Kirthi Jayakumar from India is a trained lawyer and a passionate social activist. She founded an initiative for girls’ and women’s rights in India as well as an online journal of international law. Since October 2010, Kirthi has been volunteering her skills, time and energy online and until now has supported 16 civil society organizations and UN agencies by writing, blogging, researching, translating, designing and editing documents and publications for the social causes that matter most to her: gender, conflict and poverty.
Kirthi’s main motivation for online volunteering -- like for all of her activism -- is to be able to offer her skills for the advancement and achievement of a good cause. “I believe that we are a product of our own histories,” she says. “I reckon that the things I saw and learned from around me were the very factors that inspired me. Deep down, however, the fighting for a social cause is just something that’s part of my DNA. It is who I am, I think.”
Online volunteering has opened up possibilities for Kirthi to explore fields to which someone with her professional background would otherwise have limited exposure. “Volunteering, for me, started at a time when I was going through a transition of sorts. It was a tough time acclimatising myself with some of the changes around me – but volunteering helped me find my feet and plant them on firm ground,” she says. Her diverse online volunteering projects included teaching online classes to children with visual impairments, helping map world heritage sites, working on a strategic plan for a Ghanaian NGO, developing a factsheet on gender-based violence, and helping develop two e-books on entrepreneurship opportunities in Africa.
It was her close collaboration with the Nigerian NGO Delta Women that had the profoundest impact on Kirthi. “Delta Women has made me who I am. I was virtually “reborn” after facing a very difficult time. I made some of my best friends, and my involvement with the organization’s work gave me immense joy.” Kirthi manages the organization’s blog and contributes as a writer, in addition to working on various initiatives, including a campaign to open a school in Okuijorogu village in Delta State, Nigeria. Thanks to the perseverance and determined campaigning of the organization, the school was approved by the Delta State government and its construction began in August 2013. The children of Okuijorogu village will soon no longer have to walk 4 kilometres to the nearest village, including crossing a dangerous express road in order to be able to go to school.
Kirthi’s advice to other online volunteers is this: “Just get down to it and enjoy every moment of volunteering. Don’t ever do it for the certificate or for the one-liner mention in your resume. Do it because you want to and because it makes you happy. Do it because it puts a smile on a face somewhere – a face you might never know, but would have definitely touched.”