[Monday Motivation] This corporate professional has dedicated his life for selfless deeds, volunteering with over 60 social groups
Sathya Natarajan from Pune is someone who strongly believes that ISR (Individual Social Responsibility) is CSR 2.0. A software professional in an MNC, he chose to work in night shifts just so he could volunteer with social groups during the day.
For Sathya, it all started from his school days when he got involved in fundraising for his school building. He also joined the National Service Scheme (NSS) to help clean a heritage well to store water. Years later, after settling into a professional job, he became even more committed to social service and to issues relating to the environment, education, health, hygiene and dignity of labor.
Sathya during a tree plantation drive at Chatushrangi Hills, Pune
Speaking to SocialStory, he says,
“There is nothing like an epiphany, but the need to undertake 'Sewa' or service was inculcated by my parents and grandparents right from my childhood. So, when opportunities to serve were presented in schools, colleges, and social forums, the fire in the belly to keep doing more and more kept raging.”
Working for various causes
Sathya has been active in social work since 2009. Today, after a decade of volunteering work, he has worked with 60 social and NGO groups.
Causes range from environmental issues to women’s empowerment and everything you can think of. Natarajan’s work centers around human beings and their well being and protecting them. He synergises his skills in people, organisational and relationship management, team building and more to achieve social objectives. Many NGOs and social groups including Global Mental Health Association (GMHA), Poona Tamil Sangam, Vishwa Sawali, Nelda Foundation have recognised his contribution to various causes.
Sathya has been a champion campaigner of safe menstrual waste disposal via the Red Dot campaign for women’s empowerment, and upholding dignity of labor. He has personally spoken to over 4,000 women, 20 schools, and seven societies to lead awareness. In addition, he also leads his own hygiene and sanitation group, which promotes the usage of sanitary pads, and alternatives such as menstrual cups.
Sathya is also the default go-to person for anyone who is reporting a violation of the Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, 1975, be it day or night. “I have conducted more than 100 sensitising sessions about the Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, 1975 and worked towards increasing the green cover of Pune.”
Being a core member and a volunteer of 'Swachh Pune Swachh Bharath', he has helped continuously for 52 weeks every year for five years in a row to make Pune cleaner in synergy with urban bodies.
“It is hard to quantify how many people I have reached. I have my own personal time management formula. I take time out from TV viewing, sacrifice around 1.5 hours of sleep, cut out the wastage of energy and suddenly I have five hours at my disposal for social work,” Sathya narrates.
“I have slowly built a network of people who are already working on-field and I learn from them. I am constantly augmenting advocacy and taking up opportunities to tackle social issues like education, poverty, women empowerment and dignity of labour,” he added.
Sathya had his own fair share of challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. “It was hard to establish connections between donors and beneficiaries and to make sure we did not hurt the dignity of those receiving or overlook the generosity of those giving,” he says. Donation fatigue had set in in many cases and the undone was vast with so many people having lost their livelihoods and facing dire circumstances. There were also cases of orphaned children and senior citizens whose children were in foreign climes, needing urgent care.
But these challenges provoked him to help those who suffered during the pandemic. “There was so much pain and a need for help everywhere. On one hand, we were worried that because of the migrant rush, rural areas would become Covid hotspots, and on the other, we wanted to help reduce pain and hunger by packing meals for them.”
He helped serve over 36,000 food packets across 10 consecutive days to migrants via a cloud kitchen. He also worked extensively for flood relief and collected more than 16 tonnes of relief material by bringing people together, providing on-ground volunteering as well as help in Kolhapur, Sangli, Pune, and Ratnagiri.
Supporting the marginalised
This year, Sathya has also joined hands with the charitable organisation Oxfam in their Trailwalker Challenge. He believes that walking in solidarity with Indians who have not just been marginalised by discrimination and poverty but stricken by a debilitating pandemic.
Sathya Natarajan at the Oxfam Trailwalker in Mumbai
“While our healthcare system struggled and inequality rose to new levels, marginalised citizens found they had nowhere to go. #WalkInMyShoes is a call for empathy for those who have suffered enormously not just because of the pandemic but because of unrelenting discrimination and inequality. This is our opportunity to end the prolonged disparity in our daily lives and all we need to do is walk! Let’s keep walking to end discrimination.”
Going forward, Sathya wants to do as much as he can to end inequality and expand the equity of different deprived classes by inspiring others to join and contribute to events like Oxfam Trailwalker. He also wants to build the next line of leaders who can think of new ways to change the world around them for the better by asserting their ISR.
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