When Pooja Singhania’s son, Vedant, was seven years old, he was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, a genetic condition in which muscles atrophy slowly over time. Now, at age 14, he is completely wheelchair-bound.
“The diagnosis was such a big shock to our family that I don’t even think I was in the position to seek out help,” said Pooja, who is a senior manager of social innovation at Capital One’s Plano office. “It took us a long time. I don’t know what the average time is, but I know it took us a couple years to kind of find our place, to find the strength and the ability to start talking about it and start finding our allies in the community to help us deal with the situation.”
Although national organizations such as the Muscular Dystrophy Association provided a wealth of knowledge and information, Pooja was able to find support closer to home.
Pooja co-leads Capabilities at Capital One. It is a volunteer-based employee resource group tasked with educating employees on how to work alongside their peers who may have a physical or intellectual disability.
Learning about disability diversity and inclusion in the workplace requires more than just a presentation in the conference room, according to Pooja. She believes volunteering has the most impact. “When you volunteer alongside people with disabilities, it gives you the comfort, the knowledge and the language to be able to be with these individuals.”
Shortly after her appointment as Capabilities co-lead in early 2017, Pooja attended a tour at Plano-based My Possibilities. “I was not aware of the existence of My Possibilities at that time, and I was just totally moved by the work that they were doing. I was very inspired by the organization’s focus on the HIPsters, and I think it gave me a platform to launch my work for Capabilities within Capital One.”
As a nonprofit organization dedicated to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Plano-based My Possibilities gives their clients –known as Hugely Important People, or HIPsters – an opportunity to build independence and vocational skills in a safe and nurturing environment.
As a volunteer-run group, Capabilities is not really a core responsibility of anybody’s job, which, according to Pooja, is the fun part about it. “It is completely driven by people who have the passion and the drive to get involved,” she shared. “Then depending on what the core team or the leadership for the group sets as the agenda, members will follow that agenda and make a difference in the community.”
Since first partnering with My Possibilities in July 2017, Capabilities has consistently sent people to volunteer every month. In 2019 they have sent more than 230 associates who have volunteered more than 700 hours at My Possibilities, according to Pooja.
“What ultimately started as a conversation has emerged into a synergistic partnership that I’m proud to help lead and educate others on,” Pooja said.
“Pooja is committed to inclusion,” said Jeanine Alpert, director of community engagement at My Possibilities. “She is selfless and makes things happen. She is absolutely a changemaker and hand raiser.”My Possibilities >
The above content is sponsored. We have partnered with My Possibilities to spotlight #ChangeMakers in the disabilities community.