Annu Subramanian: Expertise into efficiency

It’s time for us to take responsibility for this world in which we live.

Every charity prides itself on accomplishments, innovations and sweeping successes. Yet poverty, education and hunger statistics remain startling. In this country alone, the number of nonprofits exceed 1.2 million, and globally that number clocks in at around 5 million. Like some metaphysical puzzle that contains the seeds of its own solution, the reasons for this lie largely in the nature of creating and running nonprofits. Whether it is the Ivy City part in Northeast D.C. – long an area of industrial decay and blighted blocks – or Ibadan, Nigeria, in the hub of the global AIDS epidemic, nonprofits are often ineffective due to the application of outdated aid methods or insufficient funds.

As GW students, we can do our unique part to streamline efficacy. The District we call home is located at the intersection of advocacy groups and their richest client. Impressing upon the government the importance of minimizing wasteful spending and emphasizing fiscally efficient nonprofits are immediate measures we can take. The kind of students this University attracts are notorious for being able to understand global economic theories in their large scope – but also grasping those concepts in application. This expertise is a silver bullet in the nonprofit sector. During this recession, donations are dwindling. The education we receive can be applied to the improvement of grassroots organizations, many of which are facilitated by enthusiastic individuals who benefit greatly from up-to-date economic guidance and acumen. Whether you’re an engineering major or a journalism student, your knowledge is a priceless donation.

For many of us, the idea of contributing to the conception of a major project is an ultimate goal. Why not gather up the schooling you’ve received so far and use it to perform studies, educate peers or innovate principles that can better the world?

We attend school in a city that requires our assistance, but sometimes it’s tough to see how we as full-time students can tackle such a major beast. But we also possess resources and materials that are like the Wonka chocolate factory of the nonprofit sector. At your internships, explore whether the company contributes to charities. If not, suggest they do. When applying for scholarships, incorporate an aid-based eye to your objectives. From archaeology to political science, there is a way we can use the supply of opportunities we achieve through the University in order to make a difference.

The term “altruism” needs a little detoxification, because the reality is that philanthropy is more selfish than you think. Aside from the unparalleled opportunity charity provides students to apply our passions to the real world, every time we volunteer we redeem satisfaction with ourselves and a sense of fulfillment that can’t be gleaned through other methods – it really is an indescribably natural high. The next time someone presents you with a volunteer opportunity and you ask yourself, “What’s in it for me?” realize that the answer to that question is, well, a great deal.

We’ve all heard our advisers discuss with us how we will spend the 168 hours of our week. Well, with about 97 hours left over after sleep and class, volunteer hours should also etch their way into our day planners. It’s not just a spoonful of medicine to be taken around the holidays. We have always viewed charity as irrevocably sufficient. But if it is as rare a phenomenon in our lives as Monday’s meteor shower, it just won’t have the same lasting effects for both us and the causes we help. If we each devote even two hours a week to volunteering, not only would we tilt our world a little further toward harmony, we would feel better about ourselves. If that’s not enough, there’s always Michelle Obama’s speech at the Class of 2010’s graduation. Either way, you’ll realize sooner than you think that when we make philanthropy part of our routine, it becomes a habit that (fortunately) is difficult to break.

Most of all, though, the issues of the world stand as massive edifices challenging us to destroy them. But with some small steps and support from our ever-active GW student body, these towers can come tumbling down. What will emerge from the rubble can be the legacy of our generation, and we can say we prioritized activity over apathy.

The writer, a freshman majoring in journalism, is a Hatchet columnist.

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