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Payback time: India to celebrate joy of giving

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July 30, 2009
Madhusree Chatterjee

New Delhi, July 29 (IANS) Mohammed Sharif, the owner of a cycle repair shop in Uttar Pradesh, seeks out unclaimed bodies, arranges a casket, calls a priest and gives a decent burial to the dead. In 1990, police had disposed of the body of his murdered son after they failed to establish his identity. 'Since then I see in each body a son or a daughter, sister or brother, mother or father,' Sharif says.

Nur Nabhi, a poor tailor in the eastern metropolis of Kolkata, spends a fourth of his earnings every month to free caged birds. He has been doing so for the past five years since his sons and nephew were swept away by a strong tide in the Ganges river on Eid day.

'I feel as if the birds are carrying my wishes to the boys,' says Nur.

The stories of Sharif and Nur are on the website ( of the NGO GiveIndia, which is organising the Joy of Giving Week during Sep 27-Oct 3. Its campaign will begin in schools and colleges next month.

'If the whole country was bound by this spirit to give back as much as they can to society and the less privileged, lives would change,' actress Nandita Das, who is acting as a catalyst for the project, told IANS here.

The Joy of Giving Week is being billed as the largest charity event in the country. It could be a kind word to someone who does not expect it, an hour of coaching or training to poor kids, auctioning personal belongings to raise money for the poor, feed the hungry, donate either in cash or in kind or even attend a charity event to boost morale. But the act has to be voluntary and free of cost, explained Das.

GiveIndia is a non-profit group that liaises between donors and more than 200 charity missions to raise funds for poor children. It is also the brain behind the Delhi and Mumbai Marathons, two of the country's biggest charity runs.

Venkat Krishnan N., the director of GiveIndia, said the Joy of Giving Week is a 'national movement aimed at taking the focus away from one's own self, instilling the spirit of philanthropy in all'. 'We as a nation must learn to believe that we can change things,' Krishnan, an Indian Institute of Management alumnus, who set up GiveIndia nine years ago after returning from the US, told IANS. 'Whether you are a paanwallah in Lucknow, a traffic cop in Mumbai, an idli vendor in Madurai or a millionaire in Delhi, you can reach out to someone less privileged - by donating money, volunteering time, providing your skills and even just saying a kind word to someone who may not have expected it from you.'

Krishnan said the campaign has enlisted the support of more than 100 corporate houses, 80 NGOs, 35,000 schools and 3,000 colleges across the country. It will be partnered by media channels like MTV and supported by sites like Google and Ebay on the internet.

'The Joy of Giving Week campaign will start in schools and colleges in mid-August,' Krishnan said. Each school will have to think of a solution to a pan-Indian problem and implement it during the Joy of Giving Week and colleges will have to host a cultural festival jointly with an NGO. The campaign has roped in Indian movie celebrities like Anurag Kashyap, A.R. Rehman, Ayesha Takia, Farah Khan, Imtiaz Ali, Mini Mathur and Mani Ratnam and cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid.

It has Gopal Gandhi, the governor of West Bengal and the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, as an ambassador.

According to the GiveIndia team, at the end of the campaign, 'one million poor children in India will never go hungry and five million people would be clothed and protected'.

'It will be a sustained movement and an annual charity event,' Krishnan said.

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