The Other Kapil Sharma: Meet This US-Based IT Professional Who Has Planted 3,00,000+ Trees In India

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It was 10 AM on a bright, sunny Saturday morning in India. Worlds apart in the USA, the clock was ticking way past midnight, prodding many to get immersed in the Friday night frenzy. But like every weekend, Kapil Sharma stayed wide awake, browsing through emails, documents and having his interview with Efforts For Good

Not every person chooses to burn the midnight oil on a Friday unless it’s a work-related emergency. But, Kapil has been doing the same for years sheerly out of his passion. Hard-working would be an understatement for Kapil Sharma, the founder of well-known environmental organisation SayTrees, which has planted millions of trees across India in the past 12 years. 

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

Kapil Sharma Battling Challenges – 10 Years Ago & Now

“The challenges I deal with today are quite different from what I faced at the beginning of my work. For instance, when I started in 2007, finding the right places in Bengaluru to plant saplings and maintaining them used to my pivotal aim. Now, my main concern is how to expand SayTrees as a pioneer organisation catering to all environmental problems in India – from afforestation to water body rejuvenation,” shares Kapil, hinting that the one thing that remained unchanged all throughout is his deep love for nature.

Today, multiple organisations in India are involved in tree plantation programmes. They present their tally in the number of saplings they planted. Whereas, SayTrees ensure to record the number of saplings they have successfully raised to be mature trees. With probably the highest survival rate of planted saplings, SayTrees stand out as a frontrunner in the green scene of India.

The Initial Days As A Sole Crusader

But, to reach its present stature, SayTrees founder Kapil Sharma had to endure a horde of hurdles over the course of the decade. He started as a sole crusader, who devoted his weekends to planting saplings in abandoned spaces in and around Bengaluru. “Mondays to Fridays were for office and weekends were for trees,” he recalls.

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“Around 2006-2007, on way to my office, I daily used to see trees being brutally cut down in broad daylight. It was heartbreaking for me as these trees had only made the city heavenly but they were now being brought down as if they were worthless,” shares Kapil, who hails from Chattisgarh, a place notorious for its soaring mercury in summer.

We created a video to show current conditions of our lakes and how we were able to rejuvenate 2 lakes in no time with support from our corporate partners and with Anand Malligavad – A man of Lake Rejuvenation . And now we wish to join hands with Anand to rejuvenate 45 lakes in next 5 years. it may sound tough but is not if right people come together. So inviting these right people to join hands and make this possible. Inviting all corporates to support rejuvenation of lakes and prevent them from being dead. Water Conservation – A saytree.org initiative

Posted by SayTrees on Sunday, May 12, 2019

He interacted with people asking why they were supporting the large-scale felling of the trees without thinking of the consequences. “Some told me they didn’t like the dry leaves cluttering their courtyards. For some, trees were restricting parking spaces, while for others, trees were simply blocking their view,” he expresses how difficult it was initially to garner support from the public to start his plantation initiative.

The Problems With Funds And Lands

After Kapil started out on his own, he soon realised the importance of community support and funding for continuing such initiatives. Fortunately, his family and friends whole-heartedly supported him, so did nature-lovers across Bengaluru, soon as word about his work started spreading.

“The problems I face today comprise a vicious cycle. Sometimes, we find lots of barren lands to afforest but no substantial funds to back us. At other times, it’s vice versa, with funds available but not enough places to plant trees in,” Kapil compares.

Grow A Forest In The City: SayTrees

This World Forest Day, know about a method of growing dense urban forest faster than ever. #WorldForestDay SayTrees

Posted by Efforts For Good on Wednesday, March 20, 2019

For The Love Of Nature

Kapil’s career required him to move to the USA. But his heart stayed behind in India, with SayTrees. “I made sure tree plantation would continue no matter where I am,” he shows his unflinching dedication.

Needless to say, managing two entirely different job profiles, that too remotely, is no cakewalk. But, Kapil continues to make endless sacrifices to ensure no hindrance ever thwart any project of SayTrees.

Beyond his day job as a software professional at a top USA firm, Kapil makes sure to devote at least four hours for SayTrees, every single day, including weekends and holidays. He borrows extra time for SayTrees by curtailing his sleeping hours. While everyone else is sound asleep, Kapil stays awake, instructing with his ten-membered team in India or interacting with CSR heads of corporates, forest officials, as well as nature lover volunteers.

“If you are truly passionate about something, you always find time for it,” Kapil reiterates.

Gaining Trust Of The Local Community

Once started as a tree plantation initiative, SayTrees has now proliferated towards other activities like assisting farmers, raising urban forests as well as lake rejuvenation. In fact, Kapil has plans to venture into plastic pollution control in the near future.

“This is the need of the hour as our country is facing a huge water crisis and this will only grow if not addressed. If we don’t act now, we will face catastrophic consequences in future. And I cannot just sit and let things ruin for my nation and mother earth. Things I used to fear are coming true now. Extreme heat, drought, cyclone, floods and whatnot. I feel that my efforts have to be exponential if I have to bring even a small change,” he asserts.

Tree Plantation – Bagepalli, Karnataka – 01-09-2018

Employees of L&T Infotech traveled from Bangalore to Bagepalli to be part of 35000 saplings which are being planted in the area. Karnataka has 80% arid land and is next to Rajasthan. We need many more forests in the state and SayTrees is trying to achieve the same with support from our corporate partners under their #CSR initiatives. Thanks L&T Infotech for greening the nation. Thanks @Vinodh Bharadwaj and all who were present for this plantation drive.SayTrees.org

Posted by SayTrees on Sunday, September 2, 2018

Till now, SayTrees has rejuvenated two lakes each in Bengaluru and Tamil Nadu. They also have lakes in Delhi-NCR on their to-do list.

When Kapil first stepped into lake rejuvenation, he singled out a few choked up lakes in the outskirts of Bengaluru. His first tryst with the local residents around the lake has not been quite encouraging, as there happened to be a few individuals who doubted their intentions.

To gain their trust, Kapil took the best yet most painstaking approach – showing them the work of SayTrees in person, till their trust was established. “I made them understand how the project can benefit their community. That is how the people came together to support our initiative,” he narrates.

“The key is to keep them informed and updated about each and every step,” Kapil adds about the basics of community engagement.

Creative Campaigns

While in the USA, Kapil designed the first vertical garden on a flyover pillar. The concept went viral and now this is being executed in multiple cities.

He also started the ‘Silent Tree Protest’ which people from all over the world are diligently circulating all over social media. Nature-lovers from five countries even started the same in their cities.

Recently, he reached out to the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and even funded a drone that will be used to afforest a 3000-acre land with over one crore saplings and seed-balls.

SayTrees Will Always Be His Priority

Despite his relentless efforts, funds still happen to be a roadblock for SayTrees’ upcoming projects. Every day, Kapil receives calls and enquiries from all over India, requesting him to replicate his tree plantation projects in other cities and states.

As of now, though SayTrees is more concentrated in Southern India, Kapil wishes to expand his operations to the North as well. That is, once he secures adequate funding and manpower. He sincerely hopes well-wishers from the USA would come forward to lend their support towards greenifying India through SayTrees.

For Kapil, personal struggles have always taken a backseat when it comes to his firm resolve to save the planet, particularly his beloved garden city – Bengaluru.

“Look at Bengaluru today. My city is suffering from severe water crisis, erratic weather patterns and a brewing concrete jungle.”

“United Nations has given us 12 years to control climate change and I am trying to make sure that there are no loose ends in my efforts. My struggles can never be even slightly close to what nature is suffering. So, I would always put nature as my priority, above and beyond everything else,” shares Kapil.

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It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote

‘Happy Fridge’: The Key To Bridge Food Wastage And Hunger Problem In India

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Rahul Khera and Gautam Jindal, volunteers (aka hunger heroes) at Feeding India, were among the many Delhi NCR residents accustomed to seeing hungry children pick up half-eaten burgers or stale sandwiches from the dustbin and savour those with the brightest smiles. Like many others, they also had the will to promote equitable food distribution but was perplexed about the approach, until they learnt about the community fridge initiative which has gained unprecedented success in Saudi Arabia and few other European countries. Meanwhile, community fridges were already being installed outside restaurants or in public places in a handful of cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Coimbatore and Kochi.

Say Goodbye To Throwing Away Excess Food Because Now You Can Donate The Food To The Needy – Happy Fridge

Thank you for overwhelming response for the Happy Fridge concept. We need more funds from you to install more fridges like this across India. With the limited funds avaialble Feeding India was able to install three fridges only. Kindly donate here http://bit.ly/happyfridge

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Needless to mention, with a shocking 103rd rank in the Global Hunger Index and a food wastage estimate of around Rs 58,000 crore – India was perhaps the best country to implement such an initiative. With Gautam’s help, an enthusiastic Rahul invested his own savings to install a ‘Happy Fridge’ outside his residence at Sun City, Sector 54 in Gurgaon. Set up in 2017 by these Feeding India volunteers, the fridge in Gurgaon has inspired the NGO to scale up the project across India.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

‘Happy Fridge’ fostered many smiles

It didn’t take long for the local residents to learn about this laudable endeavour. They welcomed it, as wastage of excess food was a recurring problem in almost every household. “Intimating the localities was no mammoth task, thanks to social media. However, it was difficult to spread the word among those who actually needed the food,” shares Rahul, who went from auto stands to slums, inviting rickshaw pullers, ragpickers or roadside vendors to avail the community fridge any time they feel hungry. “The security guards of our residential complex played a huge role in explaining how the fridge works to the beneficiaries,” he adds.

The operational and maintenance costs of the ‘ happy fridge ‘ are being maintained diligently by the community members.

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Making memories, sprouting awareness

“I remember one young man who had arrived from a village looking for some menial day job. Somehow he had run out of his paltry savings and had no money to buy one decent meal a day. For about a month, our happy fridge was his solace, till he earned his first salary from a housekeeping job,” shares a jubilant Rahul.

In another incident, a truck driver returning in the wee hours of midnight was starving after a whole day’s hard work. He had run out of cooking fuel at his home, so our fridge was at his rescue.

“The residents keep all sorts of palatable dishes in the happy fridge, ranging from dry snacks, fruits to cooked meals. Sometimes, they even keep raw vegetables, to ensure not a single bit of good food ends up in their trash while other people go hungry to bed,” reveals Rahul.

On an average, each happy fridge supplies around 10-15 meals in a day. The gratitude and pure smiles of the hungry souls after a fulfilling meal are more than enough to continue to motivate Rahul and his neighbours. In fact, inspired by him, many other communities in the Delhi-NCR region set up community fridges in their areas.

Feeding India will set up 500 Happy Fridges

Since the past few years, Feeding India has been a prominent organisation working in the forefront to solve the hunger problem in India. Primarily, they were involved in redistributing leftover food from weddings and parties among the underprivileged people in different cities of India. Their volunteers, better known as “Hunger Heroes of India”, worked actively to bridge the gap between food wastage and food crisis.

“We used to get a lot of calls from individual households to collect their excess food. However, unfortunately, we lacked the manpower and planning to launch our programme on a door to door basis. We were desperately looking for an alternative when we learnt about the community fridges,” shares Srishti Jain, co-founder of Feeding India.

After interacting with Rahul Khera and other campaigners of community fridges, Feeding India decided to amplify this extraordinary project throughout the length and breadth of India. Presently, they have launched the #FightFoodWaste campaign to install 500 community fridges – nicknamed ‘ Happy Fridge ’. So any passer-by – be it a kid going to school without a lunchbox, or a labourer returning home late at night with no promise of a dinner – can now grab a pack of biscuits or a bowl of ‘dal-chawal’ (rice & lentil soup) to satiate their hunger. Click here to contribute for ‘ Happy Fridge ‘ and ensure India never sleeps hungry again.

Feeding India also urges everyone to make a promise to stop wasting food and instead consider donating it to those in need.

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Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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