Volunteer Spotlight: Dipesh Balakrishnan
Volunteer Spotlight: Dipesh Balakrishnan
This month we would like to showcase our volunteers here at BIIN. One consistent volunteer for English classes is Dipesh Balakrishnan. Dipesh Balakrishnan shared some of his personal life and gave insight into his perspective at BIIN.
My name is Dipesh Balakrishnan, and some of my friends call me “smiley,” because I smile. I was born in Niskayuna, New York but was raised in Sugar Land, Texas for most of my childhood. I moved to the Bryan/College Station area in the fall of 2021 to attend Texas A&M University (currently a sophomore working on his Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences). Since then, I have become part of the community more and more with each passing season. I love the hospitality and community here (outside the Aggie bubble too!). When I’m not engaging in schoolwork, I like to relax with my friends over dinner or a show. While I would consider myself a talented chef, others would argue that I am still an amateur, a notion which I stubbornly disagree with. Jokes aside, I enjoy cooking healthy and thoughtful food, and I hope to get even better at it while I’m in college. One of my longest and most enduring passions is art. I’ve done it for as long as I can remember.
My latest project is to complete a portrait of Herminia and Joel, two clients that I have grown to know very well at the BIIN. I am also an avid birder and I love learning about nature, culture, and history. Currently, I spend my time at the BIIN volunteering in the English conversation class. My very first time volunteering is something that I will never forget. I remember how open and friendly the class was. Herminia was the first person that I met and I quickly discovered her ardent passion for tamales. It was about midway into the class when I realized how much I was enjoying being here. It was there and then when I realized that I had to come back to the BIIN. The following classes instilled more community, and I genuinely feel that going to BIIN is like hanging out with family and friends.
A typical evening at the BIIN goes somewhere along the lines of me and my friend, Chris who is also a fellow volunteer, waiting for each other to go inside BIIN. We sign in together while greeting Alyssa, Viviana, and Freddy (the Interns). One of the things that I like to do is write Chris’s name on the name tag with a sad face next to it for fun (it never gets old). Then, the first client we usually come across is Bernardino, aka the most studious client ever. Bernardino never runs out of historical facts to indulge us in, especially Texas history! After Bernardino, Joel and Herminia, are usually the next clients that come in (There’s always so much to catch up on with clients. How was your week? How is the garden coming along? How do you make authentic tamales?). Not long after, Fanxin, Farida, Martha, Alex, and the rest of the family join in and, before we know it, we lose ourselves in wonderful discussions about our experiences, culture, and interesting events going on around the world. Then we talk about crazy idioms, metaphors, and common English slang. Honestly, anything! I never know what to expect in English classes.
No amount of words can communicate how much the clients, staff, and volunteers that I’ve met mean to me. Herminia and Joel are like parents to me. After showing them my drawing of a dog I did several years back, they’ve both been so eager to make me become an artist again. I know Herminia is a very passionate gardener and she has so many beautiful pictures to show us each week. Last week, at Farida’s house, she got the opportunity to make tamales for us all and teach us about the significance of tamales in Mexican culture. I learned so much. Bernardino is always fun to be around. We (along with Chris) have a tradition of greeting each other with first bumps before and after class. It never gets old. He has much to tell us about the history and he’s so curious about the world. Then, there’s Martha. She’s just started her own Colombian empanada business and she has the support of all of us from the BIIN. And of course, there’s Ciri. I always love hearing her wonderful stories about Thailand. And then there’s Fanxin – always wise and seems like a grandpa to me. Luis is the newest client and he is so dedicated. He’s from Spain and we’re (along with Chris and the other clients) always so curious to learn more about what it’s like.
Now, of course, the instructor has a special place in my heart too. She’s so kind and considerate. She always lets us speak our minds and comes up with the most ingenious ways to make us all learn, even the volunteers. I would say she’s like my grandma. Meg too! These were just some of the clients, but they’re all family to me!! Through my experiences at the BIIN, I hope to extend my curiosity about the amazing diversity of cultures in our community. I’ve learned so much so far! Just yesterday, Fanxin, another one of the first clients I met, was telling me about his many excursions across the globe during his tenure with Schlumberger. We both have an intrepid passion for history. Ultimately, I hope to open my heart to service as far as it will take me! While we have so much fun each week, I also know for Chris and me, there is a very significant impact on how our clients learn.
I would change nothing about BIIN for future volunteers! I love BIIN the way it is. Volunteering at the BIIN has undoubtedly been one of the best experiences that I’ve ever had in my life. The clients and fellow volunteers are like family to me and I’m so fortunate to have found such a community that has impacted me personally in so many ways. I’ve learned so much about the beautiful diversity of cultures and personalities. In saying so, I will keep volunteering at the BIIN for years to come as I’ll always know that it’s a community that I can count on.
We thank Dipesh for allowing us to interview and showcase that BIIN runs with the aid of our community. Without our coordinators, interns, and volunteers we would not be able to offer the level of quality that we offer to all students. If you are reading this and have been inspired by Dipesh’s volunteer story, please feel free to go to our website brazosimmigration.com, and register to volunteer for future classes.
Thanks to the ESL interns for interviewing and writing this piece on one of BIIN’s volunteers.