Four years ago, Bengaluru-based Andrew Baptist fell ill after accidentally leaving his window open on a cold December night.
“I recovered soon enough, but the incident got me thinking. Sitting inside our warm homes with blankets for cover, we often tend to ignore people living on streets who have nowhere to go when the weather takes a turn for the worse,” says the 22-year old.
While most of us have empathised with the plight of people living on the streets braving extreme weather conditions, very few have taken concrete steps to make their lives less difficult.
Andrew decided that he wanted to belong to the latter category.
“I came up with the idea to conduct a drive where people could come together and donate blankets they don’t use anymore, to the needy. Following this, I shared the idea with heads of student unions across various educational institutions like St Joseph’s PU College, Mount Carmel College, KIMS, St Joseph’s College of Commerce,” he says.
The unions made announcements in their respective colleges and collected blankets, following which Andrew and his team picked them up. The initiative was a roaring success, and since 2016, Andrew and his team have distributed over 1,200 blankets to the needy.
“Our 2019 drive began in December, and so far, we have donated 370 blankets. We still have 30 to distribute,” he says.
Youngsters Bringing A Change
To scale up the initiative, Andrew started an awareness drive on a social media platform called ‘Share A Blanket Campaign.’
“The response was overwhelming,” says Adrian, one of the volunteers. “Not only did we receive calls from people who were willing to donate blankets, but also from those who wanted to volunteer with us during distribution. Today, most of the volunteers associated with the campaign are youngsters and do not mind using their own transportation to pick up blankets and quilts from people’s homes. They genuinely want to help the underprivileged. If this is not a sign of a better India, then I don’t know what is.”
Assessing the Deserving Ones
Every year before giving out the blankets, the volunteers first carefully assess the person or family near bus stops, subways and narrow lanes in areas like Cubbon Park, Malleshwaram, Kalyan Nagar, Jayanagar and Indiranagar.
“We visit the area prior to the drive and identify deserving families. People who are sleeping with a dupatta or a single piece of cloth are usually the ones we donate to,” says Adrian.
Andrew and his group of volunteers are not the only ones in the city helping homeless people beat the cold. Approximately 20 members of the Rajarajeshwari Nagar Residents Forum (RRF) began ‘Free on Tree,’ a movement that aims to provide warm clothes to people by hanging them on trees.
They distributed over 400 items of warm clothing, including jackets, scarves, sweaters, monkey caps and blankets to the homeless this winter. Read their full story here.
All images are sourced from Share A Blanket Campaign/Facebook
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)