COVID-19 Relief Bangalore is currently organising a crowdfunding campaign that you can contribute to on Ketto.

Bengaluru college alumni groups and NGOs raise Rs 40 lakh for daily wage workers
Coronavirus Coronavirus Friday, April 10, 2020 - 11:45

On March 27, a couple of days into the 21-day lockdown, Aparna Ponnappa, President of XLBang, the Bengaluru chapter of alumni of XLRI, one of India’s top management schools, sent a message on their WhatsApp group. “There are a lot of blue tented settlements in Bengaluru inhabited by daily wage labourers. They are running out of food supply,” she pointed out. There were three such families around where she lived. “Can we crowdfund and supply them with staples for a week?” she asked.

In about two weeks, Rs 40 lakh and staples for 12,000 daily-wagers and migrant worker families in the city were collected, says Vasanthi Srinivasan, a professor at Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bengaluru. She is the spokesperson of COVID-19 Relief Bangalore, a group that resulted from these efforts. It comprises people from various college alumni associations, volunteers and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), prominently, Diya Ghar, an NGO that runs preschools and daycare centres for children of construction workers.

“In a series of messages after that [first one by Aparna], many alumni with experience and expertise in grassroots work began to provide contacts at both ends: those in the corporate sector who could supply staple food items for a cost or for free; and those individuals and organisations that could ensure speedy distribution to the families in need,” Vasanthi says.

As word spread, apart from XLRI alumni, those from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) and Faculty of Management Studies (FMS) also joined in the relief efforts. NGOs such as Diya Ghar, Youth Feed India, Safa, Rotary Bangalore Indiranagar, Hasiru Dala and PotHoleRaja also provided support. Metro Cash and Carry, a wholesale chain, has also joined them as partners.

“Friends in the corporate sectors have pooled in resources - their network and relationships, and even helped set up teams for rapid and seamless execution. There is efficiency in procurement, supply chain, storage, distribution, identifying needs through public participation and NGO networks now. A team is managing requirements [of the families in need] and distribution while another is managing funds raised through individuals and institutions,” Vasanthi explains.

Care Kits to families

Since states and districts went on to seal their borders, those at COVID-19 Relief Bangalore had to secure supplies for their ‘Care Kits’ locally. A standard Care Kit has 10 kg rice, 2 kg dal, 3 kg potatoes (if available), 2 kg cooking oil, 1 kg salt and a 500 g packet of sambar powder. The idea was that one Care Kit should be able to sustain one family of about four to five people for a week.

“In total, we have bought more than 100 tonnes of various staples based on availability. We are making sure that good quality food reaches the people. Just a couple of days ago, we had a situation where we got bad potatoes and had to push that back,” Vasanthi says.

On average, the volunteers are distributing 2,500 Care Kits per day, and 16,500 have already been disbursed. Some of the areas where these Care Kits have been distributed are  Sulthangunta, Koramangala, Banashankari, JP Nagar, Gnanabharati, Vijaynagar, Padarayanapura, Gopalapura, Okalipuram, Chamrajpet, Basavanagudi, CV Raman Nagar, Indiranagar, Yemalur, Marathahalli, Kadugodi, Krishnarajapura, Kaikondrahalli and Electronic City.

Mobilising more funds

COVID-19 Relief Bangalore is trying to expand their operations to more areas. The challenge, however, has been to get people to notice the work they have been doing, in order to mobilise more funds. In terms of getting supplies, getting the requisite stocks at the right price and going from one market to another has been difficult.

“Currently, our challenge has been getting passes for volunteers and the last-mile distribution in the lockdown situation. We are doing the best we can with limited foot soldiers,” Vasanthi says.

However, the team members are hopeful as the Azim Premji Foundation, Seeds and a few other organisations have begun to partner with them, and hope to raise more funds. From surpassing the initial target of reaching out to 10,000 families, COVID-19 Relief Bangalore is looking to now help 40,000 families.

“This activity proves that in every humanitarian crisis, the power of community work uplifts the most vulnerable,” Vasanthi says.

Diya Ghar and XLRI alumni are running the crowdfunding campaign on Ketto. To contribute, click here.