Where is the world’s highest motorable road? And the nectar of seabuckthorn (better known as Leh berry)? In Leh, Ladakh, obviously! As many of us know, recently, terrible landslides and flash floods devastated this exotic part of India. Some of us have heard, seen and read heart rending accounts of the resulting death and destruction. And probably want to reach out to the people there.
Feeling the same, a group of five friends in Bangalore, namely, Manjari Ranasaria, Christina Daniels, Lakshmi Karanth, Swathi Chaturvedi and Mayur Jain pondered about various ways to do that. Not wanting to ask people for money, they considered collecting clothes. However, they felt that the latter may be unsuitable and difficult to transport. Instead, they thought of accumulating old newspapers and magazines from their homes and others’ and sell them to raise funds for Ladakh’s flood affected. They believed that almost every household would have a stack of it and people may give them for a cause. Also, anyone could organise a collection drive with family, friends and colleagues.
With this idea, they decided to tap the potential of Internet based social media. And quickly created The Ladakh – Winter Shelter Appeal on Facebook. Within just two days, this attracted more than 100 members on-line. After scanning the non-profit groups that are involved in assisting the relief effort, the group decided to route the entire amount to Ladakh Ecological Development Group (LEDeG). Importantly, this is a(n) NGO which has worked in Ladakh for twenty years. And, it plans to use the contributions for building energy efficient, disaster resilient shelters before the harsh winter.
To minimize transportation costs, the group decided to sell newspapers to local scrap dealers, without moving them to a central place. Rates differed from rupees 5 to 8.50 per kilogramme across various locations. They are not collecting other disposables like cardboard, plastic, glass or metal containers due to space constraints, However, they are open to anyone selling a fair quantity of these on their behalf. All overheads from the group’s pockets so that proceeds from the sale of newspapers and scrap will go to the NGO.
In Manjari’s words, "One thing that has stood out for me so far is the positive response this initiative has garnered. Not even a single person has refused help and most people have on their own accord contacted family, friends and colleagues." Her friend who was running a collection drive sent her heaps of newspapers. Further, she also raised more than Rs. 15,000 in cash donations from a lot of generous people. However, since they were not accepting money, Manjari put her in touch with relevant NGOs. Gauresh Mehra, another of Manjari’s friends sold 166 kilos of cartons and furniture scrap gave them 1400 rupees.
Loading old papers into Manjari’s car… …and at IIMB
Uma Chandru, an anthropologist based in Sadashivnagar to whom I had forwarded the request last Saturday evening responded immediately saying, "So timely – I have many magazine and newspapers to contribute." And by the next afternoon, Mayur Jain, one of the volunteers had carted her large stock. "It is so heart warming to see so many people coming together and doing their bit for this cause. When we had started the initiative, we had not even thought of the indirect impact it might have!", added Manjari.
The idea also inspired a supporter named Nivedita Ravi on the Facebook group to start a collection drive (apparently for clothes) in Chennai! According to Manjari, this was a true example of social networking. She hoped that it would encourage more people to come forward to help. Prayag Montessori in Padmanabha Nagar also participated in the sale while a group of volunteers from ‘Wish Foundation’ also supported it. Manjari herself sold over 300 kilos of used books, newspapers and magazines early last week.
According to Christina Daniels, Radhika Loka helped residents and the library at the Indian Institute of Managment, Bangalore to bring 2000 kilogrammes of newspaper into the campaign by Thursday. Previously, Christina and her friend Trupti collected 40 kilos of newspapers each. A lady named Meera Guthi and her neighbours at Misouri Apartments in Indira Nagar contributed a similar quantity newspaper to the cause. "Every group contribution from communities takes us closer to our goal". Swathi Chaturvedi mentioned "Collecting newspapers from my cousin’s apartment complex is running an upward trend!! We hope to get a good quantity soon".
Radhika Loka and Christina Daniels with other volunteers
Based on dialogues with the NGO’s, the group has realized that time is critical and plans to end the drive by 31st August and send the money to LEDeG. Essentially, the construction work must end before winter begins.
Before next Wednesday, interested people can:
a. Drop stack(s) of old newspapers and magazines at any of the following collection points (the homes of the volunteers’ friends):
– Viveknagar/Koramangala: 9845145436
– Cottonpet: 9844544080 (preferably on Sunday)
– Padmanabhanagar/Banashankari: 9886004555
– Jayanagar Block II: 9886263523
– Vidyapeeta/Banashankari 1st Stage: 9241718020
b.Organize a collection drive within their apartments, offices if possible
c. Act as a collection point handling end-to-end tasks, i.e., up to routing the money to LEDeG
d. Spread the word
e. Support any other initiative or NGO for Ladakh"