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Joy of Giving week to take root in city soon

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September 09, 2012
Times of India
Joeanna Rebello Fernandes

It's that time of the year again when giving is back in season. The annual Joy of Giving Week -from October 2 to 8-is upon us, and people across the country are on to new ways of reaching out to society and practising goodwill. The campaign, which launched in 2009, has gained steam over the years and covered wide ground, not only in the number of people it has benefited through collective fundraising and varied acts of charity but also in the range of volunteers it has co-opted, from CEOs to chauffeurs.

jgw logoLast year, The Joy of Giving Week, seven days of intensive philanthropy, accomplished the following feats: it rallied over one million volunteers to the cause of giving; spread to over 70 cities, towns, even villages; was assisted by about 1,700 schools and 250 colleges; and managed to raise over Rs 30 crore in cash and kind.

Every year has bettered the last one in records set, so expectations are high for 2012. The campaign's website ( lists a range of initiatives to which volunteers have committed, along with several ideas floated by the campaign itself on what the public can individually do. One of last year's winning initiatives included an event called 'Battle of the buffet' where fine dine restaurants sponsored buffets and raised money through the sale of tickets to these spreads. Another past winner was the Design for Change Contest, which invited schoolchildren to offer their own unique solutions to local problems. That idea eventually went viral across several countries.

jgw logoThis year's innovation is the Wish Tree-a concept that already taken root across corporate offices, multiplexes, banks and hotels. The Wish Tree is quite literally a cut-out of a tree with 'wish cards' in place of foliage. The concept is built on the premise that funds desired by an NGO can be raised efficiently and by a wider base of donors if the amount is broken down into smaller parts-each part accounting for one object the NGO needs. "The whole budget of an NGO can be broken up into individual wishes," says the person who conceived of this idea and wishes to remain anonymous. "NGOs usually say they need X amount of money-for groceries, utility bills, consumables and so on. If this gross budget can be broken up into a per capita per day amount, everyone, even a factory worker, will be able to sponsor a 'wish'. Moreover, we wanted a concept that had mass contact, where lots of people could participate in the initiative."

It turns out that many have already pledged their support to the Wish Tree. ICICI Bank will plant no less than 1000 of them at their various offices and branches in the country. K Ramkumar, Group Head, HR, at ICICI Bank says, "This is a participatory programme and it's also fun, which will appeal to our young employees and customers... that's not to say the old don't want fun." The bank's non-executive chairman K V Kamath and Chanda Kocchar, MD and CEO, have even appeared in a promotional video for the tree, which will be circulated within the company. Ramkumar says the company has plans for virtual trees as well. "The Wish Tree will appear on our ATM screens, enabling customers to electronically donate in denominations of Rs 100, 500 or 1,000. We will also enable donations on our internet banking website."

It's not only those in the business of funds who have responded enthusiastically to this unique donation drive. Even the hospitality people have put their weight behind it. Ramesh Jackson, general manager of the Marriott Hotel in Hyderabad, says the group will place a tree in the lobby of each of its 15 hotels. "The funds raised will be donated to Marriott Home, a school and residency for children with leprosy-affected family members," he says. "This way, both guests and employees will be able to contribute."

Here's how it works: An employee select a wish card that reads, say, 'Rs 50 for 5 bars of washing soap' or 'Rs 100 for a shirt'. If washing soap is something the employee wishes to sponsor, he/she can hand that card over to a volunteer who will note down the employee's ID or cellphone number, so that a sum of Rs 50 can be deducted from his/her salary at the end of the month. The employee will be given a smiley card (or Wish Fruit) to hang in place of the wish card. By the end of the Joy Of Giving Week, the tree should hopefully be laden with 'wish fruit'.

Amdocs, a company that works in the field of convergent communications and network services solutions, has chosen not to donate to items listed by the staff of an NGO but to what the children at these NGOs themselves want. "We'll install seven trees at our offices in Gurgaon and Pune to raise money for eight non-profits," says Anshoo Gaur, head of Amdocs India. Some of them are Hope House, a residential school for underprivileged kids in Pune, Prayatna, a daycare centre for special children also in Pune, and Deep Ashram, which looks after the needs of mentally and physically afflicted children in Gurgaon. Any corporate house or organisation wishing to maintain a Wish Tree can either use it to support non-profits they are already associated with or they can be directed to NGOs by expert social development agencies like Guidestar, Karmayog and Give India.

Other establishments that have committed to planting a tree on their premises include HCL in Noida, Novojuris, a legal consultancy firm in Bangalore, and SPI Cinemas in Chennai. I f the seed of giving spreads at this rate, by the end of the Joy of Giving Week we'll have thousands of Wish Trees in bloom across India, nurturing in turn tens of thousands of lives.

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