A Genuine Desire to Help: An Interview with Nikhil Puri


Nikhil Puri teaching ESL to a a full house. Photo: Emira Habiby Browne.

Last Thursday was International Volunteer Day, when we celebrate those who give their time, energy, and spirit to provide our clients with direct services. CIANA is proud to have so many volunteers on our team who are dedicated to improving the lives of immigrants in the Queens community.

Every Thursday since November, Nikhil Puri has volunteered to teach English as a Second Language to our clients. Nikhil reflects on his experience as a volunteer teacher with our VISTA, Micah Dicker.

Micah Dicker: What motivated you to volunteer here at CIANA?

Nikhil Puri: I think it was really the opportunity to engage with people from a wide range of places, to learn about their experiences and try and help them transition to life in America more seamlessly.

MD: How did you hear about CIANA?

NP: I heard about CIANA online while looking online for this kind of opportunity.

MD: How did your own personal background influence your desire to volunteer in the community?

NP: My background does influence my desire to engage in this kind of work, in that I’ve been a migrant myself, so I understand the process that’s involved in trying to find a new home in a new place. So in that sense I also have some experience that I can leverage apart from just the language skill, of course.

MD: Where are you originally from?

NP: I grew up in Belgium, then I moved to India, so that was “migration 1.” Then I came to the U.S. later on, so that was another chapter in my journey.

MD: When did you come to the U.S.?

NP: For college initially, so that was in 2003. Then I moved back to Europe and Asia for a few years for work, and then I came back again in 2015.

MD: How did you first decide to teach English?

NP: I don’t think I decided to teach English. I just wanted to sort of engage with people who moved quite recently, and teaching them English seemed to be appropriate and it seemed to work out since that’s what’s in demand.