CHENNAI: They say once you establish your roots in a city, you never truly leave it. NRIs from Chennai may be miles away from home, but are raising large sums for flood relief work through crowdfunding web forums like gofundme.com and bitgiving.com.
Like most of Chennai’s NRI well-wishers online, Houston-based Premkumar Chinnaraj has roped in friends in the city to actually do relief work, while he facilitates the funding. The mechanical engineer managed to raise a massive $61,231 (over `40 lakh) within 13 days. And thanks to dollar conversion rates, with money coming in from as far as the US and Singapore, a simple 10-dollar contribution could feed 10 people.
To give people a glimpse of where their money is going, Premkumar regularly posts on his campaign page on gofundme.com — updating expat donors with everything from photos of relief zones they visited, to stories along the way.
Other campaigns like Krithi Rao’s ‘Chennai Flood Relief’ on youcaring.com tie in with family members who can commute easily to specific areas. Krithi who has managed to raise over $11,000 says, “My cousins Lakhmi and Bharat Kumaraswami have been co-ordinating relief efforts with friends in and around T Nagar, North Madras and Nungambakkam.” And to add an extra dash of good will, she has even linked similar #chennairains campaigns for visitors to find easily.
When Alwarpet resident Nanditha Hariharan was flooded in and learnt of this form of fundraising through a friend, she decided she would set it up the other way around. “You can’t join some of these sites if you aren’t a US citizen,” she says. “And I had to move out of home, so I didn’t even have connectivity, forget a net connection,” the accountant tells us. Instead, she decided to get some friends in Maryland to start up her ‘savenammachennai’ campaign which in three days has raised $4,000 (over `2 lakh) and counting. And in doing so, she has set up a flood of funds without having so much as seen her own online campaign, she admits with a laugh.
However, the 22-year-old turns serious a moment later. “You know the real work begins after the floods are over. Beyond the food and blankets, it’s up to us to use these funds to help people get their livelihoods back on track,” she says.
This means rebuilding homes and starting lost businesses from scratch. But with donations pouring in from all over the world, anything is possible...as it stands now.