Sunday, January 16, 2011

Helping Hands

This year has been an erratic one till now. I experienced a lot of different events and emotions in just 15 days. Most of the fascinating experiences were attributed to the Helping Hands Event, an endeavor to help poor people fight winter by distributing Blankets. It was something that was initiated last year by a group of motivated individuals. The idea was to generate as much money as possible from people working in different companies and to use it for getting the blankets for poor people. I was lucky enough to be part of the initiative for a very brief period. But that brief period was enough to motivate me for this year’s task.

Last year, a total of 170 blankets were distributed and this year, we all wanted to take it to a new level altogether. We started by informing as many people as we can through our social circle. We floated a mail introducing our co-workers about the cause and asked for the support they can give to the cause. I was hopeful as well as nervous when I wrote that mail. A lot of new faces had come up in my project since the last effort and I had no idea how they would respond to the mail. But at the same time the network had grown bigger. We had Alcatel Lucent, TCS, SatyaPual, Flour Danial and a few others aboard the ship and that meant that even the smallest of trickle at any of these places could lead to the avalanche we were looking for. After all, we needed all the help we can get.

Just a day after dropping the mail, I saw funds pouring in faster than my anticipation. The response was overwhelming to say the least. Soon we crossed 10k mark from my project and then it was 20k in two more days with more than 70 people coming forward alone from my project. Similar responses were seen from Alcatel Lucent and other companies. It was wonderful. By Thursday, the date we were planning to purchase blankets on, we had generated more than 70k from all the sources combined together. Stage one was doing handsomely. Now, we had to move to stage two and buy blankets at the best price we can get. This led us into the hearts of the Cloth Market in Chandni Chownk, Delhi. Wandering through the narrow streets of the market, we finally zeroed in on a retailer who had quality blankets at a decent price. After a time consuming but a fairly satisfying selection, we got over four hundred blankets in 68k. Finally by 11 in the night, we had the blankets in our warehouse and the satisfaction of a job well done in our hearts.

We had already started with distribution by giving out six blankets while coming to Gurgaon from Chandni Chownk. More hands came forward to help us on Friday. Some took the blankets to Faridabad, Noida and Delhi while the others kept the pace up in Gurgoan. One part of the process was to roam around at night and give the blanket to the one who needs it. It was an instant success just because of the support that we were offered from all the sides. Second aspect of the distribution was to target strategic locations and gather people there from nearby areas. The biggest challenge that we faced in this process was to identify the one who really needs a blanket and is bound to use it. We knew that we cannot eliminate misuse altogether but we aimed to minimize it by taking all the precautions we could. We made sure that people use the blanket while taking them. The packing material was collected by the volunteers and was disposed of properly. Availability of monkey caps and ear covers (we got some more funds after purchasing blankets) turned out to be a boon in final distribution process. This increased our reach and also helped us to control the crowd where things were bound to go haywire. By Sunday, we had distributed majority of our stock and felt great about it.

Personally speaking, the distribution was one hell of a roller coaster ride. There were many moments when I felt that I need to be more thankful for what I have instead of cribbing about what I don’t. On Friday night when we were near Sheetla Mata Temple, I saw a man, physically handicapped, lying in the shade of a tree with a very thin blanket as the only cover against the freezing winds. I went towards him and covered him with a blanket. All he said to me is that it was pretty cold and he needed the blanket badly. I left the spot after giving him the blanket. But I could not help wondering about the sorrow and pain that plagues our world. Life did not seem to be fair at all. My problems seemed inconsequential as compared to that of such people. Needless to say that it was a reminder of the fact that I need to learn gratitude and that I must appreciate the gift called life. I also realized that what I am doing is not everlasting and does not constitute even a fraction of what needs to be done. Of course, I felt good that at least some people will be helped by the blankets. But at the same time, my actions were too small than what I can actually do and their scope was too narrow than the actual need of such people. When I met a man running an NGO specifically for the upliftment of slum kids by providing them with education, I felt the long vision of such a work. It is something that I would like to associate myself with. It would be like teaching them how to make their own blankets. It would be great. Anyways, blanket distribution was a great learning curve and an eye opening experience for me. Hopefully, i will be able to do more stuff for people who need me.

Signing Off,