relationship, and at the same time increase its social coefficient by contributing towards society," Soni adds.

The company plans activities mostly on weekends and encourages employees to get their family members involved as well. “When I started sharing my experiences with my office peers, and family, I could mobilize around two people each time," says Roshan. Most of the activities are planned in consultation with the employees, and are usually aligned with the company’s social responsibility or sustainability activities. In March, volunteers from the company spent a day at St Mary’s Orphanage in Bengaluru and connected with over 200 children through games, cultural activities, cooking and gardening.

Harnessing employee energy

Soni says the company is looking to achieve long-term sustainability through employee engagement. He adds that such volunteering activities can go a long way in educating and sensitizing not just employees but the community towards social and environmental causes. Soni says the idea of starting a volunteering programme at the company occurred to him and a colleague when they were travelling on the outskirts of Bengaluru, in an area which was being used by the authorities for waste segregation. “Ideally zero-mile area (the outskirts) should be the best advertisement for a city. But, unfortunately for whatever reason, it (the waste segregation site) is there. When we would cross this area, I wondered if it could be converted into a playground and horticulture area for people to visit," says Soni.  This small thought proved to be the inspiration for them to act towards social and environment causes, which would also be in sync with the aspirations of its employees.

The company also partners with local non-profits for various activities, which provide their knowledge and expertise on social and environmental issues, making the employees’ engagement impactful and meaningful.

Volunteering Warriors is a series that looks at how companies are fostering a culture of giving back by creating programmes that encourage employees to create a social impact.

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