Over 500 residents have donated relief material; 80 cartons to be sent today

On Monday, nearly 80 cartons containing torches, bed sheets, winter clothes, candles, rice, pulses, feeding bottles, medicines, umbrellas and sanitary napkins will be sent from Chennai to New Delhi, and subsequently, Uttarakhand where they will bring succour to stranded refugees.

This is just the start, for many more such consignments are planned, said residents of the city, who have come together under the banner, ‘Chennai Cares.’ Their aim — to coordinate collection and distribution of relief material for the Uttarakhand disaster. An effort that began with several SMSs and calls came to fruition with a Facebook page, a blog and a Google group and loads of relief material. 30 volunteers spent hours collecting and sorting the material donated by over 500 people.

One of them, R. Kiran, said that while quilts and food items were sent in large numbers, water purifier tablets were in short supply. “We are trying to get in touch with pharmacies. “Some of the donors were extremely caring. They packed the mugs, buckets and utensils while sending them over.”

“People are always interested to help out, but do not know how to go about it,” says Rama Subramanian, founder, Samanvaya, a consulting group for social action, one of many organisations that are coordinating the task. Many of the volunteers have been associated with social organisations and some have worked in various NGOs, he said. “There are strict ‘dont’s’ in relief work,” he explained. For instance, soiled clothes and loose packets are disposed of straightaway.

“There may not be many operators in relief camps. So, the items have to be packed in smaller packets to be distributed family-wise." he added

Also, as the material has to be airlifted, it has to be spill-free. On Monday, the rice was packed into 25 kilo-sacks, while tea, sugar and pulses were in smaller packets.

“People were not sure about what medicines to bring. We have asked them to get pain killers, cough syrups, first aid kits and balms next time,” said Kiran.

As of now, collection centres are located in Velachery, Perambur, Injambakkam, Kotivakkam, Adyar, Teynampet, Medavakkam, among other places. Collections have also been planned in Chidambaram, Kumbakonam, Ennore, Tiruchi and Tiruvannamalai this week. Two consignments on a weekly basis will be sent over the next four weeks. The group has also tied up with Goonj, an NGO in New Delhi, to coordinate the distribution of the relief material.

“People there might need makeshift tents soon. We are trying to arrange tarpaulin sheets and tent material,” said Krishna Kumar, another volunteer.

Mr. Subramanian said the relief work would pick up pace once they are able to establish proper communication with field workers there. “It took 10 days to restore communication after the Bhuj earthquake, whereas after the tsunami, it took just two days. With weather conditions bad in Uttarakhand, it is very difficult to get in touch with NGOs there. Once we know what material is needed there, we can collect and dispatch it,” he added.

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