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Covid Online Fundraising Campaigns Could Teach us to be Charitably Disposed to Men and Animals in Manipur

Till late people used to recoil at the mention of charity and whatever little was given away was done with reluctance and a feeling of having been cornered by some neighbour, friend or office colleague whom you couldn’t refuse outright. It never occurred that the cause could be to help someone in acute need and thus providential for the receiver of the charity. But these are different times during the pandemic and men and women have in many cases a changed outlook now; when being charitable is attached to a sense of unavoidable duty and brings us closer to our basic human nature that allows for compassion and oneness with fellow humans and other living beings. As many have projected, the crisis did bring out the better side of our collective conscience. This is one feature of the pandemic that will remain with many for a long time to come as they scroll through online charitable sites sitting out the lockdown and come up with novel ideas to help those in need. Charity has been organised and managed well by these online sites and private organisations and individuals who have neatly bundled the goods in cash or kind and made it affordable for the donors as well as made the packages sizable and extremely handy for the recipients, some of whom were even facing starvation and hopelessness.

Running through the stories about common people who accomplished their dream of supplying those in dire need of food, shelter or medical treatment we are left to appreciate the heart of gold some of them especially displayed, and can’t but help emulate as we are inspired by their acts and the ingenuity they used in a situation where they themselves were deprived by the pandemic as much as the people they ended up helping generously. A particularly motivating story is that of how a mother-son duo have fed 12,000 meals and 25,000 chapatis to the poor in a Mumbai suburb. Both have also started a fundraiser for Rs. 15 lakhs to continue their works and with 28 days still left, Rs. 67,000 is already in their kitty. Usually on Ketto even campaigns of Rs. 50 lakhs reach the target amount before the stipulated time. Heena, the mother, who lost her husband in 1998 in a car accident, and her young son Harsh have now become a ray of hope for the hungry and poor amidst the lockdown. They are a model reminder for those in Manipur who can help the local needy and ill if this kind of fundraisers catches on and trends into the public domain in Manipur particularly and at the same time reach out to donors in other parts of the country. All the campaign needs is the story of the sufferer/s and a few formalities to be completed, while the benefits are immense in form of cash and other moral and physical support.

Then there’s the DAVO Sanstha, an NGO for 200 plus elderly and destitute run by Dev Goswami who is nothing less than God for hundreds of destitute in Delhi and NCR. DAVO’s Ketto fundraiser is in urgent need of funds. Dev has helped over 10,000 homeless on streets and performed last rites of 4,500 people. Along with his wife Tara, he set up the NGO in 1985 to give the poor and homeless a healthier life. Dev used to bring home homeless people from the neighbourhood as a kid and watch his mother bathe and feed them. Years later as a driver he came across old and homeless people on the highways in a very bad state and asked his wife to make extra rotis for them and share it with them. “The society looks at them with disgust as they stink because most of them haven’t bathed in years,” he says. “They’d often pick chunks of food from the garbage bags and eat them to satiate their hunger,” he tells.

Others like the Till The Cows Come Home, TTCCH, work directly with both farmers and families to save and rehome unwanted farm animals. In between helping to find these animals home or getting them strong and healthy enough to be adopted they will live under care of TTCCH volunteer foster carers. Help is needed to buy jackets for the calves in TTCCH’s care. Warmth for calves is vitally important. Too cold, hot, windy, or wet can be fatal for them. Calf jackets have been proven to help them tolerate the colder months. TTCCH is in the need of 20 new jackets to help keep calves warm. TTCCH uses the Raisely platform to make donations secure for their fundraiser campaign SAVECALVES.RAISELY.COM.

After surviving 30 years in a tiny iron cage on a bear bile farm, Oliver, the brown bear was saved with the help of animal lovers by Animal Asia. Afterwards Oliver’s Army – a global community of compassionate people who refuse to be spectators to cruelty to animals was formed by Animal Asia. But it’s not just bears, animal lovers will be helping by joining Oliver’s Army; from the dogs and cats stolen for meat to the wild animals forced to perform in circuses, Oliver is a symbol of hope for all animals in Asia. Support from donors helps to rescue, rehabilitate and fund lifelong care for bears just like Oliver; end the dog and cat meat trade with grassroots outreach and public education in Asia; and enrich the lives of Asia’s captive wild animals and put an end to forced animal performances.

The two most popular online crowdfunding platforms in India at the moment are Donatekart and Ketto. Donatekart’s Daan Utsav solicits donations presently for 1000 packs of adult diapers. Over 50 million old people in India suffer from incontinence, or lack of voluntary control over urination or defecation. It is one of the major causes for deaths in old age that no one talks about. In reality it is a serious problem, causing heavy infections and other illnesses. It also causes embarrassment for them and restricts them from going around and hurts their dignity. With an adult diaper, the chances of infections are reduced and they can go around freely.

Donatekart is supposed to be India’s most trusted and transparent crowdfunding platform. Ongoing fundraising campaigns by it include help to build a home for abandoned cows and donations for fresh fodder; helping rag picker Pratima feed over 400 stray dogs; give children with cancer a ray of hope with Sankalp campaign; help a 70-year-old TB survivor feed hundreds of poor families in need; help an animal shelter in NOIDA build a safe haven for abandoned and injured animals; and help Mansi Lakshmi – a transgender activist who has reached out to hundreds of sex workers who are struggling amid the current pandemic outbreak. Mansi who is president of Aarju Foundation, a community based organisation in Mumbai that works with the issues that transgender community face, says, “We kinners, can request others to help with food. People show us little kindness sometimes, but it’s not like that for the sex workers.”

Fires are raging in the Amazon rainforest. To avert climate catastrophe we must stop the destruction of the world’s last remaining rainforests like the Amazon which is home to some of the highest concentrations of biodiversity in the world. It holds massive amounts of carbon in its forests – and it’s all going up in flames. Big agribusiness companies are taking advantage of the pandemic to drive the destruction of critical rainforests at breakneck speed and millions of acres of rainforest continue to be bulldozed and set to flame to make room for conflict palm oil, beef, and soy. To stop the destruction before it’s too late one can make donations to Rainforest Action Network, a non-profit organisation working in the field.

For millions of people food insecurity is a much more serious issue as typically they cannot afford to stock up on food supplies. Among the religious organisations, ISKCON Dwarka has provided 2.5 crore meals during lockdown with donations of Rs. 1000 for 50 meals to an amount of Rs. 5 lakhs which can buy 25,000 meals. This was after the head of ISKCON Delhi Gopal Krishna Goswami Maharaja directed his followers to distribute immediately full warm meals of Krishna prasadam prepared in efficient and hygienic manner, and in compliance with all the regulations during the Covid-19 situation.

As per the Global Hunger Index 2019, one in every three children in India is malnourished and 47 out of every 1000 children do not live to see their first birthday. At 48.2 million, India has the highest number of malnourished children in the world. To make a difference, CRY (Child Rights and You), India’s most trusted NGO, founded in 1979, believes in every child’s right to a happy childhood – to live, learn, grow and play. CRY has 102 projects across the country for children and 88% children in the projects, under the age of 5 years are free from malnutrition. Also, under the age of one year 97% children are immunized, while 1,63,541 children between ages of 6-18 years are in school and 2064 children in the projects are those rescued from child labour, child marriage and child trafficking. In all CRY has impacted 6,80,490 children by their efforts over nearly four decades in the field and is one of the foremost organisations one can consider donating towards.

As Animal Asia asks its donors, “Will you be the person who doesn’t say ‘Someone else will do it’, but the one who says ‘I will help’”…that’s the refrain these fundraisers look forward to hearing from donors. People in Manipur too can help locals here who have faced a variety of problems especially during the Covid pandemic. It could be food, medical treatment including emergency treatment, debilitating illness like cancer, child care, women’s issues like sponsoring reusable sanitary pads for poor women, care for elders, food and care for stray or animals at shelters, survival of HIV patients or sex workers – one can come up with so many ideas to help those in need.

The point is that there are many people who have a heart to help others in Manipur but may not be used to the novel universal online platforms for fundraising. In fact some people are already on these platforms, among them being activist Santa Khurai and a rich Meitei businessman in Thangal bazar who both use to help others. Mumbai journalist Rana Ayyub also raised Rs. 1.75 crore, initially a whopping Rs. 1.25 crore in seven days straight on Ketto, after she came across a starving family at Kopar Khairane slum in New Mumbai, and decided to start giving help. She’s reached 60,000 poor families across five states by now. For those in Manipur who are inclined towards contributing to charity the cost factor also is not much as one can save on taxes under the government’s 80G policy. The poor and diseased need a leg-up in Manipur. So people can hunt them down in their localities and recommend them for help on these platforms without those deprived themselves having to run around for the much promised but elusive aid.

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