‘The Cover Project’ Started When A Small Girl Begged For His Umbrella, Today They Have Distributed 5000 Umbrellas To Homeless Children

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As much as it is cherished for its magical charm, monsoon in Mumbai is also quite notorious for the endless inconveniences it causes – ranging from flooded streets to an inevitable onset of infectious ailments. 

The situation is undoubtedly worse for the street-dwellers and slum residents, whose makeshift shanties and paltry belongings are often washed away in the torrential overpours. Their children, clad in drenched and tattered clothes, shiver while muttering prayers to make the rains stop. 

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

A Girl Begged Him For His Umbrella

27-year-old Vimal Cherangattu had a similar encounter. Two years ago, he was stuck in traffic during a heavy shower. Outside his car, it was pouring cats and dogs, but it failed to deter a young girl from selling roses in front of halted cars, like every other day. The girl, with her baby brother in her arms, approached Vimal urging him to buy roses, which he refused.

“Suddenly, she made an unusual request. She kind of begged me to give her my umbrella. As soon as I handed over my old umbrella to her, she ran to one side and called her friends. Immediately, four other kids popped up from here and there and rushed together under that one umbrella, with broad grins brightening up their faces as well as my day,” narrates Vimal.

A Single Facebook Post Started The Cover Project

The incident deeply moved Vimal who realised how an object as trivial as an umbrella can be a lifesaver for these homeless street children. Soon, he wrote a Facebook post, appealing to everyone to donate their old umbrellas to the street kids near them.

“The post got circulated like wildfire. It served as an eye-opener for many others like me. They all came together and prodded me with the idea of ‘The Cover Project’,” he shares.

 

Initially, The Cover Project had started with a handful of volunteers, connected through a Facebook forum with the same name. They organised multiple drives in and around Mumbai, distributing pre-owned as well as brand new umbrellas to help street children withstand the rainy season.

 

Cover Project

Soon, the word about the project spread throughout the country and even beyond her borders. Non-residential Mumbaikars from all parts of the world started fundraising for the cover project, which resulted in the donation of around 2000 umbrellas to the children in 2018.

 

Welcoming Doctors On-Board For Free Health Check-Ups

“During our distribution drives, I noticed how a lot of infectious diseases affect these children in monsoon. When I shared my concern about this problem, around 15 medical students working with Switch India volunteered to collaborate with us. They now accompany us in every drive and do free health check-ups for these kids,” shares Vimal.

Cover Project

The group also organises hygiene awareness workshops for the kids to teach them how to keep themselves clean.

The Answer To All Criticism

“Umbrella? That’s not really something people need!”

“It’s useless to distribute umbrellas. They could have donated food or clothes or anything like that.”

“These poor people will take the umbrellas from you and sell it off elsewhere.”

Narrow-minded criticism about the Cover Project does persist among sceptics who consider umbrella distribution as a trivial initiative. But Vimal and his army of Good Samaritans believe that all the negative feedback fades away once they see unadulterated smiles on those innocent faces after receiving sprightly-coloured umbrellas.

Cover Project

10-year-old Mala used to assist her parents in their family trade of selling Mogra flowers. Vimal had asked her, “How do you go to school in the rains?”. To this, she nonchalantly replied, “Bhaag ke (by running).”

Her reply startled Vimal to the core. “I realised that if my simple act is allowing a girl to pursue her education smoothly, then it is indeed a success,” he expresses.

Replication In Bengaluru & Kolkata

This year, with the ongoing rains in Mumbai, Cover Project has distributed around 1700 umbrellas. They recently organised an umbrella painting workshop, through which a substantial amount of funds were raised to purchase more umbrellas.

“We are hoping to reach the 3000 mark soon in the count of umbrellas,” Vimal asserts.

Inspired by Cover Project Mumbai, similar initiatives have been replicated in Kolkata and Bengaluru where hundreds of umbrellas were distributed among homeless children.

If you wish to contribute your bit for this incredible endeavour, contact The Cover Project now.

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

When HC Ignored His PIL To Educate Kids Orphaned In Uttarakhand Floods, He Started Scholarship From Own Savings

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The horrors of the catastrophic floods of 2013 still haunt the residents of Uttarakhand. The repercussions are perhaps worst for the children who lost their parents in the calamity. Most of their fathers and mothers lost their lives in Kedar Valley, which was reportedly the most affected region.

It was the pilgrimage season, so people, mostly men from neighbouring villages of Kedarnath, poured in the sacred township to do menial jobs for those few months, in the hopes of sustaining the harsh winter months. This was when disaster struck and washed away hordes of people within the wink of an eye. The air back home resonated with the deafening cries of the orphaned sons and daughters.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

Soon, they were pushed into child labour, and many underage girls were forced into early marriages. Some even got trapped into trafficking rackets. Perhaps, the future of these kids had been bleak forever had there not been someone like Kalika Prasad Kala. A senior advocate based in Dehradun, Kala runs PDGRB Trust from his own savings which provided educational scholarships to 150 girls from low-income families, who were either orphaned or supported by a helpless mother. Presently, around 50 among them have passed the Board Examination with flying colours.

Kalika Prasad Kala
2018 batch of beneficiaries

His PIL battle with Uttarakhand High Court

After the floods, Kalika Prasad Kala found his native village in shambles, with hardly 300 people left. At that time, his wife was the Child Welfare General Secretary with the local administration. She was assigned to conduct a survey on the number of orphaned children and the children who lost their fathers, who were the sole breadwinners of their families.

“Around 242 such children were identified in the survey. In 2015, I filed a PIL at the Uttarakhand High Court, demanding all these kids be admitted to Rajiv Gandhi Navodaya schools before they get pulled into child labour or forced into child marriage. Worse, they might even starve to death alone in the streets,” Kala reveals in a conversation with Efforts For Good.

For the next two years, Kala fought a prolonged legal battle. Even with ailing health, he frequented the court premises to ensure a better future for those helpless children. His efforts achieved full circle finally when in 2017 the Uttarakhand High Court selected 132 children from the list for admission in Navodaya schools and free education till 12th standard.

Kalika Prasad Kala

Educating helpless girls from his own savings

However, during those two years, as his faith in the system dwindled, Kala created something more amazing on his own. “I interacted with these children, their guardians and even gram pradhans, trying to understand the gravity of the situation. What I found was shocking,” he informs.

For most of the girls, education had become a luxury. Their guardians, who struggled to sustain their own children, found these orphaned or homeless girls as an extra burden. They were withdrawn from school and made to work as housemaids, till they were married off.

“Some NGOs were trying to help these kids, but their efforts were limited. The State Government was quite nonchalant. Even after repeated appeals, there was no assistance from the authority. I realised I had to do something myself,” Kala shares.

Collecting money from his own and his wife’s personal savings, Kalika Prasad Kala started the Parvati Devi Ganga Ram Bhat (PDGRB) Trust, named after his late parents. In the first year, the couple selected 18 young girls to avail the scholarship. As word spread, Kala’s relatives, friends and hundreds of well-wishers poured in their donations. Some even agreed to sponsor the education for a few girls themselves.

The number of beneficiaries increased over the years, standing at 63 in the present year. The girls are either orphaned, fatherless or hailing from impoverished families, with ailing parents who are unable to provide for their education. But all of them are incredibly meritorious, making everyone proud, with their remarkable scorecards.

Ensuring utmost transparency

Kala ensures a very transparent procedure of handing over the scholarship amount, to ensure no misuse by guardians or surviving parents. “We don’t want careless fathers using up their daughter’s scholarship money on alcohol. We don’t want guardians of orphaned girls to misuse it, depriving the girls. That’s why we arrange the entire transaction through their school principals. We hand over the cheques to the principals, who monitor the amount deposited in their students’ bank accounts. The money is released according to their needs for books, stationeries and school accessories,” he explains in detail.

Very recently, Kalika Prasad Kala started his second educational initiative – Manas Foundation which is aimed to finance school education for orphaned girls all over Uttarakhand.

“I am not doing this for myself. It is my social responsibility. In fact, it is the responsibility of every citizen to stand beside the underprivileged and the helpless. You know, if every rich family in Uttarakhand adopted one orphan, or atleast sponsored their education, there would have been no more crisis. But, sadly, that wouldn’t happen in reality. So I will try my best to secure their future as long as I can,” Kala signs off.

For helping more girls in Uttarakhand avail education, reach out to Adv Kalika Prasad Kala through his Facebook page or mail him at [email protected]

Let us know your thoughts on this story

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