My Story: I Am A Zomato Delivery Guy Who Gives Cancelled Orders To Street Kids & Runs Free Evening School For Them

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“Four years ago, I was crossing the streets near Dumdum Cantonment in Kolkata when a dishevelled teenager boy came running and fell at my feet. He started begging desperately for money. I thought that he was heavily drug-addicted and wanted money to waste on cheap, harmful drugs. I tried to dissuade him, but his desperation was so wild and pathetic that I slapped him and he broke down. That’s where my story begins. And it has a delicious, fulfilling ending with happy bellies and unadulterated smiles.

To the rest of Kolkata, I am a food delivery guy with Zomato. But to a group of budding youngsters in Dumdum Cantonment and across Bengal, I am an elder brother they can always confide in.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

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The story dates back four years

Four years ago, after slapping the boy, I had comforted him, and he opened up to me. He vented that he was not drug-addicted but that his mother forces him to bring money by begging. He said if he goes home without any money at the end of the day, his mother will kill him. When the boy got down with dengue a while later, and the hospital asked for his personal details, his mother could not even properly remember his father’s name, who has deserted them probably before his birth.

This boy was not the only one with a similar life story. I found out numerous other homeless kids around the same railway station have a dark past and an even darker future ahead of them. None of them had ever stepped inside a school. The older ones were into drug abuse, begging and even petty criminal activities, while the younger ones would just play and laze around all day, soon to grow up and join their predecessors.

Soon, I started an evening school with 17 kids. Every evening, we would sit on a mat on platform number 3 and teach the basics to these kids. Today, the number of kids in our class has reached 27. Many of them have joined government schools.

My initiatives all over Bengal

Most of them have never known the love and care of a home, a family. Some are orphans, and some come from broken families with estranged fathers and mothers. I strongly advocate the importance of education to them. But, the reality is that they need money to run their families. So, I have arranged small stalls and ventures for some of these kids. They earn quite some amount by selling juice, lemonade, water bottles etc. after school hours. It is not much strenuous physical labour for them, and they enjoy it as well.

Over the course of four years, I have replicated my initiatives all over Bengal, in tribal villages like Belpahari or Totopara, which make headlines for the high poverty rates. I have been to rural Sunderbans among forest-dependent communities as well as Naxalbari, Alipurduar in North Bengal. Everywhere, my emphasis has always been on education. We organise drives twice or thrice a year to these places and help hundreds of helpless kids to get enrolled in schools. We also provide stationery, uniforms and medicine kits to them.

Distributing the cancelled orders and excess food among my kids

However, there is more to my story. Earlier, I used to work at Kolkata Municipal Corporation, but I quit my job to devote my entire time to the kids. But, I have to run my family as well, so last year around July, I started working as a delivery executive with Zomato. This is when I befriended a kind-hearted restaurant owner in Dumdum, who stepped into my team after learning about my kids. Now, some of the cancelled orders from Zomato and all the excess food from his restaurant come to my kids as their evening snacks, sometimes dinner. Addressed fondly by the kids as ‘Roll Kaku’ (Roll Uncle), he daily provides egg rolls, fried rice and all other items whose orders get cancelled. On occasions, he even arranges feasts for my kids. The gentleman wishes to stay away from the limelight, so he has made me swore to never mention his name or his restaurant to the public.

How other delivery guys and restaurant owners can feed a hungry India

Generally, when a customer cancels an order on a food delivery app, the restaurant which has already prepared the food gets the refund. Most of the times, the restaurant owners give away the food to the delivery guys. If the food is already en route, the Zomato customer care instructs the delivery men to take it home or give it to the poor.

Zomato has recently partnered with NGO Feeding India to divert all the cancelled orders to local shelter homes, orphanages, old age homes, centres for the specially-abled and similar institutions. We, the delivery boys are instructed to donate accordingly. For instance, in my area, we have been instructed to donate to St. Mary’s orphanage which we do.

I wish the endeavour continues on a larger scale and resonates all over India. So much food is wasted from restaurants every day, and not even 1% of it reaches these hungry kids. I appeal to all restaurant owners, food delivery guys and of course, the food delivery companies to take this into account and reach out to the helpless and hungry in their neighbourhood.”

– Pathikrit Saha, Zomato Delivery Executive

Recently, Pathikrit’s non-profit venture Help Foundation received its formal registration. Though he has always favoured such social work as a more informal and personal endeavour, he believes the registration will indeed help my kids receive more support and empathy. Any willing donors can reach out to him at 9804788406/9123348301.

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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

Posted by The Logical Indian on Saturday, October 27, 2018

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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Work in progress

Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

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Out of 3,85,000

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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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