Her first taste of fund-raising was through a funfair in her primary school that raised money to help the less well-off students in her school. That experience sparked Ms Dhanashree Shelgaonkar’s passion to help the less fortunate.
The 25-year-old was particularly interested in humanitarian efforts outside Singapore. So when she started her bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) four years ago, she joined the NTU chapter of the Red Cross Youth.
“The first time I got to be in charge of a fund-raising campaign on a large scale was when I was on the management committee of the Red Cross Youth,” said Ms Shelgaonkar, who was in charge of the International Projects division.
She added: “This was something I could see myself excelling in and I was looking forward to seeing the impact of our fund-raising efforts first-hand and knowing exactly what the funds are being used for.”
In December 2012, Ms Shelgaonkar (above with one of the children she helped in Myanmar) led a team of 35 students to Yangon, Myanmar, where they taught children in a Red Cross school in a village near Yangon, helped to build a library and refurbish the school as well as a clinic in the village and installed solar panels for sustainable and efficient energy for the villagers’ needs.
The fund-raising efforts included approaching alumni and corporate sponsors for donations, setting up booths within NTU for bake sales and donation drives, and going door-to-door across NTU’s halls of residence to get donations from schoolmates. It wasn’t all smooth sailing, though. The team ran into hiccups along the way.
For instance, one of Ms Shelgaonkar’s team members overlooked applying for the National Youth Council’s Youth Expedition Project grant. This “placed a huge amount of stress on our fund-raising” and meant that they had to make up for the grant by holding a second round of door-to-door donations. They also had difficulty getting approval for public fund-raising activities.
Going door to door was also a challenge. They first had to get approval from NTU’s Student Affairs Office. Then, “getting enough volunteers to dedicate the time to carry this out was challenging”. The students also had to deal with “rude and unsupportive people”.
In the end, though, the team managed to raise around $8,000 and received sponsorship for crucial parts of the project.
The project itself was successful. The team managed to achieve their objectives, and the students and villagers were appreciative of their efforts.
“They put together a huge farewell ceremony for us on the last day and even people from neighbouring villages came to show their support,” said Ms Shelgaonkar.
Since her return from Myanmar, she has not simply been resting on her laurels.
She spearheaded the founding of a society in NTU, and recently got together with her friends to raise money for the recent Nepal earthquake.
“It was an independent initiative, with me and my friends holding a bake sale,” she said on the fund-raising for the Nepal Earthquake Relief project. The group raised around $500.
She also volunteers at Willing Hearts, which runs a soup kitchen that cooks and distributes daily meals to the needy islandwide.
Explaining why she is so passionate about helping the needy, Ms Shelgaonkar, who will be graduating soon, said: “The world isn’t perfect. We could use more helping hands, especially from those of us who are living comfortably and are fortunate enough to have our basic needs covered.”