Hunger Reduction International (HRI) is a Somalian relief and humanitarian development organization established in 2011, working in partnership with local communities to alleviate the impact of hunger on the lives of poor and vulnerable individuals. Prerna Bakshi became an online volunteer for HRI in 2013, when the organization was still in an incipient stage, struggling to establish itself and attain its developmental goals despite the instability and volatility of the region. The online collaboration had a profound impact not only on the organization’s internal capacity building, partnership growth and visibility increase, it also changed radically the course of Prerna´s ambitions, and opened new academic avenues. When she took on her fist online volunteering assignment with HRI, Prerna was a young management student planning to pursue a career in a business dominated industry. By the time she completed her latest assignment, her collaboration with HRI had played a major role in her admission to the University of Oxford for a Master’s in International Development.
Through its collaboration with Prerna, Hunger Reduction International was able to able to develop its website, maintain social media channels, as well as to identify and pursue growth opportunities, including significant partnerships. Noting that HRI was short of volunteers and staff, Prerna carried out an organizational needs analysis. Subsequentially, she recruited and managed several teams of online volunteers to strengthen the partnerships, communications and research functions. She likewise wrote a research paper that contributed to spread the organization’s message to a wider academic audience and raised awareness on the conditions in Somalia. Finally, Prerna worked on the grant proposal for the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) and UNDP Cross regional Grants competition. “Prerna has contributed in large ways to internal capacity building, growth of organization and ultimately, to our goal of alleviating poverty in Somalia”, states HRI director.
“Online volunteering has holistically changed my life,” says Prerna. “Being an online volunteer for organisations from Somalia, Afghanistan and Zambia allowed me to reach out to people, causes and situations that I had until then only read about. It also exposed me to volunteers of different backgrounds, which helped me understand the nuances of different countries and cultures and the motivations which bring us all together. It allowed me to polish my opinions and thinking skills while also making me feel connected and one with these very people from conflict regions that I previously felt alienated from. I volunteered for HRI around 450-500 hours in total, and toward the close of my assignments, I decided to shift my career aspirations.”