Every morning, five friends in Chennai collect cooked meals from Hotel Sangeeta in Velachery. They then drive to nearby temples, mosques and slums to distribute the food to the homeless and hungry in Tamil Nadu’s capital.
But Anees Afzal, Hyder Hasan, Mohammed Jibran W, Mohammed Zunaim T, and Fadil Abdul Azeez are trying to make a difference through Ek NGO. “We distribute food to homeless and daily wagers, who are finding the going toughest due to COVID-19. Many of them were working earlier but have not been called back to work still,” says Azeez.
While four of the friends run their own business in logistics and transportation, one of them is employed with a bike outlet. Over dinner one night, they thought of starting a social welfare organisation. And it was much before the pandemic.
Assisting migrant workers with food and travel arrangements was a big initiative of Ek NGO. "We would daily help about 500 to 1000 migrant workers who were stranded at railway stations and give them cooked meals," says Hasan. With funding from well-wishers, they helped migrant workers with transportation as well.
Besides, they regularly distributed ration kits to auto rickshaw drivers, fishermen, construction workers, and other daily wagers. The kits, which included rice, pulses and other essential items, were given to over 10,000 families during the migrant crisis when most people were out of job. As many as 41 lakh youths in India have lost jobs due to COVID-19, as per the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
That was when they caught the attention of the President, The order of Round Table Association and World Care Way, Chaganti VK Maithreya, an HR consultant, philosopher, and philanthropist, who helms 'Feeding the Hungry Project'. Maithreya, along with other donors and sponsors, runs this initiative which is involved in feeding the poor."
Maithreya joined hands with the youngsters and helped them collect cooked meals from Hotel Sangeeta. “We aim to adopt schools and families at a later stage and provide them education as well as livelihood opportunities. For now, they are happy helping hundreds of hungry and homeless people on the streets of Chennai who need food more than anything else today.
(Mohammed Rayaan is a Chennai-based journalist. Find his writings at rayaanwriter.com)