In any environment, it is always difficult to recognize those who would multiply their gain with perseverance and hard work. To give anybody who has that small spark of enthusiasm and will to come out of the clutches of poverty and change their lives forever a fighting chance, we try to help them in any way we can. Financial help to get through school and for medical support are the two most basic and highly important needs for those fighting to survive in this society.
“Natural catastrophes are as much a result of poverty and weak government as plate tectonics and weather – that’s why they hit the world’s poor hardest.” – James Tulloch
Natural hazards take a toll on everybody. The lack of proper infrastructure in the villages and slums can arguably be one of the biggest reasons for the high death toll turning the natural hazard into a natural disaster. We can wait for the system to change or we can create a system and be the change.
Medical and educational sponsorships
We started our relief work in 2001 by focusing on the immediate need of financial aid for the slum children to continue their education. Families living below the poverty line see money as an immediate relief to their situation. Because of this, many children drop out of school and start working at a very young age to support their families. Many families express their own distaste to this but say that they have no choice. To help them develop a higher economic status by providing them with an opportunity and encouraging them to finish their education, we sponsored selected students with uniforms, books and bags. Few students were also sponsored the school fee. To ensure that the effort did not go in vain, we conducted follow-ups where we visited the families in the slums.
Another pressing need in the poor communities was access to good and affordable medical aid. Before the government clinic near the slum areas started providing free medical care, we ran regular medical check-ups, treatment and also financed bigger medical treatments. When the sole breadwinner of an impoverished family has a medical conditioned which hinders him from working, the whole family often does not survive long or the children leave school to help provide for their families. We partnered with a nearby clinic to provide free medical check-ups and later also employed a professional nurse for weekly first aid and wound treatment.
Relief for natural disaster
Flood relief 2015
December 2015 saw the worst flood damage in Chennai city in the last century. More than 500 lives were lost to the flood. Apart from all the damage, Chennai experienced an awe-inspiring unity amongst all religions and social groups. Many communities came together to help the affected by providing food, shelter, clothing, conducting rescue missions, and much more. We at Karunakarya also recognized our role in aiding the rehabilitation of the city. We visited the affected areas to deliver immediate relief to victims, ensure the safety of our staff and beneficiaries. Survey the impact of the flood and to make calculated decisions about the target group for the relief work. As there were many people and organizations both from the public and the government, we decided to move our focus to people who are associated with our organization as beneficiaries, supporters or employees. Along with a few youth beneficiaries of our organization, we supplied medical, sanitation and hygiene kits to the affected families as that was not a very largely supplied relief material and the need was rising due to all the sewer leakages and stagnant water. We also supplied groceries, blankets and mats in smaller quantities to those who had a need for them. We also provided relief material to the victims sheltered in Anna University.
This activity provided an opportunity for our youth to understand and have a firsthand experience at planning and implementing a relief distribution activity. This experience also helped the youth to develop their social and leadership skills by interacting with different people and working in teams. They also witnessed the hardships faced by affected people and empathized with them.
All the youth volunteers were taken to a restaurant for lunch after the distribution to encourage their enthusiasm and readiness to aid the needy even though they are from similar backgrounds.
Tsunami relief 2004
In 2004, the Indian Ocean Tsunami claimed many lives in India as well as 14 other countries. The many fishing villages on the eastern coast of Tamil Nadu were greatly affected. Fishermen lost their boats, houses and even families. We reached out to the victims of Kallar and Velipalayam, two villages near Nagapattinam, the most affected city in India with around 6000 deaths, 2000 injured, and 175,000 who lost their homes. In the beginning it was important to just be there to listen to the victims’ pain and suffering. Later, we set up different centers in 2 of the affected fishing villages for trauma counselling, relief work, and rehabilitation. Bed sheets were distributed to the victims as well as 150 kg of fishing nets so that the fishermen could restore their livelihood. The need for educational rehabilitation soon became a pressing need as many children started dropping out of school. We aided by re-integrating the children into school and providing after-school tuitions to help them advance in their education. After a dedicated two years of relief work, we handed over the project in Nagapattinam to reliable local organizations. Apart from relief work in these two villages, we also provided relief and rehabilitation in Pondicherry and fishing villages in Chennai.