By Jayanth Kashyap B
Tamil Nadu (including Chennai) had been receiving heavy rainfall since Nov 14, 2015. The government authorities were forced to discharge huge volumes of excess water from the key reservoirs in and around Chennai, flooding certain segments of the city.
And on Dec 1, 2015 Chennai experienced freak rainfall that lasted more than 16 hours non-stop. Later, rainfall statistics would report that on that day alone, Chennai had experienced rainfall of up-to 463 mm, about 40% of the rainfall received in the WHOLE of November. Once again, excess water of more than 30,000 cusecs (about ~19000 million gallons) was discharged into the city within a span of 48 hours and Chennai was officially declared a disaster zone the following evening on Dec 2, 2015. Almost 60% of the city was submerged, with water levels at 12 feet in several areas. Hundreds of lives were lost. But the city's brave citizens were not ready to give up just yet. Not to forget the excellent rescue and relief efforts undertaken by the Armed Forces, Navy, NDRF and our very own Chennai Police!
Though airports and key highways to the city were choked, relief materials from neighboring cities like Bangalore, Kerala, Hyderabad and even from states like Maharashtra started pouring in. Certain large non-profit/charitable organizations had been doing excellent work in functioning as relief-aid command centers since the previous bout of rainfall in November, but nevertheless actual distribution efforts were undertaken by hundreds of courageous and enthusiastic volunteers, with little care for their own safety or comfort.
Independent volunteer groups began to set-up relief-aid centers of their own, decentralizing the distribution process and helping the aid materials reach a larger group of severely affected families.
As someone keen on creating social impact, how could I just observe these wonderful human endeavors and not help? I would be doing mere lip-service by talking about impact investing or wanting to support have a positive impact on the society. Surely, there must be a way to be of use?
It was then that I decided to set-up a relief-aid center to take care of the aid requests from South Chennai, which seemed to be lacking organized aid collection centers.
With the help of three other amazing friends, we managed to get the permission to set-up the center at a local school (bless them!) for its proximity to badly-hit areas in South Chennai. But running and managing a relief-aid center was far from easy. A group of four volunteers alone cannot have the desired impact I had envisioned.
Lesson #1 - Social Media is a powerful tool, when used for the right purposes, makes a huge positive difference
Lesson #2 : Managing and working with new people is a skill to be constantly refined
Lesson #3 : People do well, when given complete ownership
Lesson #4 : Decision making is tested, when resources are not in abundance
Lesson #5 : Networking WINS
Lesson #6 : Donors and Volunteers are AMAZING. They are selfless, but their contributions HAVE to be recognized
Lesson #7 : Transparency in EVERYTHING is key
All I can say is that it was a transformative experience - not just for me. But for everyone, who toiled relentlessly to help the city when it needed them most. I now have immense respect for humanitarian-aid workers around the world, helping people in-need 24/7. Salute.
Probably the greatest lesson I learned is that every person has an innate desire to help others regardless of rank, race or religion during extraordinary times.
For those of us intent on creating social impact, this is perhaps the greatest validation that we are moving towards a world, where irresponsible practices cannot and should not exist and where doing good, and doing good sustainably is the norm of the day.
This has been republished from LinkedIn. Image courtesy: