Bringing volunteers to the table and actively involving them in the decision-making process can be beneficial for organisations and their leaders. Fresh perspectives and new ideas lay bare systemic weaknesses and pave the way for reform. The Dublin LGBTQ+ Pride Volunteer Programme encourages the participation of its volunteers to ensure that the organisation remains as progressive as possible.
We sat down with Vivek (he/him), who is originally from India, to chat about his experience with the Irish LGBTQ+ community compared to his home country, and why he became a Dublin Pride volunteer.
What has your experience as a gay immigrant in Ireland been like?
“I always wanted to be part of the LGBTQI+ community, which I did not get to do in my home country India. Until September 2018, when India’s highest court overturned the law that made homosexuality illegal, it was tough for me to be openly gay and supportive of the LGBTQ+ community at home.
Compared to India – where homosexuality was illegal when I moved out and I only had a small but supportive community – the LGBTQI+ community in Ireland is liberated and proactive when it comes to driving change.
I also appreciate the support of allies, but I strongly believe that even though our community has come a long way, we still have a lot to achieve because we are becoming more and more diverse. I am proud to be part of this change, and I want to contribute as much as I can.
Organisations like Dublin Pride are important not just because they organise festivals and parades but because they create events for members of the LGBTQI+ community to take part in.”
Apart from being an active member of the LGBTQ+ community in Ireland, Vivek enjoys Bollywood music and dancing.
Could you briefly explain Bollywood for those who are unfamiliar with the tradition?
“Bollywood dancing comes from Indian movies and has its roots in Indian classical and folk dance forms. Bollywood dancing is known for people coming together to dance in large groups and in stunning locations and costumes to make the cinematic experience more beautiful.
Indian movies have always inspired me, and Bollywood dancing has become a way for me to express myself. I like how it allows you to work through all kinds of emotions and different moods.”
How would you define the importance of cultural upbringing?
“I believe what I am today is because of my culture. It has taught me my values, beliefs and opinions and way of looking at life. That being said, Indian culture is very diverse, with a large population and many different languages and different ways of dressing or eating.
India’s history has taught me to be open and accepting of diversity. The fight for our independence is one of the greatest examples in the world’s history of strength in unity. My cultural values are what makes me unique in Ireland.”
When did you decide to move to Ireland and what was it like moving to a new country?
“I’d been working in a corporate job for some years before I moved to Ireland in 2017. I was lucky enough to find a job after finishing my postgrad in Advertising & Marketing, but after working for a few years, I found my work getting a bit repetitive and boring. I decided to take a break, so I thought I’d go back to college, but this time in a different country. Leaving my country for the first time was a big step, and I was both excited and nervous, but coming to Ireland was one of the best decisions of my life. The country and its people have been so warm and welcoming to people from other countries.
Before coming to Ireland, I read somewhere on the internet that it’s one of the friendliest countries, and I can assure you that is true. Let me share a story from my early days here. I was on my way to view a house, and when I reached the door, this Irish lady was standing there and welcoming me with her hands joined for namaste. I had the best time staying with them, and they made me feel like home.”
What has your experience been like as an international student?
“It has been an amazing experience. Being an international student can be extra hard because you have to get accustomed not only to the weather but also to local life, the legal system and so on. My class had students from so many other countries, and I learned something new about a different culture every single day. The moments I spent celebrating birthdays, hanging out, going for coffees and nights out – even working on assignments – are something I will cherish for life.”
What advice would you give to someone who is considering studying abroad?
“Be strongminded, and focus on what you came for. One thing I really believe is that there is so much more to the world than meets the eye. Be open to learning and growing as a person. Try to learn and understand local life, and respect and be kind to everyone you meet. Doing this can make your life easier when you are an immigrant away from home.”
What has Dublin Pride’s role been in welcoming you to the LGBTQ+ community?
“Dublin Pride is such an amazing organisation that brings the people in our community and our allies together. I am especially moved by the immense support from our allies that I have experienced because at the end of the day we also need straight people to support the LGBTQI+ community. Dublin Pride gave me the freedom of being myself and welcomed me with open arms. Even though I was new to the team, they didn’t hesitate to trust me with important duties and responsibilities.”
Why is volunteering important to you?
“Service to others is a key part of my culture. Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.’ Someone who volunteers for Dublin Pride will not regret their decision, and they will truly cherish giving back to the community.”
What has been your most memorable moment while volunteering for Dublin Pride?
“When I got the opportunity to be Flag Marshal for the Parade in 2019. Leading a 65 m long rainbow flag and progression gave me an immense feeling of pride and of being part of the community and the team. I was surrounded by a great team of volunteers that year, so I knew I had the support of not only them but also the Chief Marshal and the Dublin Pride Team.”
Volunteering for Dublin LGBTQ+ Pride is an excellent opportunity to learn new skills and work with a fantastic team of like-minded people who care about advancing LGBTQ+ rights. If you are interested in joining the volunteer team at Dublin Pride, please fill out this form.