From Building Drains to Teaching Code – All in a Day’s Work for This Volunteer

This post is part of a series of articles that highlight Microsoft employees in Asia who are creating a positive impact in their local community, and inspiring others along the way.

Meet Lalit Mohan, an Education Solutions Specialist at Microsoft Asia Pacific.

 Having volunteered his time to conduct coding sessions for young students, Lalit has gained a stronger appreciation of how technology can enable children to freely express their aspirations, emotions and creativity

Lalit has been in the technology field for over 25 years, but he has been a volunteer for much longer. His first volunteering experience took place during his undergraduate days, where he helped build a drainage system in a remote village in India.

“The village was facing a mosquito problem due to stagnant water collecting after rainfall. We took a month to design the drainage system, then built it in a week,” he recalled.

More recently in 2008, Lalit supported the National University of Singapore (NUS) Make-a-Wish fund-raising campaign. “We did a room makeover for a six-year-old with macrocephaly, a rare medical condition in which a child’s head is larger than normal. We collected cash, books and decorative items to make it happen,” he said.

These days, Lalit can be found teaching kids how to code. At the recent YouthSpark Kids Camp in Singapore, he combined his unique teaching style with Kodu software, giving young children the opportunity to invent entire new worlds. A games programming language that allows users to craft virtual worlds by modelling objects of their own design, Kodu runs on PCs and Xbox.

“Like conventional art, such as music and painting, technology tools can enable children to freely express their aspirations, emotions and creativity. This gives them an avenue of interesting possibilities, and they respond quickly to it,” he said.

The various coding sessions he has conducted have had a lasting impact. Many parents have informed him that their children enjoyed the lessons so much that they continued to work on their own Kodu projects at home.

One particular student that Lalit coached reminds him of why volunteering is so rewarding. “This seven-year-old boy, Ray, built an entire virtual aquarium with sea animals that interacted with one another. The patience, tenacity and attention to detail that he displayed was very impressive. You only see this level of effort and meticulousness when you help children discover activities they are truly passionate about,” he said.

“Microsoft’s outreach programmes have allowed me to positively influence people from all walks of life. My aim as a volunteer is to provide the guidance a young person needs to take off, and be the captain of his or her own ship,” he added.

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