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Hunger

Sharer of her plate – Sana Arora

Sana started the Feed’em movement 2 years back and it has brought her face to face with the grave disparity of our world. She tries to reduce it somewhat by offering her platter to the ‘have nots’.

You don’t need statistics to tell you about the hunger around you. It is staring at you everywhere you go in your cities and while beggary is a crime we need to discourage, sharing is what our society needs. We can’t be pointing fingers at the government always, we need to extend that hand and shoulder some responsibility of the world we live in, the one we want to change.

Mumbai is home to the largest slum in Asia – not a happy record
A lot of things appeal to us about the big cities, amidst all the opulence is naked reality that most of us dismiss as an inclusive package. We tell ourselves that we need to face the facts and someone else must deal with this reality. Who is this someone? As consumers of the privileges granted to the citizens of a free country is it only the duty of our elected representatives to preserve humans and the humanity that is at stake? How do we turn a blind eye to the hungry on the road when all of us must have borne hunger pangs at some point in our lives? It is this starving belly that Sana could not tear her eyes from, it is this hunger that she decided to satiate.

Six years ago when Sana moved to Mumbai she observed this stark contrast of the financial capital of India and she stopped to notice this reality of the ‘maximum city’ which has been highly covered in various media and still goes disregarded by most. There are people under the highways and on the streets who don’t belong there and you can’t wait for an eternity for the government to feed them, clothe them, house them because people, you know, are perishable.

Feed’em addresses food insecurity, and thus dignity
Sana started the Feed’em movement that crowd sources food for the food insecure in Mumbai from urban townships and families. Food insecurity is when people don’t know where there next meal is coming from. About 20 crore Indian population is currently food insecure. Feed’em has an extremely fluid model making real impact at the ground level. These are unemployed people or construction workers who can resort to criminal activities if their basic needs are not attended to. She recaps her initial challenges with street drives which were very raw experiences but very enlightening as she saw food packets and bags being lifted out of her hands and disappearing in a mass of hungry faces, ‘there was never enough irrespective of how many packets you carried.’

Night shelters in Mumbai are swarming with people who have no access to aids and donations and are not even listed in any citizen’s register. These unfortunate, non-entities are given the dignity of a meal by the Feed’em Movement. Sana produces an impetus to the students at night schools as she motivates them to be regulars at the schools in return for rations for the family. This safeguarding of their hunger allows these families to budget for getting education and making the difference that will elevate them tomorrow.

Entrusting the poor with decision making on their menu
Sana remembers knocking at the doors of her neighbours in her residential complex to gather as much food and drove down to these flyovers and streets to feed the hungry. Having started with distribution of left-over food, today Sana and her team of volunteers distribute food grains in different locations of Mumbai. Perishability for processed food, she realized, was a risk that she didn’t want to subject these people too. Sana also observed that broth and diluted soup or cereals were a complete meal to them and these receivers could feed many more stomachs, for a longer period with the limited grains they had. She now conducts collections drives from her community in cash or kind and has tied up with the local grocery stores who package the food in smart pack sizes and then hire cars or use volunteers’ cars to distribute the food.

‘I can’ so ‘I will’
Sana utilizes her commutation time to and fro from office to plan her next drive and somewhere between bringing the change rather than awaiting it while balancing a corporate job she has found her peace, she has found her purpose. Not waiting for someone else to make the change, she stepped ahead to do it herself and many joined her. Her nameless, faceless force of volunteers are impacting the society by sparing it a thought and a helping hand. Her team comprises of volunteers, albeit a fluctuating number every volunteer has his own role, helping with money, time or by influencing more people to be a part of Feed’em.

‘People have tried to dissuade me telling me it’s not my job and I have been urged to give it up in favor of agencies like food bank which are nonexistent in Mumbai or the government’, recounts Sana ‘but why relegate the change to someone else when you can do it?’ She feels blessed with family and friends who have helped her with ideation, guidance and finding ways and means to help her realize her vision.

6:1 ratio – an easy maths for even the discalculia
For Sana the deeper she delved, the more of an eye-opener her initiative has been. She found out that there are about 20 crore food insecure people in India as per a UN report. ‘We are a population of 25 crores and such if 6 people got together to feed 1 food insecure we could eradicate the problem of hunger in India, a very easy maths.’ Sana believes one needs to have a cause to live a meaningful life, and that we need to burst the bubble of self-catering satisfaction that each one of us has created for ourselves. We believe each one of us needs to shed this cloak of warmth that is slowly smothering the human in us and share our plates with others to make it twice as wholesome.
The Feed’em movement started 2 years back and has donated 3500 kilos of food

300 tiffins

2000 sanitary napkins

Raised money for books for 20 night schools in Mumbai

The Feed’em movement is now active in Delhi too.

Hunger

A spitfire that ignites you – Anchal Sharma

While we all are unsettled at the statistics of hunger that we view daily in the various media, there are some triggered into action; like Anchal Sharma, who has been providing ‘meals of happiness’ daily to about 200 hundred child for the last 2 years from her own kitchen.

We all have our share of ups and downs but sometimes the scales are just hopelessly lopsided, this is what can be said for Anchal Sharma. If you chart out the history of this young spirited girl who greets you with a wide smile, you can never see the scars she hides. The smile is that of a confident girl who took the entire sack of lemons life threw her way and sowed them to benefit others. When diagnosed with cancer, she didn’t wallow in self pity; she decided she was going to live each day as if it were her last. No, she didn’t decide to party every night, she decided to throw a feast for the disadvantaged others.

When the going got tough
Anchal did not have the opportunity of secondary education due to her family’s financial circumstances. Everything she had cherished was snatched away from her – she lost her younger sister to a gruesome murder by her husband, her mother was victimized by her sister-in-law and she herself had a short marriage that ended due to aggressively increasing domestic violence. She used her little savings to buy herself a home which unfortunately was demolished by the MCD. A little later her father battled with tuberculosis. While the going was tough she shook off the shackles and was adamant to make it work only to discover that the nagging, creeping pain she had ignored in her breast was diagnosed as cancer, that too at an advanced stage.

Meals of happiness
She was crestfallen by the discovery like anyone else, but what moved her more was the plight of children at a traffic signal who couldn’t even afford a meal. Anchal bought them a meal that day and then everyday that followed for almost three years now. Being unskilled, Anchal did not have an easy time earning her living yet she decided to share her meager earnings with the children at Rang Puri near South Delhi’s Vasant Kunj. Not only does she spend hours cooking those meals but she packs them herself and brings them to the tenement housing and distributes it to the children herself. Earlier the children came for the meals and now they come and keep coming to meet their favorite ‘Didi’. Anchal engages the children with teaching, dancing and a little merriment that the whole neighbourhood looks forward to.

The food is prepared in Anchal’s kitchen and funded by her personal income. There are times when she does not have enough for her daily target of feeding 200 children. At one such occasion Anchal made a decision to forgo her postoperative injections in favour of ‘meals of happiness’ for the kids. ‘Meals of happiness’ has catered 1 lakh meals till date.

Despite several rude shocks, Anchal dares to dream big. She aspires to feed ten thousand children on a daily basis someday. She has a few dedicated helpers like her family who toil over these meals daily and a few friends who have been consistently supporting her cause financially.

Five days after her surgery with her right hand immovable, she packed 600 lunch boxes. Is it a marvel then that the mobility to her arm was restored in 5 days as against four weeks advised by the surgeon.

The habitants of Rang Puri speak very fondly of Anchal as she steps in to help wherever she can; supporting an elderly man’s treatment or a little girl’s heart surgery, or gifting finery to a new bride. This is her extended family who she embraced with her two arms and they embraced her back with their many.

Anchal takes pride in the fact that the habitants of Rang Puri village contact her every time they find themselves helpless. She does not restrict herself to catering food, Anchal is aiding in treatment of the critically ill patients not just with money but in educating them on and attending to the official procedure herself.

She aspires to daily feed about 10000 children someday and with the estimated hunger rate at 6 lakhs children in Delhi we need only 60 more like her to ensure complete satiety in Delhi. Keep dreaming Anchal for in there lie the hopes of so many others.

Social Responsibilities

Running off the beaten track of Tarun Walecha

Running all those kilometers at an increasingly better pace, Tarun Walecha, halted midways to introspect why his wins weren’t exalting enough. He, then, made every ticker count by elevating societal health awareness and participation in sports without bars.

Tarun Walecha started running for fitness 8 years back and he is faster today than he was then, he has won many accolades and medals over the years, like any other runner of repute. Like any other runner, he has his cupboards full of the fancy souvenirs and jazzy sportswear. Like any other marathoner, he has been approached by various sports clubs to champion their events. But like none other, he extended the marathon track from the mainstream to the muted. Tarun Walecha not just invited runners from the uninitiated section to match steps with him but enabled them in spirit and kind by giving them the means and ends to do so.

Sportsman spirit on and off the track
Having been a sportsperson for most part of his life, Tarun has been encouraging runners to join him in his mission of fitness when he started running marathons. But all his successes gradually seemed inconsequential. At one such run, he was approached by a young man who wanted to run but couldn’t afford to participate. Tarun leveraged his influence to procure him a place in the run and couldn’t help marvel at this debutante’s natural talent at sprinting. This young man finished the run much before Tarun and most others. This was a trigger for Tarun to add meaning to his passion, sports.

Being the organic experimentalist, Tarun began to run to advantage those for whom sports and fitness is, unfortunately, a rare and improbable luxury. He invited fellow runners to donate sports equipment and articles at these events and contributed it to like-minded NGOs that stressed on sports as the leveler. ‘I wanted to make it more meaningful and take it forward to a larger dimension, it’s a very simple idea but makes a huge difference as in running you meet others as equals, in most other platforms you meet people in a hierarchy,’ says Tarun.

Mission ‘Share and Care’
In 2016, Tarun organized and ran a 7-day half marathon in Delhi and invited others to join him for the cause of facilitating the non-mainstream community into sports and making it as imperative as food and water. Tarun amassed from the co-runners and other participants, about 400 T-shirts, 48 pairs of old sports shoes and 80 pairs of shorts. He gave them off to two NGOs.

His enterprise, ‘Share and Care’ was very well received by other sports enthusiasts who now ran for a bigger cause. In 2017, at his second 7-day half marathon Tarun collected 2000 T-shirts of which 700 were brand new, 230 pairs of shoes of which 50 were new, as well as 270 jackets and shorts. People also wanted to contribute in cash, Tarun instead, asked them to contribute for specific needs of NGOs like printers or tracking shoes. This year he extended these sports essentials to four NGOs.

An interface to mainstream
In 2018, Tarun got connected with NAZ foundation Trust, an NGO that works on HIV/AIDS and sexual health. It is here that he volunteers to train children and budding athletes in running, strengthening exercises, sharing his technical acumen, and more importantly, boosting their morale and confidence. He is the interface that can bridge the gap in our community and make fitness each individual’s right and not just the monopoly of a privileged few.

While his trainees look forward to his mentorship and the easy camaraderie between them is unmistakable, Tarun believes he has gained more in the process; he has gained a purpose, he has gained a perspective that his engagements with the outer circle has brought, he has gained pragmatism that physical fitness offers, and most of all, he has gained some rewarding smiles.

He hadn’t planned on the advantageous outcome of his initiative but it was a natural progression of his passion, the future plans will similarly unfold to him but he believes there is always a positive response to the same stimuli – humaneness.

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