On Our Minds
by Saad Qureshi (he/they)
Creating a balance between my day-to-day work at On-Ramps and life outside of work is an ongoing challenge, especially as I continue to work from home. During this time, I have really appreciated being a part of Act to Change, a nonprofit working to prevent and address youth bullying in the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community and other minority groups. As a board member for the organization, I get to have meaningful conversations with so many people around the world about our community and experiences as AAPI folk—something that has helped me feel more connected despite working remotely.
Now a national 501c3, Act to Change began as a public awareness campaign in partnership with President Obama’s White House Initiative dedicated to the AAPI community, the Sikh Coalition, and the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment. The campaign focused on bullying prevention among youth that identify as AAPI, Sikh, Muslim, LGBTQ+, and/or as immigrants. My work as a board member usually entails organizing local and virtual events with AAPI youth, educators, artists, health professionals and elected leaders. They address issues of bullying, racism, xenophobia, and violence—and how they’ve grown personally and professionally since.
What I’m learning through volunteering at Act to Change
When the pandemic hit and we went into lockdown, we started monitoring the rise in bullying and racist acts against AAPI folks as a result of news about Covid-19—all of which is still happening today. We created a series of online Covid-19 resources as a response. We launched a “Covid Conversations” virtual web series where a variety of people—including Hudson Yang, Jeremy Lin, Vivek Murthy and Grace Meng—talked about what has been happening in our communities and how to combat it. Our website toolkit “Racism is a virus” also shares statistics on bullying, racism, and xenophobia during Covid-19, and resources on how to combat these acts.
Act to Change often partners with other nonprofits to further raise awareness of these issues. When researching and vetting these organizations, I find myself using skills I’ve developed as a search associate. I pay attention to whether a nonprofit’s mission and vision aligns with ours. I look for examples of how the organization is living their stated values, and whether they demonstrate a visible recognition of and involvement in the issues Act to Change focuses on. This kind of intentional review pushes me to view organizations in a larger capacity.
How Act to Change complements my job
I’ve always appreciated On-Ramps’ focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion, especially when it comes to creating diverse candidate pipelines for our clients. My role at Act to Change plays a huge part in this element of recruitment. I am able—and often called upon—to speak to the importance of including AAPI voices and/or candidates in the hiring process when discussing clients’ desires for candidates of color for various leadership positions. There have been times when clients have stated they want to hire a person of color, but then exclude candidates that identify as AAPI from their diverse pool. This situation is something I focus on directly at Act to Change. The conversational skills I’ve developed there have really informed how I push back with clients and address why those types of decisions are harmful.
What to consider in pursuing balance through volunteer work
- Share your passion with your manager. When I joined On-Ramps, I made sure to talk about Act to Change with my team and explain I would need some flexibility to continue this work. They were very understanding because they could see that was where my passion for DEI comes from. If you are passionate about something, talking to your manager about the importance of your volunteer work—and how it influences you feeling connected to your day-to-day work—is a conversation worth having.
- Carve out time on your calendar. Having a flexible work schedule certainly helps, but if that’s not already a part of your organization’s policies it is worth discussing with your manager. If Act to Change is scheduling an event that’s based out of LA while I’m in NYC, I make sure to bring that up ahead of time so I am able to block that time off during the work day to attend.
- Engage in the organization’s communications. If work at On-Ramps is particularly busy, I still feel plugged in to Act to Change and its members by engaging in their communication channels like Slack and social media.
Working from home can make it hard to create a true separation between work life and personal life, so it doesn’t surprise me when I hear folks are feeling pushed to just focus on work. But if volunteering is something you’re passionate about, I encourage you to make time for it—especially right now. I am lucky to work with friendly, sociable coworkers at On-Ramps, but carving out time to work with Act to Change as well has helped me feel more connected to the rest of the world in what has otherwise been a long period of relative isolation.