“We consider it horrible that people should have their heads cut off, but we have not been taught to see the horror of life – long death which is inflicted upon a whole population by poverty and tyranny – Mark Twain”
- from Bhagat Singh’s jail diary
Sankalp India Foundation
For over 5 years now, I have been a volunteer of Sankalp India Foundation, a voluntary youth organization, whose primary objective is to ensure that no one suffers due to shortage of blood in the state of Karnataka. To ensure this, we run the statewide blood helpline, organize blood donation drives and take up blood requests during emergencies. One of our other initiatives is to provide relief during disasters. Over the past 10 years, we have emerged out as one of the instrumental organizations in the field of disaster management and mitigation. We have a set of trained volunteers who can handle relief operations during dire situations.
Be it the Tsunami of 2004, the Kashmir earthquake of 2005, the Tanjavur floods of 2005, the north Karnataka floods of 2009, the Bihar floods of 2009, or the Sikkim earthquake of 2011 – we, the volunteers of Sankalp were always among the first organizations to provide relief. In all these disasters, we first assessed the situation by sending one of our volunteers on the ground, then figured out what might be needed for the disaster victims and then provided those materials. Over the years, Sankalp has also ensured that there is no shortage of blood for the victims of terror attacks in Hyderabad, Bangalore, Delhi and Jaipur.
There are two things we Sankalp volunteers have learnt over the years. Firstly, media coverage of a disaster is never proportional to the actual extent of it. And secondly, no matter how much we at home feel that there are people, government, politicians and organizations working for providing relief to the people affected by disaster, in reality, there is hardly anyone.
Most of our volunteers are engineering students. One such student from Arunachal Pradesh, recently, came back to Bangalore after his college semester holidays. He told us stories of how wide river Brahmaputra was, and how it took a 100 km boat ride to cross the flooded river and plains. We were amazed! We never read this in the newspapers. A little investigation led us to facts which shook us-
· All the 27 districts were affected by the flood
· Official death toll is 125
· More than 4540 villages are submerged
· More than 2.4 million people have been displaced
· 622 relief camps are running housing 4,84,555 people
Amazingly, none of this was mentioned by the media. Guwahati was in the news for many different reasons, but the lives of 2.4 million people molested by the wrath of nature, went unnoticed.
We did not sit back and complain. We did not create a cause on Facebook and gather likes for it. We chose to act! On 12th July, 2012, we initiated Project Prayas – relief for flood affected Assam.
Two of our volunteers were immediately sent to Assam to analyze the situation. They reached Jorhat, one of the worst affected districts, on 13th July. Meanwhile, our team of volunteers in Bangalore was constantly in touch with local people and authorities by phone to understand the situation. We also started raising funds and researched which materials might be needed – food, medicines, utensils, drinking water, shelter, etc.
Soon afterwards, we realized that an island called Majuli in Jorhat district needs the most help. Majuli is one of the world’s biggest river islands which is accessible only through ferries from Jorhat. Since the ferry was available only between 7:30 am and 3:00 pm, the volunteers could not proceed the first day. We were told that the island was close to being absolutely submerged a few days back. We were also told that the agro-based island has close to 150 villages which housed about 150,000 people, all of whom were affected. However, we wanted to understand the requirements before proceeding further.
The next day, on 14th, our volunteers visited Majuli. They saw houses and livelihood destroyed. They met people who have moved to embankments and road sides. Lest we complain, the Government was doing their bit. Food was being provided in relief camps. The volunteers found medical camps in the area giving free treatment. Medicine was not a problem. The Sub-divisional officer of Majuli asked for Tarpaulins. He said that 5000 tarpaulins were committed one week back but they did not come.
Volunteers back in Bangalore mobilized our resources in Guwahati. We found a vendor there, who was willing to provide us with 12 feet x 15 feet tarpaulin sheets on no profit/loss basis, at Rs 250 each. We choose to buy 800 sheets to start with. We had the money for only 400. We ramped up our fund raising process, but as I write this article, we have the money for purchasing 530 tarpaulin sheets.
Friends, in some sense, this article has become something that I wanted to share, living through these sleepless nights. We as an organization, rarely come out in public asking for funds. I know my fellow volunteers – those young men and women of metal will do whatever it takes to get things done. At the bottom of my heart, I know that even if we don’t have public funds to buy those 270 extra tarpaulins, we will still buy them and later fill the amount from our pockets, even if it means taking loans from our friends or cutting off in our personal expenses.
I am writing this article to present all of us with the same opportunity which I have been given – to be with our countrymen when we can. When 2.4 million of our countrymen are living in refugee camps with no roof over their heads, we must have a reason to lose our sleep! We must have a reason to participate, a reason beyond the fact that a columnist of The NRI requests you to do so.
If you are planning to commit or transfer funds for the flood victims, your early decision may help us to increase the number of sheets we are buying and thereby ensure more relief. Please contribute to 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 25 or more tarpaulin sheets. Since we will make the purchases soon, kindly ensure that if you plan to contribute, you do it soon. By Tuesday evening the team would have finalized all the relief supplies. We humbly request you to kindly try and make your contributions by Tuesday 17th July 2012.
I must mention here that every single rupee that you shall contribute will be used to purchase tarpaulins and just that! Only the contributions of Sankalp volunteers will be used to cover the cost of travel, stay, logistics, transport, etc.
Please do not forget to fill up this webform to intimate to us about your contribution. All contributions have to be routed through an account in India. You can transfer your contributions to the following bank account:
Account Name: Sankalp India Foundation
Bank Name: Punjab National Bank
Account Type: Saving
Branch Location: Jayanagar, Bangalore
IFSC Code: PUNB0128700
Account Number: 128700 0100971426
Together, let’s give life a better chance!
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