Students, working professionals, bakeries, NRIs, grocery stores…everyone in Kerala is pitching in in whatever way they can to help the rain-ravaged state.

People power As rains batter Kerala citizens groups leap to the rescuePhotos: Sreekesh Raveendran Nair
news Kerala Floods Saturday, August 18, 2018 - 10:53
Written by  Cris

As you walk towards the SMV School in Thiruvananthapuram, you can see vehicles loaded with cartons and boxes parked outside; young men and women walking hurriedly, listing out materials they need to buy. Rusks, one says. Water, adds another.  

Amid all that’s wrong in the state, you cannot ignore the spirit of these young people, working tirelessly for the victims of the Kerala floods.

You breath in the positivity from the varied conversations of passersby in the road, scheduling the tasks for the day, from people in the shops, clearing out rows of food and medicines.  

You see them at collection drives, where hundreds of people pour in with help of every kind, hour after hour.  

Inside the SMV School, at the classrooms allotted for the collection drive by the state government, boys and girls stand in an assembly line of sorts, passing boxes of sorted materials from one hand to the next. It reaches another classroom where more young folks pack it up in separate boxes, labelling and marking them. BSF workers are also there, helping them wrap the boxes safely.  

“It is not possible to rescue some of the stranded people as of now. So food and other materials are being dropped at their place. We are packing one bag for each family, with water and rusks and biscuits, sanitary napkins, matchboxes, candles and tissues,” says Sheethal, a college student volunteering at the school. 

It doesn’t feel right to stop the coordinators running between the rooms, giving directions, holding long lists in their hands and keeping count.

Deepa Ananthapadmanabhan is kind enough to spare a moment to tell us about all the work that’s being done. The drive at the school is an official one by the district administration. Voluntary organisations and NGOs have joined the work. So have plenty of individuals, especially student volunteers from the NSS. “There are housewives, there are IT professionals, there are people coming in from all walks of life, to contribute and to volunteer,” she says.  

There are official drives happening in Priyadarshini Hall and Cotton Hill School too. A group of youngsters, alumni of a school in Thiruvananthapuram, went from house to house to collect Rs 22,000 and buy materials required for people stranded in various parts of the state.

“Today we went again, buying 150 kilos of rava and other materials for Rs 8,000, to hand it over to the Cotton Hill School drive,” says Abhiram, one of the volunteers. 

Abhiram and team are just one of the many, stepping out of their house every morning to help in whatever little way they can. 

The All-Kerala Caterers Association has offered free food for relief camps. Textile shops are offering clothes at cost price, bakeries are sending food packets. 

There are scores of volunteers – hundreds perhaps – at the Women’s College in Thiruvananthapuram, where another initiative has been put together by various teams for a massive collection drive. “It is one of the official centres put together under the guidance of the District Collector. There are many teams, including a police club, the SMC club, Technopark and a group called Anbodu Trivandrum, started on the same lines as Anbodu Kochi,” says Bindu, one of the coordinators. 

“Students and volunteers of all ages are coming in to help. They sort whatever has been collected into different categories, pack them, and put them in trucks, which will then be sent to the flood-hit areas,” Bindu adds. 

This drive is headed by Nishanthini IPS, and the police are also part of it. “Seven trucks have been sent since the drive began on Sunday. Three to Wayanad, others to Pathanamthitta and Ernakulam,” Bindu adds.  

More trucks are being loaded even as we speak. Among the scores gathered at the hall are also familiar faces like actor Nandhu’s.  

“There has also been a huge contribution from corporates,” says Sobha Viswanath, who was instrumental in starting Anbodu Trivandrum.

Three years ago, when the Chennai floods happened, an initiative called Anbodu Kochi was formed and a large collection drive was held. “Back then, Rajamanickam sir was the Kochi Collector. We had contacted him then to begin a collection point from Thiruvananthapuram. This time, he called to ask if we could do some collection drives since Anbodu Kochi could not handle all the requests they were getting,” says Sobha. 

Sobha began a WhatsApp group and added everyone she knew who would be able to help. “I cannot even name all the people and the many, many companies that have contributed. All our collection is of kind, not money. Also, there was huge support from the media, and of course the public. Many of us have not slept in 24 hours. Even then it is just not enough help.” 

Another initiative called Anbodu Dubai is also being formed, Sobha said, a collection drive by the NRIs who are keen to help. “It is all becoming Anbode now, let everyone be in love,” Sobha says. 

(All photos by Sreekesh Raveendran Nair)

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