Empowering Immigrant Girls and Championing Legal Aid Through Volunteerism

Daily Point of Light # 7752 Feb 21, 2024

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Bhavna Agnihotri. Read her story, and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light.

Bhavna Agnihotri’s exemplary volunteer work paints the picture of a dedicated individual deeply committed to empowering immigrant communities and providing essential legal aid to those in need. Her involvement in various programs, including SPEAKHIRE, Lawyers for Good Government and a cancer clinic, showcases her multifaceted approach to volunteerism. By sharing her expertise and passion, Bhavna mentors young immigrant girls and significantly contributes to the betterment of society through her legal work.

Through her work with SPEAKHIRE, Bhavna dedicates her time to developing and updating lesson plans as well as encouraging students to pursue higher education and explore diverse career opportunities. Her efforts have touched the lives of 21 high school students, offering them invaluable insights into career pathways and instilling confidence in their pursuit of success.

Beyond mentoring, Bhavna’s role as a pro bono liaison extends her impact into the realm of legal aid. Her work with Lawyers for Good Government involves coordinating research on reproductive health legislation and other critical legal issues. Additionally, her involvement in organizing a legal services clinic for cancer patients and survivors through a cancer clinic in October of 2023 further exemplifies her commitment to providing access to justice for vulnerable populations.

Throughout her career, Bhavna has also been a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion, creating programming and mentoring junior colleagues to promote an inclusive workplace. This is Bhavna’s story in her own words.

Bhavna Agnihotri is a powerful example of taking her lived experience as an immigrant and paying it forward to future generations.

Tell us about your volunteer role.

As a SPEAK mentor, I mentor groups of two to three immigrant high school girls once a week per nine-session round. In total, I have participated in eight rounds and have mentored 20 immigrant girls. In these sessions, we first connect on an individual level to build a relationship – ranging from the immigrant experience to a love of dance. Through our sessions, we focus on areas identified by the mentees, SPEAK and myself in a psychologically safe environment. These include exploring career paths, the college application process, building public speaking skills, improving research and interview skills and connecting them with resources and members of my network.

In addition to SPEAK, I also have a significant continued commitment to DEI in the organizations I work in. This includes establishing the Swiss Re Pro Bono program, sitting on an Americas-wide Diversity Board, co-leading and advising various Employee Resource Groups (including co-leading and moderating strategic initiatives and programming) and developing, leading and participating in pro bono projects including a cancer clinic, the National Veterans Legal Assistance Project, establishing nonprofits such as Voices from Within and projects with Lawyers for Good Government.

Why is this issue so important to you?

As an immigrant, I have navigated high school with parents who were unfamiliar with the U.S. higher education and career paths. I was fortunate to have access to books, counselors and teachers to guide and advise me during this time. Helping these girls is my effort to pay it forward, many of them do not have relationships with professionals who can serve as role models or mentors as they navigate this crucial period of their lives. Serving as their mentor increases their exposure and increases the accessibility of numerous career paths for them.


President Obama published a list of organizations that one can volunteer with for the MLK Day of Service. Around the same time, I attended a DEI event where the speaker encouraged us to “be the change you want to see in the world,” which has stayed with me ever since. My connection with the mission of SPEAK and ability to volunteer via zoom made this opportunity stand out for me.

What are your long-term plans or goals for the organization?

Over the long term, I plan to keep volunteering with SPEAK and inspire others to become mentors. I also look forward to helping SPEAK by participating in and getting other members of my network involved in their Speaker Series. Hetal Jani has brought this organization a long way and is only just getting started. I look forward to seeing her expansion of SPEAK. The sheer number of lives she has improved is remarkable.

What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?

The most rewarding part of my work is seeing the impact it makes on these girls’ lives – whether it be successful presentations, obtaining an internship or even just opening up new possibilities for their lives. I remember helping one student prepare her application and prep for an interview for a summer internship program. She was ecstatic when she received an offer and is now in college. Just instilling in them the confidence that they have the ability and right to reach for the stars is often a tipping point for these students.

What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?

Each time I partake in a volunteer, charitable or pro bono activity, I always come away feeling that I have gained more than I have given. As a result of being a SPEAK mentor, I have gained a deeper understanding of different cultures, lived experiences, teenagers in today’s time (which helps me be a better parent) and myself. It also puts any problems I have in perspective, as the daily obstacles these young women face make any problems I have pale in comparison.

Why is it important for people to get involved with the causes they care about?

There are so many reasons. The impact created, the friends made and the sense of purpose provided are just a few. Some of my closest friends are people I have volunteered with. Creating a difference in even just one person’s life can be so meaningful. Volunteering has also been shown to reduce stress and combat depression, as it shifts your mental focus away from your own problems to a person or activity where you are making a positive difference.

Any advice for people who want to start volunteering?

Just do it. Try one or more projects related to causes you care about. If you are a leader, consider incorporating volunteering into your next team building exercise. Chances are you’ll meet new people and feel good about your contribution. If not, you will have learned about your preferences and can try another project. Volunteering, like life, is an iterative process.

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Bhavna? Find local volunteer opportunities.

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