Joining MAKNA in 2000 while pursuing a masters degree in business administration, Vemanna immersed himself in communty service and has not looked back since.
“I had no experience working for a charitable organisation and I felt very uncomfortable about asking for money,” Vemanna says of how he felt initially.
However all that changed. “I was put in charge of processing financial request applications for financially drained cancer patients that were forwarded to MAKNA from local hospitals. Reading each and every appeal was truly an eye-opening experience for me,” Vemanna says.
Today besides aggressively carrying out fundraising projects in aid of poor cancer patients in the country, Vemanna also manages and trains a large pool of volunteers on the ground nationwide.
Speaking about his fundraising work he says, “There is a dire need to reach the poor in our country and to ensure that they have the financial means to undergo their cancer treatment. My work ensures that they do.”
Believing that the simple act of giving creates and fosters the love for others, Vemanna says of the Volunteer Management Unit under him, “The willingness to share your wealth, independence, time and health with others will bring you the greatest level of contentment and self-satisfaction too.”
This is evident in the many cancer patients he has helped through the years. In 2006, Vemanna helped Song Kar Ming get a school transfer so he could be closer to his mother who was dying of cancer. In 2008, he helped cancer patient Priya Darshene Janagaraj pursue a Bachelor of Medicine at Monash University Malaysia after she was denied a JPA scholarship due to her illness. A year later, Vemanna worked with his colleagues and a contractor to upgrade the dilapidated living quarters of eight year-old Nur Nabilah Natasha who was striken with ALL Leukemia.
Another of Vemanna’s equally big achievements was the setting-up of the annual MAKNA Volunteer Appreciation Awards. Describing what his volunteers do as a “Work of Heart”, Vemanna explains, “This is an annual event recognising volunteers for their hard work. I am proud that we have 400 active volunteers made up of cancer survivors, caregivers, family members of cancer patients and the public.”
Working with MAKNA for 12 years now, Vemanna says he takes pride in playing a role in the organisation’s many developments. “MAKNA provides microcredit to families afflicted with cancer, home and hospital visits, a cancer helpline that offers advice and counselling by trained nurses as well as a Mobile Mammogram Screening Unit for women in rural areas,” he explains.
A self-proclaimed ‘walking advertisement’ for MAKNA, Vemanna has appeared on numerous television chat shows and been featured in local newspapers in his quest to create awareness of MAKNA’s many fundraising activitites. Among these are the Cancer Cycle, Cancer Climb to the Everest Base Camp in 2011 and the recent Jom Botak: Trek For Cancer. He is also active on Facebook and Twitter.
In answer to how the public can help Vemanna says, “Get involved in simple acts that will bring change by enhancing the life of a fellow human being. If your strength is in the media, shout about our work. If you have no time for community work, help us financially so we can channel it to those in most need of it.”
Acknowledging the heroes among us