The problem; With the term disaster, we think of floods, earthquakes, tsunami, cyclone. But there are some ignored disasters which happen around us every year and yet they don’t get termed as disasters. Isn’t winter an annual disaster for a person who doesn’t have adequate shelter and clothing. Millions of people still don’t get two square meals a day or Lakhs of women face indignity due to lack of clean cloth during menses; for them buying enough cloth or woolens for their families is certainly out of question
The idea and innovation; Over the last 14 years Goonj has built a reliable and time-tested network in both the rural & urban areas. This network means our wide spread presence, which helps us respond to any kind of geographical and cultural aspect. With an active network in place, our response time for generating & channelising resources becomes much quicker. Despite being a small team, we have been able to respond to disasters as wide apart as Kashmir and Tamil Nadu, with the same amount of urgency and scale. We work throughout the year on educating the common masses about the sensitivities of giving at the time of disasters i.e. how one should understand the cultural, social, geographical aspects before deciding what to give. Like women in south India don’t wear suits while women in Kashmir don’t wear saris or eating habits-people in Gujarat don’t eat rice much while in Kashmir rice is a part of the staple diet. Sensitivities towards these aspects have a big impact at the time of material generation.
What we do: In rural India GOONJ has successfully built a network of reliable grassroots organizations like Panchayats, NGO’s, activists. In the metros we have a similar network of individuals, corporate, schools, collages and other organizations working actively throughout the year to channelize unutilized resources lying waste in the cities to the rural areas. At the time of disasters this strong urban and rural network is activated intensely to address the needs of the victims in a focused manner. This helps address specific needs for the disaster hit, without burdening any single organization/individual. On the other hand our partner grassroots agencies give us an accurate assessment of the damage and the needs of the disaster hit people. They become the critical last leg in the distribution chain and as part of the community, sensitively deal with the issue of giving with dignity. With years of continuous work this network helps us gather intelligence and information about disaster patterns and in disaster preparedness, in terms of generating and reaching relief material to disaster prone areas well in time.
Rahat Floods; In monsoons parts of India are prone to floods, so we start our RAHAT Floods campaign before monsoons so that the material reaches these areas quickly.
Rahat Winters; Over the last 14 years our efforts in highlighting winters as an annual disaster has started getting attention by policy makers, media and citizens of the country. The increasing awareness has lead to independent collections and distribution of woolens in the cities during winters by many organizations, individuals etc. Also, before winters goes off, we do another massive campaigning around ‘Don’t overburden your wardrobes with woolens that you may not need for next winters’.
Impact; Although our network does not cover the entire geographical area of India but in the event of a disaster the extended network of our local partners is a great help. When Kashmir was hit by an earthquake, our relationship with the Indian army helped us reach the worst affected areas very quickly as they passed on contacts of local officials, helped us in transporting material and asked their officials to contact us. The Army gave us information about the damage and needs, gave us security in the sensitive and far flung areas. We were able to get a first hand account of the state of affairs and assess and identify our role in the relief operations.
What we need; Disaster is a time of complete breakdown at the individual and community level therefore collaborations and cooperation’s are needed in every sphere. We need strong linkages and commitments for specific items. We want corporations and investors to help us form linkages in specific important industries like airlines and transport industry, food and pharma industry. We need foundations and NGO’s having an expertise in areas with difficult access like Kashmir, north eastern India where they can act as our eyes, ears and hands. We need big schools and universities to work with us and activate their youth to mobilize a national momentum around any disaster. We need more volunteers to spread awareness, organise camps & sort material. We want Corporate in the travel, pharmacy, housing, food, garments and media industry to get involved. For better disaster preparedness we need infrastructure at our command which will help us build a disaster reserve of relief material reducing our response times drastically. In short, we need to scale up our present network to spread wider and include more entities of the society.
Our basic philosophy; is that the society mostly gives and gets involved at the time of a disaster but the fact is that a majority of the population lives in such a condition that one need not wait for a disaster to happen, to help them. Our emphasis is that one needs to actively work throughout the year in disaster preparedness and resource generation, sensitising people on the needs and dignity aspect, so that when the disaster actually happens, which could be anytime, we are able to better respond and are able to lessen to a large extent the after effects of devastation.