As India’s COVID catastrophe spirals out of control, with strict lockdowns again imposed, it seems everyone is feeling isolated, engulfed in bad news. We are surrounded not by friends and colleagues, but instead, by crises and dire warnings. There are fewer and fewer stories that inspire and uplift us in these darkest days and troubled times.
A beacon of light is shining, however, through the good deeds and dedicated efforts of the Zarine Manchanda Foundation, a Mumbai-based charity NGO whose core mission is to provide necessities for the city’s poorest residents. Despite COVID’s stranglehold on the city, the Foundation has managed to stay active in a number of ways, providing vitally needed food to those who are hungry and lacking.
The Foundation manages to accomplish this by organizing food donation programs on a small scale, in a spot conveniently located near the home of Foundation CEO Zarine Manchanda. She explains: “Obviously we have to conform with all COVID-related guidelines and rules, which we do.” Zarine goes on to explain, “We coordinate our efforts with the police, and are allowed to gather 20 people maximum.” The programs are shorter than the norm, Zarine and her team quickly provide the food items to those in queue; she doesn’t mingle as she normally would. Zarine labels these gatherings ‘pop-up programs’ because they run 10 minutes from start to finish. As she explains: “We have a huge roster of amazing, generous clients who are trying to help the best they can in these worst of times.’ By limiting the size and capitalising on the generosity of the clients, the Foundation can conduct programs almost every day, bringing 10 new people each day. While this is a smaller number than the hundreds that used to gather for the Foundation’s food and clothing donation programs in Aarey Colony, the pop ups still allow several hundred poor people to be served food essentials every month. For Zarine, that’s the name of the game: “Look, we want to do even more, but we do our level best under these trying circumstances.” We post videos on our social media so that our donors can see their good deeds provide immediate benefit”, says Zarine.
While the pop-up programs help those in need who live nearby in Andheri, The Foundation extended its reach recently to provide ample food to families in Dharavi, Mumbai’s (and Asia’s) most populated slum cell made famous globally in the Oscar-winning blockbuster film, Slumdog Millionaire. Recently, residents of Dharavi called the Zarine Manchanda Foundation from its Justdial listing. They were in desperate need of food, having no success with other foundations located nearer to them. Their prayers were answered by the Zarine Manchanda Foundation, who provided an ample food supply to the families. Videos of gratitude were also posted on social media of this much-needed generosity.
While busy with these donation programs, the Foundation still managed to host interns from Shri. MD Shah Mahila College of Arts and Commerce in Mumbai for a one-month program as part of the university curriculum. The students worked at the Foundation’s Aarey Colony office. The internship program was administered by the Foundation’s area manager Ajay Singh. During the program, the students learned how a successful, international NGO runs; they experienced first-hand the value of community service and volunteerism and also assisted with donor phone calls.
The program finished just before the latest lockdown and was a valuable experience for the students, also shown on social media praising their month-long experience. On the last day of the program, the students celebrated at Zarine Manchanda Café in Versova, Zarine’s upscale 7-star café and were provided complementary food and beverages. Says Zarine: “The only thing as rewarding for me as feeding the poor is seeing happy young people and children. When they praise their internship experience and say that I’m a role model for them, I am abundantly grateful.” Zarine concludes: “Yes, we want to provide a ray of light and a glimmer of hope in these dark times.”
To reach Zarine Manchanda Foundation,
Visit their website - http://www.zarinemanchandafoundation.com/
Disclaimer: Content Produced by Zarine Manchanda Foundation