More than money, they are looking for donors who will give some time and love to their cause, say volunteers of Padikkattugal

It is donations with a difference, they ask for. College students and young professionals are increasingly appealing to people to donate their “Time and Love”. Just share your time with those deprived of affection, they say.

Kennedy John Prabu and Muthu Kumar students at Sethu Institute of Technology, Madurai, say many people send food, sweets, money and clothes to orphanages and homes for the aged and the destitutes. But, who will they show off their new clothes to, or share their happiness with, they ask. Nobody gives that a thought. So three years ago, Padikkattugal was born as a non-profit independent organisation powered by youth volunteers.

S. Malaisamy, the co-ordinator of the group says there are no leaders, each of the 400 registered members shares the responsibility of fulfilling the dreams of children and other needy people.

Ready to help

The volunteers work with children, aged and the poor in orphanages, shelter homes and slums. They educate them, mentor them, lend them emotional support besides providing them with basic amenities and medical aid. Being a young taskforce, the Padikkattugal members are constantly on twitter and fb scouting for ideas, planning new activities or discussing how to meet requirements. Whoever is free on a particular day goes ahead with a project in his or her city. The members say all they look for is the willingness to undertake a responsibility and execute it. The numbers do not matter. Padikkattugal members have multiple teams that work across the State. “It works like a well-oiled machine” says Jesintha Mary, who is in between jobs after completing M.Sc.(Software Engineering). It all began with a group of six students three years ago who were part of the “Ready to Help” programme in different colleges. Jesintha was also one of them. “As part of the programme, we would visit Homes for orphaned and abandoned children and teach them simple life skills.”

The six original members were B.Sugumar, P.Ram Ganesh, P.Praveen, M.Muthu, Abhinaya and Malaisamy. They spent more time with the residents of these Homes. They realised then the inmates valued the time these volunteers spent with them more than anything else.

Their group slowly increased in number. Many philanthropists donate food, money and clothes, but they are too busy to see if their donations are actually being used. The Padikkattugal members do an informal follow-up.

“Whenever there is a request for something specific, we first go and check and then mobilise people for help,” says Jesintha. The volunteers have dug borewells, installed R.O plants in various Homes in Chennai, Coimbatore, Sivakasi, Rajapalayam, distributed books and stationery. They have coached children and even paid fees for bright but economically deprived students. Padikkattugal also organises regular health and medical camps for the needy and adopts girl children and funds their education.

Speaking of the joy on both sides of spending quality time together, Jesintha recollects a trip to the cinema with a bunch of kids. “They had never experienced a theatre before. We treated them to ice-creams. They were shrieking in joy.” Sometimes it is all they ask for, says Kennedy. “You can sense their loneliness. You can see it in their eyes and smile. Some just want us to hold their hands, some want to sit on our laps.”

On Valentine’s day, Padikkattugal members in Chennai fed pavement dwellers between Tambaram and Egmore railway station. Along with the food the volunteers also handed out roses. In Madurai, some of them spent the day with HIV positive kids while others went to the Bethany Home with a cake.

More than anything else Padikkattugal wants to spread the smiles. It has done that successfully, and hopes the laughter will be more widespread in the days to come.

(Making a difference is a fortnightly column about ordinary people and events that leave an extraordinary impact on us. E-mail soma.basu@thehindu.co.in to tell her about someone you know who is making a difference)