Category Archives: Volunteering

My Evolution as a Developmental Coach

Today happens to be my Mom’s birthday and the month in which Mothers are celebrated, among other national and international awareness activities (such as Mental Health Awareness Month). To readers of my blog, I hope you have a few minutes to read this post.

I’ve made a couple of references to my parents on this blog largely because I know it is thanks to them and many others, that I am able to stay healthy, volunteer my time with causes I care about and explore new places and things.

The video above is a culmination of my journey in squash. I have enjoyed every moment of playing, coaching and volunteering in squash at various levels, as well as being a team member on winning and losing teams.

I plan to stay physically active with and without squash, as it definitely keeps me well and balanced. Thanks, Mom and Happy Birthday!

 

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2017 Emmaus Martin Luther King Day of Service

Bowdoin squash alum introduced me to VolunteerMatch, a wonderful website that connects nonprofit organizations with volunteers. Hence, in an effort to continue volunteering locally I was matched with Emmaus Inc, a Haverhill, Massachusetts-based nonprofit organization that addresses homelessness through empowerment. How did this happen?

T-shirt for Emmaus Volunteers, special event for 2017 MLK Day of Service.

Emmaus Volunteers received the T-shirt above for its 4th Annual 2017 Martin Luther King Day of Service.

The process to act upon my volunteer interest was to register with VolunteerMatch, express interest in organizations and causes near my zip code and then select volunteer opportunities based on mutual interest and availability. My first onsite meeting with Emmaus’s Empowerment Project Coordinator facilitated registration, identification verification and completing background (CORI) checks. I was then emailed by the coordinator the general volunteer responsibilities.

As a Family Guide, my volunteer role for the 2017 Emmaus Martin Luther King Day MLK Day was to provide a welcoming atmosphere for disadvantaged families and individuals at the Resource Fair and Family Theater  Almost 200 people from the Haverhill community attended the event and Emmaus Inc had over 130 volunteers respond to the call to work on various MLK day projects. Each volunteer received a free T-shirt, as seen above. For more information, check out pictures from the event on the Emmaus Inc. social media pages! Thank you to VolunteerMatch for helping me to make the Emmaus event a success.

If you are looking for ways to give back to your local community, connect with like-minded individuals and organizations as well as ease your way your back to full-time paid employment, VolunteerMatch, might be a useful tool to make your next steps in the new year.

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Enriching High-Ability Middle School Students in Sustainable Development

This spring, I’ve been teaching part-time at Acera: The Massachusetts School of Science, Creativity and Leadership: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) Enrichment Program focusing on current events, political activism and global issues for high-ability middle school students to help them become the best version of themselves.

As the Political-Science / Model United Nations Club Leader I co-facilitated simulations and discussions related to international sustainable development and the U.S. Presidential Elections. We started with global issues and then domestic political issues. The Acera middle school students are highly intelligent, passionate and creative leading to animated discussions which were engaging, lively and heartfelt.

Poli Sci - Model UN students from Acera School attending the 2016 Massachusetts Democratic Convention in Lowell, MA.

Political Science – Model UN students from Acera School attending the 2016 Massachusetts Democratic Convention in Lowell, MA. Photo Credit: T. Mohammed

As part of the course design, I initiated a Field Trip for 2 boys to the 2016 Massachusetts Democratic Convention at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell’s Tsongas Arena. This was a unique opportunity for Jakob, Jamie and myself to listen and observe to the leadership of the Massachusetts Democratic Party establishment. After checking in at the registration desk, we made our way into the Tsongas Arena Indoor stadium where we able to get a close view of the many speakers such as Elizabeth Warren, Maura Healey, Marty Walsh, Ed Markey to name a few.

While sitting in the 5th Middlesex District seating session we had an opportunity to ask Sue Thompson, a Massachusetts delegate about the nature of the 2016 convention, the role of delegates and super delegates and how young people can get more involved in the Massachusetts Democratic Party through its youth wing. In addition, as attendees we were able to collect brochures, literature, pins, posters and bags to further raise awareness of the candidates and issues which Massachusetts Democrats seek to address and take action on 2016 and beyond.

Overall, it was my pleasure to facilitate the teaching and learning for a group of cooperative and coachable middle students who were keen to learn more about active citizenship. Thank you Acera students, staff and parents for the opportunity!

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Reflect, Renergize and Restart: Where to Next?

         As you are probably aware this blog is outdated and no longer being updated. I didn’t want to stop without being able to reflect with you upon three lessons gained from life experiences, which I believe can be one of our greatest teachers. My hope is that it will help you think about your own life.

         The first lesson was learned while I was a high school student in the United Arab Emirates. This was among the several countries my siblings and I grew up.

         After a long day at school, I decided to go for a run to take my mind off homework. At the time, Laylah, my youngest sister was the only person home. I asked her to let my parents know that I had gone for a run and that I would be back home in time for dinner. Little did I know I would not make it home for dinner that evening.

         I set forth on my usual route with Walkman in hand. (For those of you too young to remember what a Walkman is, it is one of the early precursors to the iPod). My memory of what happened next is unclear. All I remember is waking up in a hospital emergency room and my entire upper body soaked in blood with my mother at my bedside. I have no recollection of how I ended up there.

         From police reports it appeared that while running, I was knocked down and unconscious by a car. Except for the shattered glass that had scared my face and back, there were, fortunately, no serious injuries. No broken bones. No lost limbs. Nonetheless, doctors told me that I had experienced a severe shock to the body and mind (deemed a concussion) and that I would need to miss the remainder of my 11th grade.

         On one hand I was relieved, that I wouldn’t have to take final exams, but on the other hand disappointed that I had to stay home and could not spend time with fellow classmates. During the recovery, I had time to reflect upon the seriousness of what had happened and came to the conclusion I had a near death experience.

         At first this troubled me, but as I thought more deeply I came to understand that I had been given a second chance to live. I felt fortunate to be blessed with a miracle. While not everyone believes in God, I do believe there is a force greater than humanity.

         Some call this force God. Some call it Jesus. Some call it Allah. I’m not a very religious person, but I could not help think about this force. It kept me alive and is why I am here today.  Thus the first lesson, I would like to share with you is that, I believe, we are each here to serve a purpose.

         My second lesson stems from an international childhood and brief career in international affairs. I am an American citizen of Indian heritage but was born in the United Arab Emirates and educated in the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, India and the United States. My multicultural upbringing might appear unique, but there are a growing number of Americans and international students, who also hail from diverse backgrounds and venture to and from foreign lands.

         During 2003-2004 I served as a United Nations Volunteer under Kofi Annan, former Secretary General’s initiative called United Nations Information Technology Service (UNITeS) in Kampala, Uganda to promote volunteerism as well as foster peace and sustainable development. Based at Makerere University, a leading institution of higher education in East Africa, I was living in a country with a history of Indophobia.

         In the early 1970s, Idi Amin, a former President of Uganda expelled thousands of Indian immigrants due to fear of economic insecurity for ethnic Ugandans. Fast-forward to present day Uganda, Indians are gradually returning to Uganda – mostly in small numbers – to reclaim their properties.

         Given the historical plight of Indians in Uganda I was anxious as to how I would be received by my Ugandan counterparts. Would they see me as another Indian threatening their livelihood? Would I be considered a naïve, twenty something Indian-American aid worker imposing Western values? Would they just accept me for my ideas, thoughts and actions while being a guest in their country?

         My mission in Uganda was to strengthen and expand the Cisco Networking Academy Program, a global online curriculum for schools and universities across the country. The Cisco program prepares students and working professionals to design, build and maintain computer networks.

         I am not an expert in networking computers, but did have prior work experience publishing research on the intersection of business, technology and policy under the direction of Jeffrey Sachs, a highly acclaimed economist, at the Center for International Development at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

         Fortunately with hard work, openness and a willingness to learn about Ugandan culture I was able to build trust among Ugandan colleagues. Living in a foreign country, far away from family and close friends, I learned how to make new friends and appreciate how human bonds tie us together. This is what truly enriches our lives.

          At Concord Academy everyone is valued for their individuality and at the same time their is a respect of common beliefs. Hence, the second lesson I would like to share with you is that while everyone is unique in their own way, we must not forget to celebrate our common values in this increasingly complex world.

         My third lesson is a culmination from my lifelong passion for squash – the sport, not the vegetable (Although after living in New England, I have also grown to like squash soup!). I became acquainted with the sport when my mother would go for her squash lessons.

         Curious to know how this racquet sport was played, I eventually made my way on to a squash court by the age of 12. Living in Saudi Arabia it was also a way to beat the heat and exercise in an air-conditioned room.

         Looking back, squash has opened many doors for me. During my college admissions process Dan Hammond, an All-American squash player at West Point and Head Squash Coach at Bowdoin College, a highly selective liberal arts college in Maine, actively recruited me as a student-athlete. I would not have gained admission based solely on my academics. Squash opened the door.

         Also, my first paycheck in the United States was thanks to squash. During the summer of my freshmen year in college, I worked as a counselor at the Harvard Junior Squash Camp under the direction Bill Doyle, a former Head Squash Coach at Harvard. Squash opened the door.

         During my junior year of college I was invited to attend an alumni function with key donors and was seated, by the organizers, at a table with Robert Edwards, a former President of Bowdoin College and his wife, along with several accomplished alumni.

         Puzzled at first, I came to understand that I was selected to be seated at that particular table, not because of my academic prowess, but because I happened to be co-captain of the varsity squash team under the direction of Satinder Bajwa, a world renowned squash coach who was subsequently the Head Squash Coach at Bowdoin College during my senior year. Looking back, meeting Baj (as he is known in the squash world), was a tremendous, positive life-changing experience.

         Squash has continued to provide many opportunities even after college. For instance I got my first desk job at Harvard, because Geoffrey Kirkman, Managing Director of the Information Technologies Group at the Center for International Development liked the fact that I was a squash player and coach who showed promise beyond academics.

         Again, if it were not for my interest in squash, I would not have been able to coach at various New England colleges, universities and prep schools. Neither would I have had the opportunity to help implement the 2006 Super Series Squash Finals, featuring the world’s top 8 players in London, England.

         Neither would I have received a travel grant to visit a poor village in India to conduct coaching clinics for underprivileged children. I could go on.

         I am very grateful and honored for being involved with Khelshala, a non-governmental organization, that allows me to play a part in helping other students can gain education and career opportunities through sport. Thus the third, lesson I would like to share with you is that don’t underestimate the value of your extra-curricular activities.

         In short, my three lessons for you are: (i) live a purposeful life because you never know when it may end (ii) embrace all the diversity the world has to offer and remain inclusive and (iii) last, but not least, don’t forget to nurture your talents. It sounds simple to say, but, at times, it can be difficult to put into practice.

My name is Tariq Mohammed, which among other things, in Arabic means “he who knocks at the door.”

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What Can Sport for Development and Peace Learn from the Arts?: Lessons from Angkor’s Children in Cambodia

On Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday in India to celebrate the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, my parents and I were invited to attend a filming at the Bright Lights Film Series at Emerson College courtesy of Dr. Sughra Raza, a family friend in Boston and editor of 3 Quarks Daily, an interdisciplinary filter blog.

Lauren Shaw, a Professor at Emerson’s Department of Visual and Media Arts produced Angkor’s Children through a culmination of several years of work with her Kickstarter campaign.

As a Founding Member and Secretary of Khelshala, it was an inspiring and humbling experience to meet Sreypov and Phunam, two of the Angkor children featured in the film as well as social entrepreneurs from the Cambodian Living Arts and Phare Cambodian Circus who worked for decades to mobilize the Cambodian diaspora in the United States and elsewhere to empower the next generation in Cambodia.

Sreypov of Angkor’s Children and me at Paramount Theater, Boston, MA.

Sreypov of Angkor’s Children and me at Paramount Theater, Boston, MA.

What can Khelshala and others learn from those working to promote peace, development and human rights through the creative sector?

  • Sacrifice – the founders, artists and community members all had to give up something in their lives for the greater common good.
  • Commitment – staying true in the long term to their social justice cause was not expected, but came from within.
  • Community – an ecosystem of individuals and organizations nurtured the organizers to mobilize the diaspora.
  • Funding – sports and the arts are often first to be cut in public education.
  • Inter-generational dialogue – exchanges across generations in sport and music can keep traditions alive.

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Marking a Milestone for Khelshala

On 9th August, 2014, Khelshala celebrated its 5th anniversary in Chandigarh, India. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the event, but was celebrating in spirit with colleagues. Since I was not in Chandigarh to report on what took place, the India-based team are putting together a post-event synopsis.

Once again credit goes to Coach Bajwa and the Khelshala team for reaching this milestone. While there is still a long way to go, there continues to be significant achievements made by the Khelshala children as well as the program itself. For those interested in the details, these can be found in the Khelshala newsletter(s).

While I am thrilled to be part of Khelshala, this is a good time for self-reflection for one’s own journey. I have used this summer to review, assess and plan for further career development. After speaking with various career counselors about the field of social enterprise, I am reminded by a friend’s comment that “it would be good to do something that pays.”

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Appreciating SquashBusters and the Future of Urban Squash

Thanks to Tom Hodgson, a veteran teacher of philosophy and coach at Phillips Academy Andover (also a friend and squash colleague), he invited me to the SquashBusters Lawrence end-of-year celebration at Brooks School. SquashBusters Lawrence students, parents, staff, coaches and volunteers had fun with free-play, eating a pot-luck dinner and recognizing outstanding performers for the 2013-14 year.

SquashBusters Lawrence Staff recognizing students for 2013-14 achievements.

SquashBusters Lawrence Staff recognizing students for 2013-14 achievements.

As an admirer and follower of SquashBusters, it was great to be in the company of Greg Zaff, CEO and Founder and his team to share developments about Khelshala in India as well as Kidsquash in Cambridge, MA. Given the National Urban Squash and Education Association’s international outreach to countries such as Colombia, South Africa and India (including Khelshala) – there is a lot of potential in terms of grant making, student-exchanges and North-South as well as South-South collaboration.

Though squash is not yet an Olympic sport, programs such as SquashBusters and the like  – when done right with capable staff and adequate resources – produce balanced, active and socially responsible citizens. Surely this is a win-win for all stakeholders!

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