Chennai

Do you want to scale up? Then get the community involved

Residents of House of Hiranandani Upscale with provision kits that they packed.

Residents of House of Hiranandani Upscale with provision kits that they packed.  

By engaging with residential communities and corporates, Bhoomika Trust has shown what synergy can do for a social project

Sixty thousand ration kits distributed to migrant workers in Chennai and Tiruvallur districts, 3000 provision kits to residents of Kancheepuram, Chengalpettu and Tiruvallur districts, and doorstep delivery of food and supplies for home-alone senior citizens.

Bhoomika Trust knows that it could not have racked up these impressive figures without the spirit of volunteering wafting in from various quarters, notably residents’ welfare associations.

Aruna Subramaniam, a trustee with Bhoomika Trust, says that there are crises that keep evolving.

“In terms of the response expected of us, this crisis is very different from the 2015 Chennai floods, where we had 10,000 volunteers across age groups come under one roof to clock one lakh man hours over one month,” says Aruna.

You cannot endanger people’s safety during these times, still you need them to pitch in, in some way. “Each of our initiatives was well thought-out, keeping both safety of volunteers and the need to reach out to different sections of people in mind,” says Aruna.

Mobilising RWAs

When the Trust found it difficult to mobilise volunteers for packing sanitation kits, they approached the Federation of OMR Residents Association (FOMRRA) and it readily agreed to help. The items to be packed are delivered to the communities, with clear instructions on the how-to of it.

“It’s so heart-warming to see seniors and children turn up to pack these kits,” says Aruna.

FOMRRA coordinates with each of their members on items that need to be packed and transported. Some RWAs came up with time slots for each family to help with the packing. For the Trust too, it was easy to talk to one Federation than with smaller apartment communities.

Another 5,000 provision kits are getting packed for neighbourhoods in Perumbakkam.

“You cannot achieve this kind of scale without community support,” she says.

When communities approach the Trust they discuss how they could also be playing a role in this work. “We had calls from people asking us to reach out to a slum in Visalakshi Nagar. We show them how they could also mobilise support from residents to take up needs of those in and around their neighbourhood,” says Aruna.

Virtual volunteering

Social media has helped increase the volunteer base. “We started with a call centre where volunteers direct calls and convert them into a task for another remote team that identifies field volunteers. This way we started building teams remotely,” she says.

For instance, remote volunteers, who know regional languages such as Bengali, Telugu or Hindi, would speak to a migrant labourer to understand their needs.

Uncle Sam’s Kitchen and Hot Breads are a few others that packed food for them.

Chennai Volunteers has also helped bring many corporate volunteers to the network.

Crisis brings out the best in all of us and that is evident during the lockdown, and this best includes innovation, says Aruna.

Recently, the Trust launched an App, again an effort by volunteers. “We allow our volunteers to innovate and execute their ideas, which has worked beautifully for us,” she says.

Sustaining volunteering

Why are we not able to sustain the spirit of volunteering? Aruna says that we need to innovate more with people who have a capacity for empathy.

The Trust is also working with the Government. Their current project is validating data of migrant labourers who want to go back home so that steps could be taken to arrange for their transport and other needs.

“As we are working with the administration that can reach out to every nook and corner, we want to make use of it to help as many people as we can,” she adds.

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Printable version | Jul 3, 2020 4:51:09 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/do-you-want-to-scale-up-then-get-the-community-involved/article31662985.ece

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