The lorry had brought relief materials from Trichy to Thanjavur to be distributed to the people in cyclone affected areas.

Tender thanks Delta farmers gift Cyclone Gaja volunteers truckload of fresh coconutsAll images by Gunasekaran
news Cyclone Gaja Tuesday, November 20, 2018 - 18:28

Disasters and natural calamities at times bring the best out of humanity. Even as the delta districts of Tamil Nadu slowly come to terms with the degree of damage done by Cyclone Gaja, the farmers here have decided to count their blessings – with coconuts. A group of volunteers from Trichy had sent them a lorry full of relief materials to help them tide through – and in return, the farmers decided to fill the lorry with tender coconuts when they sent it back, as a gesture of gratitude.

For the group, that had worked through Saturday night to ensure that help reached the delta farmers, this came as a pleasant surprise. They expected nothing in return when they mobilised materials to be sent to Thanjavur. Consisting of 42 students from National College, RJ Saravanan of Suryan FM, Manoj from Shine Trichy, a non-profit organisation, Gunasekaran, a mediaperson from New Delhi and his friend Nimal who is interested in social work, they just had time and the zeal to network and channel relief goods, and money to buy the required items.

Sourcing relief materials

“Nimal was the first to alert me on the need for basic relief materials in Marungappallam village in Thanjavur district. He told me that around 5000 people in and around Marungappallam – Oodayakkadu, Santhampettai, Navakkollai, Velagudi, Velimadam, Naana thidal and Pillayar thidal – are in need of necessities to survive since at that point nobody had directed their attention towards them,” said Gunasekaran. The two then immediately swung into action and spoke to a couple of their friends who helped with some money.

Gunasekaran said that the money collected was used to buy relief materials to be sent to Thanjavur. “We bought bread, biscuits, sanitary napkins, diapers, mosquito coils, water packets, milk powder, sugar and dal with the money we got and packed it in a lorry. I went with the lorry till Thanjavur. We unloaded some stock we had in Pudukkottai enroute and reached Thanjavur around Sunday noon,” he added.

The group mobilised these materials using money sent in by a few people in the US, a few local volunteers and music director-actor GV Prakash Kumar.

“GV Prakash was one of the first ones to send us money to kickstart the project. After him, a few of our NRI contacts also sent us money. Like that a few people from Trichy and elsewhere in TN also gave us money and materials. That helped us buy a lot of essential items to be dispatched to Thanjavur,” Gunasekaran added.

Talking about it in morning radio show helped draw attention

Helping in publicising the collection of relief materials was RJ Saravanan from Suryan FM radio station who hosts the morning prime time for the channel. Speaking to TNM, Saravanan said that hourly reminders on radio and social media helped mobilise material from far and wide.

“We also had ample help from students in those places, who were passing on information as what is needed and where. Not many people knew that Pudukkottai and Thanjavur was badly hit on Saturday morning. Somehow, we got inputs from our friends there and broadcast in on the channel. It all began there,” he said. Saravanan was one of the men who worked through Saturday night to pack the materials and load them into a lorry to send it to Thanjavur. By Saturday evening, the group had received so much material that they had to abandon the small van that they had initially hired and look for a bigger truck to send the goods.

Thanks and tender coconuts

It was after the materials were unloaded that the farmers spoke to Gunasekaran and expressed their wish to send a return gift. “They told me that they cannot send the lorry empty and started filling the lorry with all the tender coconut they could. We were surprised since we did not expect it from them,” he added.

Prasanna Balaji, a professor and the NSS Programme officer at the National College Trichy told TNM that the efforts to mobilise men and material started on Saturday through social media. “We had 42 students volunteers – both boys and girls – from our college who worked the entire night on Saturday to sort and pack the materials. The lorry left Trichy on Sunday morning,” he said.

Reacting to the load of tender coconut they received as a token of gratitude from the farmers, Prasanna said that it was a proud moment for him. “Delta districts feed the entire state and today they are in a sad position, having lost everything to the cyclone. Even in these dire times, they have the heart to give it back to the people and reciprocate the kindness. It made me believe that humanity still thrives here,” he said.

Prasanna is now working to send 10 tonnes of relief materials to various places in Pudukkottai district. “Now that we have an idea of the situation on ground, we are splitting the package and sending whatever is in need to a particular place. We are sending packets of rava to one location and candles and matchboxes to another. So now we are refining our efforts so that it has maximum efficiency,” he added.

RJ Saravanan also said that people have been contacting them to know about the areas in distress and the items required for people living there. “A man contacted me on Sunday asking the places in requirement of relief materials. He said he had goods worth Rs 30,000 and wanted to go there himself and give it to the people. We helped him do that too. He later called me to express his thanks,” he added.

People wanting to drop off relief materials can do so at National College near Central Bus stand in Trichy.

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