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For 4 Years, Chennai Woman Ensured That The Poor Don’t Go To Bed Hungry

For 4 Years, Chennai Woman Ensured That The Poor Don’t Go To Bed Hungry

Dr Issa Fathima Jasmine starts her day delivering meal packets across Chennai. An orthodontist by profession and a social worker by passion, she has managed to feed almost 1000 people every single day through this initiative.

Shell India brings to us the inspiring story of Dr Issa, whose grit and determination is testament to the fact that #GreatThingsHappenWhenWeMove. Article sponsored by Shell.

Changemakers are not born extraordinary, they choose to do things that have an extraordinary impact and Chennai-based orthodontist Dr Issa Fathima Jasmine is the epitome of one such changemaker.

Dr Issa calls herself fortunate to have been brought up by parents who strongly believed in the power of selfless public service. She recalls her father organizing annual donation initiatives for the poor and going to all lengths to help those in need. Instances such as this, shaped and inspired her to start a non-profit social organization called The Public Foundation in 2017.

“The Public Foundation was born out of a strong drive to help those in need. This includes a community fridge initiative called AyyamittuUnn, which translates into sharing the food with the needy, which came into being when I realized the amount of food wasted every day. This is a one-stop platform where people can come and donate leftover food, books, clothes, toys or their once-loved items that can help others in need of them,” says Dr Issa, who’s passion project now has expanded across eight centers in Chennai and two in Bengaluru.

In addition to donation piles, each centre has a community fridge with a capacity of 400 to 600 litres to store donated food. Anyone looking to donate can travel to the centres at their convenience and leave the items there.

With the help of this, she is able to provide at least 100 meals per centre, feeding almost 1,000 people every day. Additionally, she started a community kitchen during the pandemic. Along with a few volunteers, she distributes at least 800-1,000 meals every day in slums, hospitals etc. across Chennai.

“Fortunately, I never had to face any struggles because of my gender. But there were many operational challenges we had to overcome as a team, especially during the pandemic. From monitoring the kitchen, providing proper packaging to delivering, I had to do all of that with a limited number of people, for safety concerns. Unlike usual times, it was harder to get volunteers during the lockdown,” she says. Every morning, she would start the day at 9 am at the community kitchen and till 3 o’clock, she would oversee the packing and make deliveries across the city. “Most days I end up skipping my own lunch as I am making deliveries till 3 pm, and then go to my clinic in the evening,” adds Dr Issa.

She also conducts several distribution drives throughout the year, both in urban and rural areas of Tamil Nadu. As a result of these, her organization has distributed over Rs 3 crore worth of food, 20,000 kgs of clothes, 2,500 pairs of shoes and 2,500 kgs of books.

Speaking about her constant source of motivation, she says, “When I started off, I thought that this initiative would be a small effort to eradicate hunger. But, over time, this became a juggernaut creating multifold impact. For instance, a few years ago, while visiting one of the centres, I happened to meet an old woman collecting food from the community fridge. Upon meeting me, she first thanked me and then went on to share how the fridge helped her daughter to go to a school. I couldn’t join the dots at first but then she explained how before this fridge she would spend most of her wages to manage a day’s meal. With the fridge taking care of their meals, she could finally dedicate most of the money to provide her daughter a good education. It is these moments that make you realize how the smallest gesture of donating a meal can truly change a person’s life.”

Through their campaign, ‘Great Things Happen When We Move’, Shell aims to celebrate the indomitable spirit, dreams, and aspirations of Indians like Dr Issa. The campaign is about people who display unconquerable courage and motivation to realize their ambitions by doing one simple thing — moving forward. The campaign encourages Indian women to step out and chase their dreams by highlighting their inspiring stories.

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