Get to Know Volunteer of the Month Bratati Karmakar!

Our volunteers come from far and wide to support our programs— some from the magical woods, others from the high seas, and in the case of our July Volunteer of the Month Bratati Karmakar, even from as far as Palo Alto.

Bratati volunteers at our Tenderloin Center and has been an enormous help to students at our workshops and in our podcasting field trips. Read on to learn about her tips for new volunteers, her favorite food, and her YouTube channel!

What is one of your favorite memories from volunteering at 826 Valencia?

My favorite memory is when I was volunteering for the field trip program and Sam (a second  grader) believed that everything in the center was so fascinating — like the bear on the bike, the tree house, the puffer fish, the gift shop, and the lanterns hanging on the roof! He also thought that the water jug had some magical properties, as the water tasted, “out of this world.” Sam was thrilled to be a part of the field trip. I found his positivity and optimism very gratifying. His pleasant smile and twinkling eyes will always encourage me to come to the center and meet new students.

What led you to become part of our volunteer community?

I chose to volunteer at 826 because I was an educator back in India. I worked in various schools across both rural and urban settings. The multi-cultural aspects of teaching in my home country helped me to be more empathetic and respectful to other cultures and backgrounds. The challenges that I faced included  acquiring basic resources (i.e. textbooks), maintaining student retention rates (dropouts), and dealing with a high student to teacher ratio (60:1). After moving to California, I wanted to be a part of an organization that worked for under-resourced schools and communities. I found out about 826 Valencia on Google and applied for the volunteer program right away.

Pirates, pufferfish, or woodland creatures? Pick one! 

Pufferfish always! I grew up in the coastal parts of southern India, and I would not trade anything for a spicy and flavorful fish curry.

What would we find you doing when not volunteering at 826?

Apart from volunteering at 826, you can find me at the dog park in Point Isabel, hiking through beautiful Southwestern America, and on my YouTube Channel, called “Bong in the States.” I am originally from West Bengal, India and people from that state are referred to as “bongs,” hence the name. I have around 90 subscribers and have uploaded around 25 videos in the span of 5 months. Please do watch, share and subscribe to my channel.

What advice you would give a new 826 volunteer?

You will meet some motivated and enthusiastic fellow tutors and coordinators at 826. Nana and Jillian at the Tenderloin Center are super supportive and encouraging. My advice to new tutors is to have patience, be persistent, and praise students often. Sometimes, it might be a little bit tough to get the students writing. But it’s okay! We all have writer’s block kinds of days.


Thank you for all you bring to our programs, Bratati! Want to learn more about our volunteers? Read about our previous Volunteers of the Month.