From raising funds for Salvation Army and World Vision appeals in high school to leading successful not-for-profit organisations, Jaya Manchikanti has been a passionate volunteer for as long as she can remember.
From an early age, Jaya could see that some people were disadvantaged. But she knew things could be different, so she decided to study and work in community development.
Jaya is a testament to the fact that there are many ways to volunteer. She has organised meetings for community development practitioners, formed a group to support women in the Telugu community, and led Monash Lions Club to help local communities.
When she saw an opportunity to mirror the critical work taking place across the multicultural sector and hear about the issues affecting Victoria’s growing Indian community, Jaya founded IndianCare. IndianCare connects people of South Asian origin in Victoria with the welfare services they need. The organisation is approaching its tenth anniversary.
For more than a decade, Jaya has made a positive difference in communities across Victoria using her community development, relationship building and listening skills.
“Listen more than you talk,” says Jaya about her approach to connecting with people. Seeing the value in what others say has underpinned her volunteering efforts and culminated in her taking the top prize at the Victorian Volunteering Awards 2021. Jaya received the Volunteering Leadership Award, the Premier’s Volunteer of the Year Award, and a $10,000 donation to a not-for-profit organisation of her choice.
Jaya has learned leadership and financial skills through volunteering, even though financial skills aren’t her forte. As Jaya says, “That’s the beauty of volunteering. You pick up on a lot of skills.”
“Give it a go,” says Jaya to anyone considering volunteering. “Pick a cause you’re passionate about and start small if you’re not sure if it’s for you.”
In her leadership positions at IndianCare and Monash Lions Club, Jaya believed that whatever time you put into volunteering is enough.
Volunteering is flexible. You can contribute as little or as much as you like. Even if it’s only an hour a month, knowing you’re helping somehow is good for your health and wellbeing.
Jaya has a wealth of community development experience through her work and current PhD studies. But volunteering allows her to be innovative and creative in applying her community development skills to help people.
And because the people she volunteers with share the same passion for driving positive change in the community, she has made many friends and met many wonderful people.
“I volunteer because it’s enriching, it’s meaningful and it’s beneficial to the community.”