Penn Researcher Explores Volunteering in India

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Media Contact:Jill DiSanto | jdisanto@upenn.edu | 215-898-4820February 13, 2012

PHILADELPHIA – Femida Handy, a professor at the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania, is one of four authors of a new book, From Seva to Cyberspace: The Many Faces of Volunteering in India, which traces the origins of seva, direct service to others as well as present-day manifestations of volunteering.

An important concept in most Indian religions, seva is the idea of selfless service.  As the authors explain, because God has a relationship with everyone, serving other people is considered an essential practice of indirectly serving God.

The book describes who volunteers and why, the impact of their work and methods of measuring the value of their labor to non-governmental organizations.

It examines the impact of service clubs and those who volunteer for religion, as well as corporate attitudes toward service.

“The Indian society presented in this book is different than the traditional global coverage suggests,” Handy writes in the book’s introduction.“ It is the India of real people, where many are in the service of those who suffer from scarcity, basic safety nets for the poor and vulnerable.  We talk about social activists, many now well-versed in the use of Web 2.0, who fearlessly mobilize thousands of Indians around the country to help promote causes of social justice. 

“It includes those who give their time to help to the needy or to bring about social change for the betterment of the community.  It includes those who promote health and education, help in disaster relief efforts, protect the environment, and promote the arts and culture.  The list is endless.”

The book features narratives and case studies of individuals and organizations that are working toward change.  These range from individual cases of older and youth volunteers to organizations that promote volunteering using innovative ways of recruiting and placing volunteers.

Other authors include former Penn student Jillian Ingold, Meenaz Kassam of the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates and Bhagyashree Ranade Marketing and Market Research Consultants & Discovery & Transition of Pune, India.

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