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Volunteer Appreciation Month: Meet Praveen!

April is Volunteer Appreciation Month! All month, we'll be celebrating our DOROT volunteers and the incredible impact they've had on the lives of older adults.

To all the amazing volunteers who dedicate their time, energy, and passion to create connections and build community -- THANK YOU!

We're starting off our series with Praveen Vajpeyi! Praveen has been a DOROT Caring Calls volunteer since 2020. Learn more about him below!

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Praveen: I was born and raised in Calcutta, India. I decided to pursue an MFA at Parsons, which led me to move to NYC in 1999. Fast forward 20+ years, and I'm deeply immersed in the education sector! Once one gets involved with empowering others through education, it becomes difficult to walk away. This work aligns with my core belief in enabling people to live richer, more fulfilling lives by expanding their access to knowledge and opportunities.

Why did you choose to volunteer with DOROT?

Praveen: I was introduced to DOROT by a friend during a period when I was actively seeking volunteer opportunities.

What is one of your favorite moments from your experience as a DOROT volunteer?

Praveen: One gentleman stands out for the heartwarming guessing game he played with me. I had just gotten off the phone wishing my daughter a "happy birthday" and apologized for being a few minutes late to our call. He casually mentioned that he had recently celebrated his daughter's 75th birthday too! I was shocked as I had assumed he must be in his mid-70s himself, and I blurted, "How is this possible!" He laughed warmly and asked me to guess his age. I started at 82 to which he gently said that wouldn't be biologically possible. Finally, when I gave up, he revealed he was 98 years old! That joy and laughter remains an indelible memory and exemplifies the indomitable and upbeat spirits I've encountered among each of the four people I've had the privilege of speaking with.

What have you learned from volunteering with the DOROT community?

Praveen: Volunteering with the DOROT community has taught me invaluable lessons about empathy, understanding, and the shared human experience. I have learned to listen without judgment, to provide a safe space for people to share their stories, and to meet them where they are emotionally.

My conversations require patience and mindfulness to be fully present. Each person I speak with has lived a rich, complex life - weaving together joyful memories and poignant struggles. I've developed a deeper capacity for empathy and caring by bearing witness to these lives.

We are all on this journey together, and at the core of it is a yearning for connection. My weekly calls remind me that life has intrinsic meaning when we take the time to know someone's story. Through opening my mind and heart, I continue to learn that we have more in common than divides us.

What would you say to someone interested in becoming a Caring Calls volunteer?

Praveen: I would wholeheartedly encourage someone to become a Caring Calls volunteer with DOROT. As volunteers, we have the privilege of bearing witness to stories with open minds and hearts. No matter one's background, volunteering offers an invaluable lesson in the universality of human experience.

I feel tremendously grateful that serendipity led me to DOROT. When I signed up to volunteer, I didn't fully appreciate how profoundly this experience would impact my life. I look forward to continuing this meaningful work and learning from this inspiring community.

Interested in becoming a Caring Calls volunteer? Learn more here