“Baba 2 din se kucch khaya nai he, 10 rupaiye de do.”
I ignored that little malnourished kid as I came out from the coffee café after sipping my cappuccino and having my Chicken Garlic Sandwich. He followed me.
“Baba, kucch toh de do. Bahut bhuk lagi he.”
I turned around and scolded him in loud voice “Jao yahan se, bhaago. Pareshan karke rakh diya he tum logo ne.”
The boy ran back, and I started moving ahead to my destination.
Why did I do that?
My heart drenches whenever I read about hungry children dying in our country. I often criticize the government that how they are incapable at improving the lives of the children in our nation. And yet, when the chance comes for real, I do nothing. NOTHING, at all! In fact, I run away from their dark lives back to my comfort zone.
And accept it, all of us do so.
Except a few who don’t just limit their feelings to themselves, or just show their impulsive sadness after reading a heart breaking article or after watching a heart touching movie at big air conditioned multiplexes.
One of such men is Mr. V Sridhar, the founder of “No Hungry Child” campaign.
One fine day, I was just going through a list of NGO’s to contact for interview coverage on our blog. And I came across this campaign known as “No Hungry Child”. It interested me.
A campaign that provides funding to NGO’s all across the country to feed quality meals to hungry children sounded a bit far-fetched to me. So, I researched a little more.
I crawled their website, googled them with different search terms, browsed their photo gallery and the more I researched about them, the more I was fascinated by their idea.
At last, I picked up my phone and directly made a call to Mr. V Sridhar himself.
And that call was the first among many calls that we had later on. We exchanged emails, talked long about what their whole idea is and how they aim to eradicate hunger from the lives of children in our country.
The more I talked with him, the more I was convinced that this man can really do what at first sounded to me far-fetched. After all, apart from his stern determination, the statistics speak in his favor too.
What started in 2009 with just 250 children now provides food to more than 21000 children in 19 cities. And he has also partnered with 220 NGO’s to accomplish this feat. Moreover, as we talked more about it, he detailed me about his vision to expand his program to more than 50000 children by 2016. That’s a whopping figure indeed.
What Mr. Sridhar strongly believes in, is that even a little contribution and effort from individuals and groups can give this campaign a big time boost. Once I started getting candid with him, I got to know the details of the campaign and how they take no support at all from the government. When I asked him the reason behind not taking aid from the government, there was a very simple and beautiful reply. He told me that it’s not just the government which should take up the responsibilities but it’s every individual’s job to help the society in which he/she lives in.
He also told me about how they try to create a transparency in terms of the money being utilized. Among many other things, they have also come up with live streaming during the lunch hours so that people can witness everything going on at the work stations. The schedule for the streaming can be found on the homepage of the campaign’s website.
Mr. Sridhar’s humility gave me the leverage to ask about their work in depth. So, I took the liberty of asking him a few questions that will give you a greater insight about his work.
Q. Being a corporate person, what brought you into social service?
In 2009, as I was driving on the road, I saw a child having its food near a dustbin along with 3 other dogs. The child was not scared of the dogs but it was covering the food in such a manner that dogs should not snatch it away from the child. I was moved by this scene and wanted to help the child first. I got down and bought some idlis for the child from a nearby hotel. A thought then struck my mind that I should help such children and then took the initiative of going to slums to do a research of how many such children are in need of food. This is how I got into social service.
Q. What were the problems which you faced initially while setting up the organization?
Initially when food was given free, I could not handle the crowd pouncing on me in the slums to grab the food. The challenge that I was facing was that I could not satisfy the need of every child in the slum. There were hundreds of children who were running towards me to grab the food but not many children could be given. Initially I started with 10, then 100 and then 1000 in a slow and systematic approach. I gave them ID Cards, coupon books to ensure that the same child comes the next day to receive the food. I spread the concept of Nutritious Meal Program to rest of the cities in Karnataka then to other states. Now in about 19 locations, the Nutritious Meal Programme is being implemented by various NGOs under the banner “No Hungry Child”.
Q. What do you think our country lacks when it comes to dealing with such problems?
The biggest problem that NGOs are facing today is “lack of fund support”. There are many NGOs in this country who are doing good work but they do not get adequate fund support to execute their plans. Given the support, they can change the face of this country. If Government comes forward in helping NGOs with funds, things will be different. The trust factor is missing. NGOs are considered as organization which makes lot of money. A few NGOs who have misused the organization’s power in the Society have brought in shame for this Development Sector. Which Industry is free from the misuse? Banks have cheated the public. Chit Fund companies have cheated. Car Finance companies have cheated. Share Broking companies have cheated and the list goes on. Comparatively, NGOs are far better. Genuine NGOs have to be identified and they have to be properly supported.
Q. How do you think an individual can contribute to our society by being a part of your organization? What are the responsibilities you think the youth can take up towards this cause?
Awareness has been well created by many NGOs of this country today. The telefundraising concept has created this awareness and the fact that many Individuals have come forward to donate for a good cause is a clear indication on how the Individuals are participating in programmes. NGOs responsibility is to be more transparent in exhibiting how the donation given to them is well utilized and how it helps the deprived. Given this transparency, individuals will definitely come forward to support. To bring transparency and to prove to the Individual Donors, I have come out with a Live Nutritious Meal Programme. I am the first in this country to show LIVE Nutritious Meal Programme on internet. Anyone in this world can watch the programme live by logging on to our website every day between 12.30 – 1 pm from Monday – Friday and on Saturday between 11.30 – 12.00.
Q. How difficult it is working at the grass root level and what are the common challenges which you face?
While working at the grass root level, one must be emotionally strong. If you are too weak at heart, the living condition of the deprived and underprivileged will make you weep. Even the people there look at you with suspicious eyes. They don’t open up easily unless you frequent your visits and give them the confidence that you are there to help them. They fear sharing information initially due to the existence of mafia group in the underworld. Women and children are the victims always. Women are sexually abused by this group and the children are made to beg in the streets and get them the money. It is a very horrible sight. As an NGO person, you have to be brave in handling all these tough conditions.
Q. Do you feel will it be ever possible to accomplish this mission of no hungry child, in a huge country like India?
It is possible provided we NGOs get good support from Media. The media should help us get support from the Individuals and only then it is possible to remove hunger problem in this country.
Q. What is that force or motivation factor that keeps you going in spite of so many odds?
The smile on the face of the children now is the motivation factor for me that keeps going inspite of so many odds.
“No Hungry Child” campaign is changing the lives of thousands of children every day, and Mr. Sridhar is the backbone of it. After I was done talking to him, I was forced to take a pause in my life to realize how blessed those poor and hungry kids are to at least have proper food because of such a novel work.
And I thought to myself, what if just a few more such men among us come forward to take this form of huge onus on their shoulders of doing something for the society? If that happens, then surely our country will be a much better place to live in!