You might think that a 17-year-old researcher at MIT, Princeton and Northwestern, who is also currently interning at Lockheed Martin, has enough on his plate. But Pulkith Paruchuri has spent the last several years putting his expert programming skills to further use in a volunteer role. Pulkith, who has a voice disorder, loves to help others who live with disabilities – especially visually impaired people.
When this computer science enthusiast was tapped to build a “modest” site that kept track of basic information for visually impaired people and volunteer guides to help them run, he built a robust website instead. Things like a chat function, automatic pairing for volunteers and visually impaired people, and advertising capabilities made all the difference to the organization, which saw an increase of 5,200 new volunteers in 16 countries over two years. Pulkith also helped raise $6,000 through bootcamps and helped the organization get supplies to 250 people, saving three more from abusive situations. Read on for Pulkith’s inspiring perspective on volunteering.
What inspires you to volunteer?
The overlooked issues. Volunteering is often done for the most publicized issues, such as world hunger, poverty and disaster relief, and this undeniably deserves merit. However, there are so many voids in the community that people are often unaware of. I hope to do my part by filling one of those voids. In this case, many do not realize that the Visual Impaired Community, in many situations, needs assistance in staying healthy and getting physical exercise.
Describe your volunteer role.
For the past couple of years, I’ve been developing a website used by thousands and leading a team of developers for Guide Runners India, an organization that helps visually impaired individuals team up with local volunteers to allow the visually impaired to get the physical exercise they often need.
This website kept track of events, information about the visually impaired, volunteer information, pairings and news. It also has visualizations to manage this information, as well as features including volunteer hour tracking, meet-up scheduling, administration contact, messaging, automatic pairing suggestions and questionnaires that allow the visually impaired to report any issues with their supplies, shelter or environment.
What have you learned through your experiences working on the website?
While the number of people that want to volunteer is vast, the number of people that do volunteer is much more minuscule.
However, those who do volunteer are passionate about their work and often go out of their way to do their service work, and I have the utmost respect for them. That’s why I encourage people to volunteer not just for the sake of volunteering, but to choose something that is important to them.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
Seeing people enjoy my passion. I enjoy going on long runs in the evenings, and seeing those who have a passion for running and volunteering to help people who would otherwise not be able to get sufficient exercise is quite rewarding.
Why do you think it’s important for others to get involved with causes they care about?
I’ll simply leave you with the saying, “If not you, then who?”
What do you want people to learn from your story?
There is always something you can do that is enjoyable, rewarding and helpful for the community, regardless of your demographic, characteristics or situation. Your community needs something and you can be the one who helps! It doesn’t have to be the grandest thing – every small action you engage in can lead to a life transformed.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Pulkith? Find local volunteer opportunities.