Shikha Mahajan believes in ‘doing unto others what you wish others to do unto you’. She relates to the philosophy of karma but she’s no sermon-giver; rather she feels that the best way to establish yourself in a community is to immerse yourself fully in its culture. She came from India eight months before this interview, and since then she has certainly ‘jumped right in’.
In India, 26-year-old Shikha’s voluntary activities began in college where she volunteered in the National Service Sector unit which helped the under-privileged. She organised blood donation drives, AIDS awareness campaigns and, on completing four years as part of the Unit, she headed a group of 200 volunteers who assisted with the establishment of a school in Dahanau, a tribal area on the border of Maharashtra and Gujarat. Later work involved being a charity ambassador for Child Relief and You, an organisation dedicated to stopping child labour and child prostitution.
Most of her voluntary activity in India related to children, particularly those below the poverty line. ‘They are often overlooked and neglected by the government,’ she said. ‘And it is the children who are the future of the country.’
Although the causes for her volunteering in Wellington are very different, the drive behind her ‘do unto others’ passion is similar. As a centre assistant at the Seafarers Union, her brief is to make seafarers feel welcomed, ‘especially when home-sickness strikes. I’ve come across seafarers from India and I’ve loved being able to talk to them in their own language whether it’s Hindi, Marathi or Punjabi.’
For further involvement in her new home, she is currently training to become a Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB) support person. This linked in with the making of a two-part radio programme with Access Radio. In the first segment she talked about the intricacies of support work with the CAB; the second segment was her take on the media and the Paul Henry debacle!
Shikha is also an interviewer for Volunteer Wellington where her task consists of talking with potential candidates for the many different volunteers roles associated with their approximately 400 community group members. In the short time since she has been in New Zealand she has done more voluntary work than many of us would do in a lifetime. Here’s to hoping she continues … our society will be better for it.