Neither Aashna nor her father Keshavan can explain how it happened. Whether it was through some subtle luck of the gene lottery – a shared desire to do good, passed down through the bloodline – or whether it was fostered over time. Because like many who sacrifice their free time for others, Aashna and Keshavan struggle to put their passion for volunteering into anything but simple terms. To do good feels good.
This family duo shares a bond, galvanized by their volunteer work. And in a twist on the father-daughter dynamic, it was Aashna who inspired her father.
Aashna, left, and her father Keshavan share a love of volunteering. Aashna started volunteering for Medical Teams International during middle school, while her father recently began volunteering after retiring from IBM.
Middle School and Beyond
Aashna began volunteering for Medical Teams International in middle school. Her first volunteer experience was working Medical Teams’ annual dinner and auction, held at our Tigard, Oregon, warehouse, where she helped set up and tear down for the event. Watching the auction from start to finish stoked her passion. She saw how an organization, comprised of big-hearted supporters, could make an impact on the lives of others around the world.
So she came back — again and again. Working primarily in the warehouse, she sorted through medical equipment bound for hospitals around the world. Through the work, she met other volunteers who shared her devotion. They came from all walks and stages of life but shared a passion for improving lives, both at home and abroad.
After all, to do good feels good.
“Everyone at (Medical Teams International) welcomed us with such warmth, kindness and joy, it was truly heartwarming,” Aashna says.
Eventually, Aashna left Oregon and Medical Teams International for Spokane Washington, where she attended Gonzaga University. But it didn’t take long for her to return to the Medical Teams family as a volunteer. After graduating from Gonzaga, she moved to Seattle. While looking for volunteer opportunities, she stumbled across a familiar sign — the red-and-white logo of Medical Teams International.
In this case, the sign truly was a sign. And it directed her back to volunteering.
Aashna didn’t know that Medical Teams International also had an office in Redmond, Washington, just a few miles outside Seattle. But when she saw the Medical Teams logo, hundreds of miles away from her hometown, she knew she had to volunteer again. This time, it was at Medical Teams’ Redmond Real Life Exhibit. Working in the exhibit gave her new insight into the work Medical Teams does around the world.
After a while, wanderlust struck Aashna, and she decided to pursue an opportunity to teach English in Japan. Again, she would give up volunteering. But she would pass her baton to someone close to her.
Like Father, Like Daughter
Like any proud father of a grown-up daughter, Keshavan is gratified by what Aashna accomplished during her formative years. Those accomplishments shaped her as she grew older.
Her love of volunteering, Keshavan says, was 90 percent responsible for his turning to it. But there were other factors, too, like his appreciation for innovation.
For decades, Keshavan worked as a microchip designer for tech companies Intel and IBM. Over the years, he recognized his children’s ability to see things differently. They had the savvy open-mindedness and probing critical skills that come along with youth. With equal measure, they saw potential and problems that were elusive to him.
He recalls coming home from his job at Intel one day with the latest cell phone prototype, a project he’d been working on for months. He’d spent late nights working out all the kinks. Or so he thought. Proud of what he’d accomplished, he shared the prototype with Aashna and her brother. He let the kids test it out.
“Within the first 10 minutes, they found 30 things wrong with it,” Keshavan says, laughing. “That was an eye-opening experience for me — the way these young people think.”
His favorite part of working for technology companies was being on the leading edge. He constantly had to change, build new skills and learn. Innovation was the key to success, he says. An important lesson is to be willing to learn from anyone.
Keshavan saw firsthand how innovation could improve the lives of deeply vulnerable people.
When he was working as a Fellow-in-Residence for Intel India, he oversaw an engineering team that developed a mobile phone app connecting rural farmers to the local markets where they sold their vegetables. One thing Keshavan noticed in India was that even farmers had mobile phones and relied on them heavily. Taking advantage of that fact, the app solved the problem of produce rotting before the farmers could get it to market.
To sell their products, farmers had to spend their own money — and considerable time — traveling from market to market. This was inefficient. It led to wasted time and product. The mobile phone app allowed market owners to send mass messages spelling out what produce they needed that day, allowing the farmers to know where they could sell the day’s haul.
This was innovation at work for the greater good.
“I have always evangelized: How do you come up with new ideas and think differently?” he says. “We want to help improve the way of life, make a more meaningful life for all classes, especially the underprivileged people. How can we make their life easier?”
When he finally retired this year, Keshavan turned his focus to volunteering for Medical Teams International at Aashna’s suggestion. Aashna was out of the country by this time, so Keshavan decided to take up the mantel. He started by doing exactly what Aashna did when she was in middle school: working the annual auction at Medical Teams’ Oregon warehouse.
Seeing how it affected Aashna over the years, Keshavan knew how volunteering touched his daughter.
“She was very emotionally touched that (Medical Teams International) was helping people who did not have ready access to health professionals,” Keshavan says “And that’s what kept her coming back.”
The self-described evangelist of innovation says he is honored to be part of a volunteer team that evokes that spirit — tapping reserves of skilled, dedicated people, who bring their passion and know-how each day. Using volunteers in this way is innovative, Keshavan says, because it means you can do more good with less.
Having found inspiration in his daughter and the mission of Medical Teams, Keshavan says he wants to continue volunteering in the warehouse whenever needed.
Perhaps, when Aashna returns, they’ll find themselves on the same warehouse floor, sorting supplies, packing kits and feeling good about doing good together.
In Her Words
How did you find the time volunteer when you were in middle school and didn’t have a car?
I was involved with Medical Teams through CASA, another nonprofit that helps children, as a family friend of ours was involved with them. CASA held auctions in partnership with Medical Teams at the Tigard warehouse, and as a result I volunteered to set up, work and clean up after the auction. Having previous experience volunteering at Medical Teams really helped me take initiative during the auctions. After the events and school-led opportunities, I would ask my family friend if I could go with her to volunteer as well!
Why do you keep coming back to volunteer?
It was the people that made me come back. And the thought that organizing, kitting and boxing medical supplies would help a nation and its people. Knowing that even one box of packed supplies could help people in need really fueled my desire to keep returning. I was also intrigued by the variety of medical supplies used. So I also came back to learn more!
Aashna has been volunteering with Medical Teams on and off since middle school.
Is there anything you find particularly inspiring?
I especially admire how heavily involved Medical Teams is with the refugee crisis in Bangladesh. I really admire how Medical Teams is providing aid and assistance to the Rohingya refugees and helping them assimilate as best as possible and ensure their safety.
We have volunteer opportunities to fit every age and skill set. Volunteer on your terms and support a cause that you believe in.