CHENNAI: Friends and relatives exchanging gifts and sweets, homes adorned with beautiful diyas, thresholds decked with colourful rangoli, and children bursting crackers — these are some common festive scenes during Diwali. But this is not how a few NGOs in the city are celebrating the festival of lights, this year. Keeping aside the routine celebrations, NGOs in the city have plans of lighting up people’s lives in a lot of unconventional ways.
CE finds out.
The Public Foundation
Helping children learn the joy of giving, The Public Foundation collects sweets from schools across the city and distributes it to the needy. “It’s a rush of adrenaline to scout for deserving kids who can enjoy the sugar rush of the festivities. We ask school students to donate three sweets each and pack them in a small box. We distribute it in villages on the outskirts of the city where people still don’t have access to electricity and have to walk miles to fetch drinking water.
Also, we give it to the needy in railway stations and slums in Chennai,” said Issa Fathima Jasmine, managing trustee, The Public Foundation. The non-profit organisation has been doing this for the past two years. Last year, they distributed 3,000 sweets and this year, they plan on distributing at least 5,000. The tagline of the campaign this year is ‘Mini Sweet Boxes, Mega Happiness’. For details, visit www.sweetsquad.org/diwali
No Food Waste
Diwali has always been a festival of excess. The gift-wrapped packages making their way across the city are getting bigger, and more courses are being added to our feasts. While they are a symbol of abundance and prosperity, on the underside, they are also a reflection of wasteful habits that become more pronounced during festivities. A city-based NGO, No Food Waste has recognised the potential of turning the excess into valuable resources. This Diwali, if you have any excess sweets or savouries, or if you want to make fresh food and donate it to the needy, you can do it through No Food Waste, whose volunteers are working even on the day of the festival.
“The public can buy food for this purpose and give it to us or pack extra food and donate. Usually, we prepare food in excess during the festivals and there are people out there who would not even have had one meal. Following the festival, if there is anything in excess, even small amounts, the volunteers of our NGO can be contacted,” said R Arun Kumar, coordinator, No Food Waste.Sending out a Diwali message, he said, “Even if you don’t contact us, step out of your homes and give food to at least one needy person and celebrate the joy of sharing.”
For details, call: 9087790877
Karunai Ullangal is a trust that works towards rescuing the homeless and rehabilitating them in shelter homes across the city. The four-year-old initiative rescues at least 100 people every year and treats them to a day full of entertainment and activities, every Diwali. “Last year, they wanted to watch Sarkar movie first-day first-show and we arranged a special screening,” said D Arul Raj, founder of the trust.
This year, on the request of the rescued, Arul has arranged a special programme at the Besant Nagar beach. “There are many differently-abled people among those rescued this year. They all wanted to go near the shoreline. So, we will lay a carpet on the sands and all of them will be taken till the water,” he said. The event will be conducted on October 26. For details,
Alert NGO trains hundreds of people every week to be first respondents at an accident site, by providing them awareness on first-aid. This year, they will be running a social media campaign from today on how to stay safe this Diwali. “Every year during Diwali, there is news on severe burn injuries that even prove fatal. We felt it is important to make this Diwali a safe one. Unlike most content available on the Internet, our expert first aid trainers are going to demonstrate Diwali tips and techniques crisply in a video format.
The length of the videos will only be seven minutes and each video will consist of seven tips for a safe Diwali,” said Mahalakshmi Ganesan, manager of social initiatives at Alert.These tips will include fire extinguishing methods and first aid for burns along with other safety tips. The campaign will run under the hashtags #SafeDiwali #BurnFreeDiwali. “We chose social media as a platform because we can reach masses within minutes,” Mahalakshmi added.
For details, visit their Facebook page, ALERT
At a time when everyone is busy buying sweets, clothes and crackers for Diwali, thousands of homeless people in the city celebrate the festival as just another day. To brighten up their day, Aadharv Charitable Trust will be conducting a grooming session for the homeless followed by a cultural programme.“We started this five years ago when we realised that people visit orphanages and old age homes during festivals, but homeless people are often ignored.
One day before Diwali, we conduct a grooming session where the homeless people are given a warm water bath, their hair is cut and then they are given new clothes. We later take them to a community hall where there are entertainment programmes. They come forward and take part in the programmes, sing songs, dance and have fun,” said Banupriya Raj Thilak, founder, Aadharv Charitable Trust. This year, the event will happen on October 26 at a community hall in Ayanavaram. Every year, about 100 people engage in the festivities. For details, call: 9600142089