Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?
Hi, my name is Martin Dover. I’m from Glasgow and started Go Dharmic’s work in Scotland and now manage our work in Scotland. During the day I am a medical student at the University of St Andrews.
Why did you first decide to start volunteering?
We first started the Scottish arm of the “Feed everyone” initiative at the height of the 2020 lockdown when so much help was needed by so many. I was fortunate enough to have plenty of spare time due to schools being shut. I wanted to do whatever I could to help make a difference.
And what drew you in particular to providing meals for hospitals?
At the time, you couldn’t avoid hearing about the immense struggles NHS staff were under. They weren't able to see their family. They were struggling to do their shopping. There was a huge emotional drain. I decided to play a part in helping to support them, just as they were supporting the UK.
The bulk of your volunteering work has been with Go Dharmic. What drew you to them in particular?
Go Dharmic’s universality means that we are an organisation that is here for everyone. Our motto of “love all, feed all, serve all” encapsulates this: we do everything we can for anyone we can who needs us. This is a beautiful principle and I am proud to be a part of it.
Could you explain what Dharma is?
The word Dharma is of sanskrit origin but something we want to become part of everyone’s lives in some way. The way we like to describe it is with an example and simile: just as the dharma of fire is to provide light and heat, so is the dharma of humanity to be humane and do good in the world. It is more than a single action; it is how we choose to live our lives.
Since you started with Go Dharmic, you’ve become the Scotland Lead for Go Dharmic. What responsibilities has that involved, and what have you managed to achieve? Is this a paid position?
This is a fully voluntary position, where I sit as a trustee and manage everything we do in Scotland. It is a big responsibility, but it would simply be impossible without our incredible lead volunteers who make our distributions possible. We have distributions in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, and many more in progress. I help mainly behind the scenes with admin, fundraising, compliance etc. as well as doing everything I can to strengthen and build our volunteer community.
Could you give us the typical outline of a day?
Each day varies, but most of my day is spent in medical school and/or the library keeping up with my degree! But during breaks and spare time, I make sure to (try!) and keep on top of Go Dharmic. But again, Go Dharmic is one big team and family. Everyone’s role is vital!
What’s great about your job?
Being able to help those who are struggling with the cost of living crisis is my principle reward. It’s crucial that we help our fellow persons and strengthen communities. The world is one family and we all rely on each other. Love cannot exist on its own. It always requires another person to manifest, and at its best it is reciprocated.
What are the bits you don’t like or find challenging?
It is challenging to manage my time and always keep on top of things. We are, also, always looking for more volunteers to help, so please do get in touch!
You were recently chosen for the Coronation Champion Award, congratulations! Can you tell us how that felt?
It was an incredible surprise! I was delighted. I see it as a recognition from Their Majesties’ for all the incredible work Go Dharmic does in Scotland – having distributed almost 750,000 meals in the region alone! I also see it as recognition that the younger generation is socially engaged. More people are volunteering and that’s always a good thing.
You went to India to get a better understanding of Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of ahimsa. Could you tell us about ahimsa, and your experience over there?
Ahimsa is one of our principles meaning non-violence. Again it is about how we choose to live our lives and the choices we make every day. This could be through deciding what to have for breakfast and the effect this has on others and the planet, how to get to work, where to buy clothes. It’s the idea that we should seek to do as little harm to others and our environment as possible, and try to act in a way that will also raise others up.
Cycling around India in the Go Dharmic “Salt Ride” was an incredible experience. I learnt so much about India and Indian tradition. It was amazing to retrace Gandhi’s salt march. It is the greatest example of how peaceful protests can change our world. I strongly encourage you to sign up for our 2023 “Salt Ride”!
I believe you’re currently at university reading medicine. How do you fit this work alongside your studies?
It’s incredibly time consuming, but also rewarding. I think it’s another way I express a drive to help others. My Go Dharmic volunteering work takes place whenever I am not studying – the evenings, weekends, and holidays. I think that if you’re really passionate about something, you will find the time.
What is your ambition for the future, what would you like to end up doing?
I hope to practise as a doctor! Alongside that, I hope to keep doing everything I can to support others through GD!
Did you have any role models or inspirations growing up?
Our founder Hanuman Dass is an incredible role model. He showed me how to live a compassionate life. Every action he performs is focused on raising wellbeing, protecting all living beings, and caring for our planet.
Have you noticed any changes to the situation or sort of people you’ve been helping since you started volunteering? If so, what?
There are two big changes. First, I hear stories from beneficiaries that without our support, they would have to choose between “heating and eating.” The cost of living crisis has made this a common phrase amongst beneficiaries. Second, the number of beneficiaries. More families and individuals are making use of the food distributions. It makes me wonder what would happen if there weren’t charities like Go Dharmic to offer support. It’s a scary thought.
Why should a young person consider volunteering?
It’s the right thing to do. It’s the moral thing to do. It’s the dharmic thing to do. That should be enough to justify volunteering. Obviously, everyone’s situation is different and some perform the right action by caring for their sick relatives or donating money. But, most of us do have some spare time to offer, and ultimately we are helping our neighbours, our society. By volunteering we can make a better world.