The state of Kerala, famous for its coconut palms, tea plantations, and backwaters, is known to the world as an idyllic tourist destination. However, in August this year, Kerala came in the world’s eye for a different reason. Unprecedented rainfall battered the state of Kerala. The deluge led to dozens of dams in the state reaching dangerous levels. Several dam and reservoir gates were opened, leading to the state facing its worst floods in 100 years. In the aftermath of the floods, around 445 people were estimated to have died, mainly due to falling debris, collapsed buildings and lack of food and water. Around a million people were moved to relief camps. The floods left large-scale destruction to infrastructure and homes. Estimates say that the floods caused roughly $2.5 Bn in losses.
Kerala Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan said the road to recovery for the southern state is going to be a long one. “Your help, no matter how small, will be a step to restore normalcy,” he said, appealing for donations from people all over the country.
In the Swiss town of Baden, home to companies such as GE and ABB, the news of flood-ravaged Kerala was not lost on the fairly large Indian community that lives here. Some of these people had their own families back in Kerala, who had directly been affected by the floods. Rather than watch the news helplessly, a group of women decided to come together and do something about it.
Says Linija Kalloopparambil, who hails from Kerala, “To see the place where you grew up, played, waited for buses, roamed around shopping; in short, to see the place of your origin, flooded was enough to trigger this initiative”.
A single conversation was enough for Bandana Maheshwari to get most of her friends and associates onboard the idea. The ladies created a plan for lunch boxes to be made and distributed in and around Baden. Says Bandana, whose energy is palpable in her voice, “When Linija messaged me, asking if we could do something for Kerala from Switzerland, it triggered my thoughts into action. I am grateful to have amazing women who were ready to stand by me on a single request. Calling ourselves “Go Girls”, we were an energized and spirited team, that planned and executed this with little notice”.
For many Swiss-based Indian expats, the lack of a family support system, and of availability of house help (which is common to most households in India) leads to expats forging stronger bonds within their communities and developing their own support system through friends and neighbors. It was this trust that led to 16 women from various parts of India to come together to raise money for a cause. No questions asked. They were relying entirely on each other to make this initiative a reality that could make a small difference to the state that needed help.
Executing the idea
The plan was simple and effective. Targeting the average office-goer, the idea was to provide lunch over three days, with options for vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals. Tapping into their network, the team of women created flyers and circulated them via social media and WhatsApp groups. They received lunch box orders, divided their work, and set about their individual tasks.
For this team, planning and executing a task such as this was no mean feat, with the majority of the women managing young children, their schools, after-school activities, some even juggling along full-time jobs. The response received was overwhelming. As people got to know about the cause, some of them started sending in money to the team, no questions asked, no credit taken. Several people were generous enough to not accept change for their notes, and, in their own way, donated toward the fund corpus. The women themselves considered all their expenses, from raw materials to fuel costs, to be their contribution towards the fundraiser.
From initiation to execution, the initiative spanned 4 days. Coordinating their duties, the women shopped, cooked, packed, drove and distributed more than 150 lunch boxes in and around the Baden region.
All funds raised from the initiative are intended to be donated towards the Chief Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund. Collectively, the money raised from selling lunch boxes and from donations amounted to CHF 2,500. While this may not seem too large an amount to some, it could make a significant difference to the life of someone who just lost everything in the disaster.
A message from the women who made it happen
The women who initiated the ‘lunch-box fundraiser’ have a message to share with the rest of the world. “If the floods in Kerala taught us one thing: it is to not think and ponder too much, but rather, seize the moment and act. Prepare yourself for surprises along the journey of life because life is too quick to give you warnings first.”
If you would like to do your bit, and raise money for rebuilding Kerala, you could donate to the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund here: https://donation.cmdrf.kerala.gov.in. International cards are accepted as well.
Group photo credits: Vaishak Sp
Team members: Anjana Bonthala, Bandana Maheshwari, Kirti Sharma, Linija Kalloopparambil, Lirin Francis, Manasa Mukka, Preeti Goyal, Preeti Khandelwal, Purnima Menon, Ramarathna BC, Ramya Vinoth, Sandhya John, Shikha Kedia, Shinta Simon, Swetha Pola, Sonika Jhalani
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