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The charity virus


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September 27, 2012
Business Standard
Sreelatha Menon


The Joy of Giving Week weaves thousands of small efforts at charity to make a big difference

Does it help if your left hand doesn't know what your right hand is doing? When ordinary people do charity, the world hardly gets to know.

So, Give India Foundation decided to put together these trickles into an annual nationwide activity for various causes.

The first Joy of Giving week begins today (September 27) and Give India's founder Venkat Krishnan marvels at the volunteerism that is sweeping schools, companies and ordinary householders like a benevolent virus as he puts it.

When Venkat walked up to Sachin Tendulkar and asked him what he would like to give, the cricketer offered to auction one day of free coaching on ebay and donate the money to a cause. The auction has already started.

The week-long activity has proved that athough companies have reduced their expenses on charity, their involvement has gone up.

Makemytrip decided to donate about Rs 200 per air ticket it sells in the week for afforestation. About 25 industry captains, including Narayana Murthy, Ajay Piramal, Adi Godrej and Kiran Majumdar are having a student shadow them for a day at a price. They will donate the collections. About 45 chief executives will walk the ramp this week. Companies are also joining in. Parle has asked school children to collect discarded wrappers and has offered to plant as many saplings.

Children from a thousand schools are sending designs for various causes and the Frankfurt design school is one of the organisers.

Venkat says signing a cheque is a good way to sign off your responsibilities. He quotes Peter Russell, the US philanthropist, to say that at the end of the day, charity should enable a person to become a citizen who takes responsibility and a neighbour who cares.

On the website of NGO Goonj, one comes across a neighbour who is running a collection centre for old clothes at his home. This is part of a cloth collection programme of Goonj which has spread across 12 cities. Now, schools, companies and resident welfare associations are voluntarily collecting clothes, school bags, tiffins, water bottles, newspapers, utensils and other articles and offering it to Goonj.

The NGO turns some of the clothes into plastic sanitary napkins for women in rural areas and distributes the rest among the poor in villages. It has used the Joy of Giving week to spread the idea to 12 more cities and towns. This has doubled the cost but has also got it new sympathisers, many of whom Venkat and Goonj hope will stay on even after the week-long drive. It would cost the NGO roughly Rs 73 lakh extra to expand the drive for a week. But donors like Idea Cellular, Aegon Religare, Axis Bank, Hewitt and GE Capital have chipped in. Reliance Communications is helping it with an SMS campaign in 25 cities, Nokia has given 200 free handsets, AFL and Safexpress are helping transport material across cities and villages, and School to School Rahat and Cloth for Work are some of the NGOs that have joined the work in the new cities.

Venkat says the common man is a fence-sitter when it comes to charity. This week-long affair may draw out a crore donors but a few lakh might continue the charitable work. That would be charity with both left and right hands…

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