A true linguaphile, 17-year-old Meera Kochhar can speak or is learning a total of five languages. The love the Lake Mary, Florida high school senior has for languages is one she is paying forward by helping to increase access to language learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
While learning at home because of school closures, Meera realized how disconnected her peers were as they attempted to prepare for exams in the spring of 2020. Launching Connecting Through Language in April 2020, Meera is providing free language services to students around the world who lost valuable access to educational opportunities due to historic school closures and social distancing measures. Starting first by connecting classmates from her Spanish AP class with students in Puerto Rico so the groups could learn together, Meera has now helped more than 700 students across 55 countries.
What inspires you to volunteer?
I’m inspired to volunteer because of the sense of fulfillment it provides. It’s hard to find lasting happiness in anything, but in helping others, we find lasting happiness. We feel good about ourselves because we’re using our energy properly.
How are you giving back through language learning?
It’s my philosophy that by contributing and making life for others better, I am fulfilling my purpose on this earth. People work really hard to become proficient in English, something we don’t value until we start teaching it, because it’s so natural for us.
Describe your volunteerism with Connecting Through Language.
As founder and CEO, I coordinate our volunteer tutors, who are all high school students, and pair them with participants, who range from kids to adults. I also design the class curriculum, we offer free language learning in three languages, French, English and Spanish. I also manage our online presence and communication and tutor classes myself.
Share one personal story with me from your volunteerism.
During our English classes, I noticed a lot of youth, especially students in India, who were very shy and weren’t connecting with the community. I encouraged them to start volunteering and we even offered Zoom classes teaching these students how to start their own service projects. One girl was inspired by our classes and developed a personality development class. She’s since connected with about 100 students globally to help youth develop their confidence and find a sense of purpose. Despite our age, youth can have a profound impact on the lives of others.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
We all have to contribute to make the change we want to see. If we want to see improvements in our community, we have to do it ourselves.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your service?
It’s rewarding to see how we are boosting the confidence of these students by improving their language, but it’s translated to other parts of their lives as well. I’m not just helping one individual, I’m helping their entire family and community, because they are sometimes the bread winners and are able to better support their families through these classes.
What’s the future of your volunteerism look like?
We are increasingly reliant on technology to connect, so our platform is sustainable. A lot of times people don’t have this special help to learn a language in their communities, so they rely on us to make global connections.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
If you have an idea, just go with it. You never know how big of an impact you could have. I started this service to help my classmates, but I never imagined I’d reach so many different people in so many countries. Just keep on volunteering and you’ll do better than you expect.
In one word, what does volunteering mean to you?
When you’re not busy in school or volunteering, what do you do for fun?
I love learning languages. I’m currently learning Sanskrit and I love cooking. ‘Dharma’ is my favorite word in Sanskrit. It’s so hard to translate into English, but it has a lot to do with Hindu philosophy.
How can readers help?
Please visit our website for more information about how you can become a student or help our organization.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Meera Kochhar? Find local volunteer opportunities.