CHENNAI: Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others,’ said Martin Luther King. While a similar question lingers in most of our minds, it’s what we do about it that truly counts. The pandemic, it seems, has presented an opportunity for many community workers to walk the talk. Demonstrating their exceptional generosity of time, energy and solidarity, volunteers across the city have been responding to calls for help.
Following all hygiene protocols, these good Samaritans have mobilised the community to turn their attention to the less-privileged and make a civic connection — through food, medical supplies and other essentials. After all, it takes a village to build a better planet, doesn’t it? Here are a few from the village of crusaders.
G Clement, founder and trustee, Anbin Pathai Trust
It’s been a decade since G Clement and his team started working with underprivileged people and children. The COVID-19 pandemic has only amplified their work for a larger social cause. With a team of over 100
volunteers, they have been distributing free meals to the homeless in Santhome, Mylapore and Kodambakkam. They have also been rescuing the homeless, who are injured and arranging for their treatment.
To volunteer or donate, call: 9941642120
Paul Pradeep, founder, Trash Troopers
Run by Paul Pradeep, Trash Troopers is a waste management company. But, since the lockdown, the team of 15-20 volunteers has been distributing free homecooked food to conservancy workers, migrant labourers and the homeless. From 60 packets a day, they now distribute 1,000 food packets. They have also supplied dry ration kits to 80 transgenders.
To help, call: 9841166554
Manikandan, auto driver
An auto driver by day and social worker by night, Manikandan has been raising funds to provide food to migrant labourers and pavement dwellers. Volunteering with the Greater Chennai Corporation, he has been involved in the relief work in areas such as Kannagi Nagar, Thoraipakkam, Perumbakkam and Karapakkam. His team offers food to the abandoned and the elderly. They also prepare and provide meals to homeless people in these localities.
To volunteer or contribute, call: 7358687525
D Arul Raj, founder, Karunai Ullangal Trust
Arul Raj, along with a few community service-oriented friends, has been rescuing homeless people for over five years now. During the pandemic, they have been arranging groceries and ferrying people to hospitals for free. With the spike in the number of deaths during the second wave, they have extended their service by offering dignified burial for those who cannot afford it.
To volunteer or contribute, call: 9841776685 or 7010882991
Gayathri, founder, Samarpana
Samarpana, a not-for-profit organisation, is raising funds to procure 420 oxygen cylinders with 420 regulators and trolleys, 240 oxygen concentrators, 120 high flow meters, 500 NRBC and oxygen masks. They have been able to help the families of 2,500 folk artistes, provide assistance to 100 underprivileged families and ensure good quality education for 30 children with health complications.
To contribute or volunteer, call: 9884458008
Grace Banu, trans activist
Along with like-minded members from her community, Grace Banu has been raising funds to support 500 transgenders across rural areas of Tamil Nadu with emergency ration supplies, home rent and medical support. This includes trans folk artistes and HIV-infected trans persons who are left with neither food nor wages in these difficult times.
To help, call: 7708789616
AHAARA - Fight Hunger
AHAARA - Fight Hunger was started by actors Ramya Krishna and Arjun Gowda. Krishna is now
distributing grocery kits for people around Chennai. AHAARA operates in all areas of Chennai with the
help of three volunteers. People in need can contact them by phone and expect their grocery kit by the following day.
To donate or volunteer (only if you have taken the first shot of vaccination), call: 9036724154
Allen Samuel, founder, Help on Hunger
It all began when Allen Samuel witnessed homeless people thronging his lane and knocking on doors for food. Digging into their own pockets to pool funds, Allen and his wife offered home-cooked food. What started as 20 packets a day increased to 10 and more. To cater to the surplus demand, Help on Hunger came into being with six good Samaritans. Catering to the underprivileged and homeless people from OMR to Guduvanchery, Allen and team supply lunch and dinner every day. They have also been
distributing grocery kits to leprosy-affected families.
To volunteer or contribute, call: 9962077780
Hari Krishnan, social activist
From being an independent social activist to government-appointed volunteer coordinator for COVID-19, Hari Krishnan’s immense contributions have received accolades from the government. He’s currently a part of the Covid War Room. Along with a team of volunteers in the city, he’s been helping with bed arrangement, food requests, blood donation and raising funds for the underprivileged. Their team is spread out based on district, zone and area to ease operations and reach more people.
To volunteer or contribute, call: 9087293339
Murshitha Sheereen, photographer
Collaborating with home chefs and caterers, who are not on Swiggy or Zomato, photographer Murshitha Sheereen has created Bit.ly/chennai-food-help. The glide app allows users to find paid food services in their area. In case of request for free meals or food for people under quarantine, she connects them to home chefs and caterers. She’s looking for volunteers.
To help, reach out to her on Instagram @catpuresbymurshitha
Giridhar Venkat, entrepreneur
With the surge in cases during the second wave, a whole brigade of youngsters has been coordinating for availability of beds, medicines, oxygen cylinders and raising funds on social media platforms. Giridhar Venkat is one among them. With the help of his resources and by pooling in funds from well-wishers and friends, he has been distributing groceries and dry ration in remote parts of Tamil Nadu like Vedaranyam and Tiruvannamalai.
To contribute or help, call: 8870686861
Mahima Poddar, founder, The Kindness Foundation
Generous gestures made by charitable organisations and NGOs has gained momentum in the COVID-19 relief work. One among them is The Kindness Foundation run by Mahima Poddar. The foundation has been working in tandem with organisations such as Aram Porul and Aranya Foundation to reach a larger crowd and make a bigger impact with their services. They are currently raising funds and supplying
medical equipment such as masks, PPE kits and oxygen cylinders to hospitals. They are also helping the
underprivileged with groceries. Besides these, they’ve been running campaigns to spread awareness on vaccination.
To volunteer or contribute, call: 9344502996
(With inputs from Sahana Iyer)