Three school friends from privileged families have proved that the greatest strength of mankind lies in unwavering unity. They came out of their comfort houses and stepped into one of the Mumbai’s slum areas, Baiganwadi, to provide cooked food to those who are affected by the lockdown in the wake of the COVID-19.
It was March 27, 2020, when Paritosh Pant updated a post on social media showing eagerness to do something for the people who are affected by the lockdown and struggling to put food on the tables. His school friend Pooja Reddy indulged into a conversation with Paritosh. The conversation turned into a plan to start a community kitchen called ‘Feeding From Far’ in Baiganwadi.
Baiganwadi is one of Mumbai’s slums in Govandi. The residents of the area are auto-rickshaw drivers, taxi drivers, labourers, rag pickers and beggars. It is an undeniable fact that everybody has been affected by the lockdown across India. However, these people are the ones who are even struggling to put food on the tables. They have no source of money at all.
“People like us and even our maids have a support system to tackle the situation. However, people in Baiganwadi don’t have any support system,” Pooja said. She is a lawyer and stays in Powai.
Pooja, Paritosh (restaurateur) and one more school friend Pavneet Sidhu (nutritionist and cinematographer) got together and started talking to people in the area to execute their plan. They got in touch with a local non-profit organization called Ekta Naujawan Committee (ENC) and set up a community kitchen. They started cooking and distributing Pav and bhaji (potatoes and other veggies) to the residents in need.
Initially, they started feeding 2000 people according to the money they were receiving as donations. Gradually they increased the number of beneficiaries when donations were increased. Now they are reaching out to 5000 people every day providing them meals for twice a day. The trio is aiming to feed more than 50,000 people every day.
The volunteers for cooking food, distributing meals and other works are from Baiganwadi itself. Even the materials for the kitchen such as veggies, utensils and gas cylinders are sourced from the area only. “The locals are selling us the necessary materials and food ingredients at the lowest price that we can’t get from anywhere else. The people of the area are very cooperative,” Pooja said.
Pooja said that before starting the community kitchen, they trained people who are volunteering in the kitchen for sanitizing hands, wearing masks and maintaining social distancing so that they can’t go against COVID-19 protocols. She also said that even police and authorities also cooperated.
They received Rs. 19 lakh as initial donations. Pooja managed to receive donations from the members of Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (CESTAT), the bar association she is associated with being a lawyer.
“We then started raising funds from fundraising website Ketto and managed to collect Rs. 23 lakh so far,” Pooja told. She further added that people are donating whatever money they can. Rotary Club of Powai has also decided to support the project ‘Feeding From Far’.
“Even the smallest amount such as Rs. 100 is also a great help. Because Rs. 100 is equivalent to three meals we are providing. Which means if you are donating even Rs 100 you are feeding three people,” pooja said while showing the gratitude towards donors.
Baiganwadi is a Muslim majority area and the three friends who started the community kitchen don’t belong to the religion. On this, Pooja replied, “What we see is they are in need. We as a society can collectively help them. Even the residents did not show any kind of discrimination with us.” She further said that the residents are so generous that some of them are not receiving meals from us if they have food at home. They are suggesting who needs food.
The trio who is from the same school Kendriya Vidyalaya at IIT Bombay is aiming to feed 50,000 people every day. However, this can’t be possible if people who can help don’t come forward and do their bit in donating money. This is the time to show your generosity and responsibility.
Follow the link: https://www.ketto.org/fundraiser/FeedingfromfarForCorona
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