Twenty-four-year old Harshil Mittal is among the lakhs of software engineers in India's Silicon Valley. What sets him apart though is the work he does when he is not busy coding or designing applications.
Harshil is the founder of the Bengaluru-based Let's Spread Love (LSL) initiative and was recently awarded the Namma Bengaluru award in the "Rising Star of the Year" category.
Started in October 2015, LSL believes in spreading love through its several programmes, one of them being collecting and serving food to the underprivileged sections, like in slums, shelter homes and old age homes.
"I was part of my company's CSR (corporate social responsibility) programme, but wanted to do something more. But we didn't want to do anything that involved money, raising funds or asking for donations. We just wanted to do something transparent. So we came up with the concept where people prepare some extra food and donate it to those who need it," Harshil says.
He, along with a couple of his friends, initiated the drive at his apartment complex with 40 houses.
"The response was amazing. Almost 90% of said they were more than happy to donate food," he says.
A date was set and food collected from 36 families was distributed among kids from the economically weaker sections, residing in Tilaknagar.
That was just the start.
Harshil says that they now distribute meals to nearly 8,000-10,000 people during the food drive that takes place once every month. "We carry out the drive across 14 locations in the city simultaneously including Whitefield, Hennur, Hebbal, JP Nagar and Koramangala."
They also have close to 5,000 volunteers working for them in their various programmes.
All donors registered with the organisation are sent an SMS alerting them of the date of the drive. Those interested have to a fill an online form with details regarding their location and the number of meals they will donate. On the given day, the volunteers collect the food packets from donors' houses and distribute it.
While they began with the food drive, they conduct a host of other programmes such as awareness, skill development and employment sessions, clothes donation drives, a community programme and free dental check-ups.
"Our motive is not to eradicate hunger as such, you cannot eradicate hunger by serving food once in a month. But food is a medium for us to connect with people. Our main motive is for people to put in 2-3 hours of time for someone they don't even know. It is about spreading love," he says.
So the volunteers spend time with kids or the elderly, spread smiles and also teach them a few things that may help them in life.
"We took a dentist to Kundanahalli who spoke on why we need to brush our teeth, and wash our hands before eating or after using the toilet. Recently when we did a survey, some parents gave testimonials that their children had started washing their hands regularly," Harshil says.
(All images courtesy: Harshil Mittal)