As the streets flooded in Chennai last year, thousands of citizens came out of the disaster hale and hearty thanks to the efforts of volunteers who helped distribute relief materials, rescue stranded residents and organise rehabilitation operations.
As the first anniversary of the flood comes around, a Facebook group called The New Face of Society is celebrating these selfless volunteers with an event called ‘Spirit Volunteers’ on December 4.
The event will take place at the Loyola College Campus in Nungambakkam from 1pm to 5.30pm, and will feature a memory museum with over 100 pictures from the floods dotting the walls. The attendees will be asked to write messages on them to the volunteers who saved or helped them during the floods.
“These pictures will be sent to four different departments which includes the Army, the Chennai corporation, the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) and the Tamil Nadu police. More than 1,000 people are expected to attend the event,” says Anand Vaidyanathan, the organiser of the event.
The event will also pay tribute to two persons who lost their lives during the flood. A number of volunteers will also share their experiences from the floods. And the organisers plan to make a video featuring volunteers who worked during the flood.
The New Face of Society/Facebook
The New Face of Society, the organiser of the event, was earlier called Tamil Nadu Flood Support and founded by Anand, a Project Manager at an IT firm.
On November 15, 2015, Anand was stuck in Chennai and could not head back to Bengaluru. “All the roads were flooded and no one was able to help me. That is the time I realized there might be many other people like me who would be stuck in different areas. So, I started the Facebook page Tamil Nadu Flood Support,” he said.
The page soon became a useful point of support. “People started posting where they were stuck and also where they were going for relief works. In one day, the page had about 1500 likes,” he said.
The groups carried out many relief and rehabilitation efforts during the floods. After the floods, the group decided to switch to other social issues.
They began doing activities for women’s empowerment, upgrading school infrastructure, cleanliness drives, explains Anand. “We painted under the flyover near Ampa Skywalk and also the library of a government school in Poonamalle. We help many people with blood donations and also crowdfund for the education of students who need it,” he said.
On whether Chennai could be caught wrong-footed again if faced with such heavy rains, Anand says, that volunteer groups like theirs are much better prepared. “We have spotted the places where there was no water last year. We even have warehouses to keep all relief materials ready. We will tie up with different NGOs to make sure that everyone does not keep going to the same places. It will be more streamlined. We will tie up with the government to help better,” he explains.