Robin Hood Army Chennai Chapter, a voluntary organisation of young professionals and students that works to get surplus food from restaurants across to the less fortunate people in Chennai organized Independence Day Drive 2019.
Independence Day is always the biggest event for the Robin Hood Army across India, where we as a country aim at serving large populations and try to target a new activity each year, tapping a sector we haven’t worked with before. The first couple of years we only aimed at serving maximum people, tying up with various restaurants and organization and reaching out to celebrities and media who could popularize our notion. However, over the last couple of years, apart from just serving food, we have branched into educating the underprivileged, uplifting women and girls by conduction workshops on self-defense, menstrual hygiene, safety, etc.
This year, RHA India came up with a concept of identifying and serving the poorer rural population and backward villages. Each city was to identify a minimum of 5 villages, and we targeted on serving 5 Million needy people across the country.
Chennai started work with an aim to identify and serve 5-7 villages, a total of about 10-12.5 tons of rice. On scouting around and doing a recce, we identified over 10 villages and 450 families around Ponneri and Gumidipundi, that we were convinced we had to work hard to serve. As we started collecting rice, we realized that our sponsors, friends and families were all as enthusiastic as us to serve these underprivileged villages. Contributions started pouring in and this motivated us to increase our target to 15 villages and we now aimed at collecting about 16.25 tons of rice. We started collections about 3 weeks ago and as of 14.08.2019, Chennai had closed collections with more than 28 tons of rice. Our major sponsors for this event were Rotary Select of Chennai and Ladies Circle 4 and Round Table 3, with Nitish Bansal and Deepika Nagasamy as their respective lead coordinators. They contributed 5 tons and 6 tons respectively. Rotary Select also partly sponsored logistics for the event. Volunteers from another organization named Beautiful Minds Inspire helped with both contributions and distribution.
On 15th August, 4 teams with about 20 volunteers each, distributed over 18 tons of rice to 600+ families across 15 settlements, namely Aaladu, Reddypalayam, Melagumedu, Kamarapalayam, Abirami Madam, Budur, Sivapuram, Vanipakkam, Kallur, Keeraipakkam, Kamaraj Nagar, Senjiamman Nagar, Kolathumedu, Thirupalaivanam and Kadapakkam. Most of the people we served are tribals and live in such pathetic conditions under makeshift huts, improvised with plastic sheets for roofs and walls made of sarees for toilets. Some of their conditions are so backward that they still hunt and feed on rats, squirrels and snakes, as they don’t earn enough to fend for their families. These villages lack most basic amenities like water pumps, toilets and clinics, and really need external support to be uplifted. It was quite shocking to see these villages so close to a major city like Chennai, yet so far from most basic necessities.
The remaining 10 tons of rice was distributed locally across various orphanages, oldage homes and homes for the mentally challenged in and around the city. Chennai closed with a count of serving 2,28,958 meals this Independence Day, the highest number we have achieved in one shot over the last 5 years. Menaka Bapuji, Jigar Arvind Shah, Srinivas Ayan, Farhaan Akthar, Vijay Sundaramurthy, Kavita Patel, Simran Nichani and Sathya Sekar were Chennai’s core team for the #Mission5 Independence Day Drive 2019 project.
On a whole, RHA India, crossed the 5 million target by 1.3 million, serving a total of 63,65,238 meals across the nation in 867 villages and 112 cities, between 10th and 15th August 2019.
About Robin Hood Army Chennai Chapter
Bhisham Sahi started the Chennai chapter in March 2015 with barely 10 volunteers. Today the chapter is led by Menaka Bapuji, Archit Kohli, Vinay Gupta and A.Venkatesh with over a 100 volunteers, between ages 4yrs and 65yrs, from various walks of life including doctors, architects, chartered accountants, fashion designers, entrepreneurs, models, lawyers and teachers. In Chennai alone, we have served over 8 lakh people from the time we started.
Although our major focus is to collect and distribute surplus food, we also do weekly drives every Friday to make sure we keep the process going during low season. 300 packets of food is freshly prepared at Winners Bakery in Alwarpet for this drive. Our major support and biggest donor has been Mr. M. Mahadevan, the founder of Oriental Cuisines. Dindigal Thalappakatti, Sandy’s and The Table too have also helped us over several drives.You can become a volunteer or a donor by simply registering on our website – www.robinhoodarmy.com or just send us a message on our Facebook page – Robin Hood Army Chennai.
A little about the Robin Hood Army (RHA)
Robin Hood Army is a voluntary organisation of young professionals and students that works to get surplus food from restaurants across to the less fortunate people in various cities of India. Approximately 1.3 billion tonnes of food is lost or wasted every year in the world and we have 780 million folks who are starving. Most of the hungry live in developing countries.
We started in Delhi in August 2014 and currently operate in 140 cities worldwide. We have our chapters in India, Pakistan, Kenya, Uganda, Malaysia, Philippines, Canada, Sri Lanka, Indonesia & Chile to name a few. Till date, our team has served more than 22 million hygienic meals to less fortunate people around the country. We have been lucky to receive support and encouragement from the national and international press and social media over the last few years. As policy we do not collect any monetary funds, all we need is the time and effort of dedicated volunteers.
Our organization was founded on the principle that the responsibility of giving back to the community does not lie solely with the state, but also the citizens of the nation. Our model is simple. Our Robins collect surplus food from restaurants and functions and distribute it to the underprivileged. It could be people residing under flyovers, patients outside government hospitals, orphanages, shelter homes or old age homes.
RHA has grown exponentially over the last 5 years without raising any money, renting office space or hiring fulltime employees and simply leveraging the power of goodwill and social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter.
Apart from our vision of eliminating hunger and food wastage, RHA feels very strongly about equipping every individual with education. For this purpose, RHA found Robin Hood Academy, which aims at providing basic education to kids out on the street, and help enroll them into local schools. We have Academy chapters in 63 cities and have admitted over 1500 slum kids into local schools.
The idea is to create self-sustained chapters who will look after their local community. And in the process, inspire people around us to give back to those who need it the most.