Be the change you wish to see in the world – Mahatma Gandhi
“When I grow up, I want to eradicate hunger”
My Mom always smiled lovingly when I said that. Her advice to me was “don’t stop thinking that way”. I didn’t. I grew up believing that while we may not be able to change the world, every little we do certainly makes a difference.
As inspiring people go, my Mom and Grandma hold the first place of pride in my heart. I am yet to meet people that are more generous. Compassionate, kind and always out to make the world a better place. Sometimes it seemed like their life goal was to reduce hunger in this world, which is probably why I can’t bear to see someone hungry.
Carrying on in their tradition, I regularly sponsor meals at welfare homes and cook and distribute food packets in my area whenever I can.
Nothing compares to the joy of seeing someone smile on a full stomach.
Also, no one deserves to go hungry.
So imagine my joy when I experienced, first hand, an initiative that was both inspiring and heart-warming. What absolutely seals the deal for me is that it isn’t a one-off project, but an ongoing one.
People, places, stories – many things can inspire us to feel good about this world. Here is one such story that has inspired me in 2015.
You don’t have to be famous or a celebrity to make a difference. All you need is a giving heart.
In October 2015, I was exploring ways to make it a different kind of Diwali, what with my son being away. Opting to “give”, and make a difference in the lives of homeless people in our area, I actively decluttered and donated things.
Then one morning, in an email newsletter I read about a fantastic initiative by an individual with a warm, compassionate heart. I am so proud of her, and to be a part of this initiative.
Her name is Mahita Fernandez A corporate communications professional turned entrepreneur, Mahita runs a children’s activity area in Bangalore since the past five years. She’s also Mom to a 7-year old.
The initiative is called “Feed Your Neighbour”
How it started
Early one morning in September, Mahita woke up hungry. As she got herself something to eat, her mind wandered to the millions in Bengaluru who go to bed hungry.
A question arose in her mind:
What if every home in Bengaluru cooked 5 extra meals? Could we prevent hunger?
There was only one way to find out.
In that instant, she decided that this Dussera, which was in October, she would ensure that one lakh people did not go hungry.
Not one to waste time, she announced the idea on Facebook, and thus was born the movement:
Feed Your Neighbour
– An Aim to eradicate Bangalore’s Hunger
The response to her status update was overwhelming. Can’t argue with the power of social media, eh! People were all set to do their bit!
The idea of wanting to feed one lakh people in ten days may seem like a near impossible task. But the genius of this initiative is that when people come together, everything is possible. Each person only had to cook five extra meals – which, you’ll agree is easy. Multiplied by 2000 people, what a wonderful way to spread happiness!
The biggest appeal was the ability to make a visible impact close to one’s home – in the neighborhood, which is why the initiative is called “Feed Your Neighbour”.
Likeminded souls gladly came forward to participate in cooking and sharing food with Bengaluru’s homeless and hungry. It was decided that the Feed Your Neighbour initiative would run from October 12 to 22 with the aim of feeding 1,00,000 people during that period. This would require at least 2000 volunteers willing to cook 5 meals a day. A menu was decided. Eco-friendly packing material was organized. Specific areas were identified for distribution of these meals. Volunteers were ready to pick up, drop off and distribute “dinner”.
As a very welcome side effect – I am pretty sure it was the positive vibes – restaurants, groups and other organisations stepped forward to participate, proving that when people are willing, anything is possible!
What about logistics?
Together, the community pulled off a miracle in terms of logistics – which was the toughest part. Since it was locality based, it involved identifying where the contributors were coming from, find distribution areas nearby and find a convenient point where the food could be dropped off.
Thanks to Mahita’s idea, people literally opened their hearts and homes as drop off points for the cooked food. Volunteers actively looked for shelter homes, slums and areas where people needed to be fed. Contributions poured in, in the form of rations, money, transportation, and the most valuable: time and effort.
Mahita set up a central kitchen at her home in Langford Town with the intention of cooking 2000 meals a day. Even senior citizens involved themselves in cooking, packing and distributing food. As you can see, age is no bar when it comes to kindness! Neither was economic status – drivers, maids, cooks were happy to contribute cooked food! Her home buzzed with activity as volunteers folded cardboard boxes to pack the food and then, the actual packing.
See the master chefs at work!
Smells like team spirit!
Many hands make light work!
Age no bar!
Boxes packed and ready to go!
Seal of approval!
Day 1 saw the distribution of 4,454 meals
But wait, let me show you the leaderboard as it will give you an idea of how the initiative grew beyond all expectations.
The result? Or rather, reward?
1,22,937 were fed during Dussera in Bengaluru
What a great way for community to come together for the greater good! The Facebook group now has 3029 people.
Those who couldn’t cook helped spread the word and contributed cash.
According to Mahita, her goal was to demonstrate the ripple effect of kindness and generosity when many people get together for good, benefiting the entire community.
FYN has shown us all that where there is a will, there is certainly a way!
If you’re thinking we’re relaxing now that one mission is accomplished, nope, we’re not. It felt so good to come together to do this that we’ve decided that this should be an ongoing process.
The Feed Your Neighbour movement segued into another activity where we collected clothes, toys and other items donated by people and distributed them to the needy.
This initiated the group H.U.G. – Humane Universal Good Deed Network, managed by the amazing Madhumita Kalauny. So far, we’ve collected and distributed blankets in winter and are currently actively involved in relief work for Chennai Rains.
All these initiatives galvanized thousands into action, including school children who enthusiastically worked to make things happen.
We don’t need a movement to inspire us to do good. Each one of us is capable of spreading happiness.
Mahita has proved it. She humbly says that she’s only a facilitator – and that nothing would have been possible without team effort.
Do you have an inspiring story from 2015 you’d like to share? I’d love to hear it in the comments.