BE THE CHANGE
By Sonia Kotecha
Be the Change is an annual national day of service coordinated by South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT). The goal is to inspire and foster civic engagement through volunteerism and community service. Every year, thousands of participants across the country collectively contribute numerous hours of community service in the spirit of Gandhi’s famous quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
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The first time Austin participated as a community and coordinated a service project was with 50 volunteers in 2010. Since then, Be the Change Austin has rapidly grown, it identified 15 new service sites and engaged 500 volunteers in 2011 and it has continued to double engaging over a 1,000 volunteers and hosting the largest Be the Change event across the country in 2012.
Be the Change provides an avenue for individuals to get out of their comfort zones, learn about the needs of their local community and identify ways they can make a positive impact through volunteerism and community service. It also serves as a meaningful way to mobilize the community towards a productive cause that will lead to further civic engagement.
Although rooted in the South Asian community, Be the Change has evolved into a large city wide event, engaging volunteers from all walks of life regardless of ethnic, religious or cultural background. Since being identified by SAALT as one of the core cities to host Be the Change, the City of Austin has proclaimed Be the Change day in Austin each year. These efforts have led to strong partnerships with the University of Texas at Austin’s Longhorn Center for Civic Engagement and GivePulse, a social networking site for volunteers and nonprofit organizations.
Although planning a day of service is a big undertaking the volunteer teams, comprised of individuals who hold full-time jobs, have created impacts in the community that are immeasurable. Each year they witness the ripple effect of the year before and it motivates them to set their expectations higher. None of this would be possible without the members of the community that choose to volunteer and care to make a difference and espouse the ideals of “Be the Change” set by Mahatma Gandhi.
This year’s event is planned on Sunday, September 29, 2013. Please visit our website www.bethechangeaustin.org for more information. You will truly experience what the power of a small group of committed people can make in their local community by inspiring a spirit of service which will ultimately change the world.