Sending a Box

One summer we spent a few days at a resort in a forest area here in Maharashtra.

This was a holiday resort run by the state government and there were no ‘tourist spots’ to visit nearby, so not many people were staying there. There was a lake right in front of our cottage and our children, who were quite young then, were happy to play by the lake all day long.

There were just a couple of villages nearby, and a few Padas where tribal families lived. We noticed that there was a clinic run by an NGO near the resort where we were staying. One evening we went up to the clinic. The doctor there was an elderly gentleman and very friendly. He told us that he had retired a few years earlier from his job at the hospital where he had worked for many years. He had always wanted to do some social work, and had volunteered to come and run this clinic in a tribal area.

There were a couple of nurses (also volunteers) to help him and a caretaker who kept the clinic clean and did any necessary odd jobs.

On market day, once a week, there was always a huge rush at the clinic, he told us. The tribals would bring whatever they could gather in the forest – usually wood or fruits or honey – to sell at the market. Later on in the afternoon, any of them needing medical attention would come by the clinic. The doctor would listen to them, examine them, and give them the appropriate medicines. If the ailment persisted, then the patient would visit again a few days later.

There was a room with a couple of beds in the clinic. Patients could rest there for a few hours if needed, after any minor procedure. If a patient needed hospitalization or consultations with specialists, the doctor contacted other volunteers of the NGO and they would make arrangements for the same.

The clinic was free, but the grateful patients would often bring a bottle of honey or some fruit for the doctor.

There were not many patients at the clinic that day, so we stayed for a while chatting with the doctor. We were impressed with the work that they were doing at the clinic and asked if we could help.

Earlier that evening, I had mentioned the Sanskarvarga that a few friends and I conducted in an underprivileged area in Mumbai. I have written about it in this post on my earlier blog. So the doctor suggested a way that my friends and I could help.

Accordingly, after returning to Mumbai, I told my friends about our visit to the clinic. And we decided to help.

Following the doctor’s suggestion, I asked our family doctor if he could give us some medicines out of the samples that medical companies gave them. He readily agreed, telling me that many of them go unused anyway. He brought out a carton full of medicines, and told me to take whatever I wanted. The doctor at the clinic had told me that common tablets like crocin, etc, vitamin pills/ drops, ointments for skin diseases, antiseptics, etc. would be useful. So I selected these, taking care to see that the expiry dates were at least a year away.

My friends did the same, one friend even bought wads of cotton wool, gauze and bandages and added those, too. We were able to pack a large box with medical supplies, and send it to the clinic in the tribal area. A few days later we received a letter from the doctor thanking us, and saying that the supplies we had sent would be very useful.

I have a suspicion that the doctor suggested collecting medicines, not only because it would be helpful for the clinic, but also to make us realize that there were various ways that we could do something for others in our society.

And we were glad he did, for sending that box packed with the medicines that we had collected, gave us a kind of satisfaction merely donating money would not have.

Nowadays, technology has made great advances. Everything is done with a click of the mouse. People are frequently generous and online donation of money has become easy if one wishes to give to any charity.

There are online groups for causes which have thousands of ‘followers’. Online activism has a standard Mantra, nowadays- “Tweet About It”.

Not that I’m underestimating the power of the internet, or of technology in general. These are wonderful and effective tools if used in the right way.

I’m just suggesting that sometimes it’s good to leave our laptops and go out into the real world.

It’s good to have a cause touch our hearts as well as our intellects.

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26 thoughts on “Sending a Box”

  1. “It’s good to have a cause touch our hearts as well as our intellects.” That is very well said. Indeed the ease, comfort and speed of online donation and charity has taken the heart out of it. You do it because you think you should, not because you are touched or you feel. It is mechanical.

    To see the pain and the smile, to touch and be touched by those by whom we are moved and want to help is an experience that we all can do with.

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  2. Now, micro-financing is used by many i.e. pay 5 to 10 dollars for some charity organization online. I agree with you that online payment is not through the heart. We don’t even see the smile on the face of the person who receives/uses it, which will trigger us to help more, physically too.

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    1. Sandhya, online donating does help people to give easily. And that does enable charities/ causes to get more funds, so that’s a positive aspect of this.

      But it is so much better for the person donating and for society in general, if people take the trouble to go out and see reality for themselves, too.

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  3. You know, this post brought back some memories. My late father was a huge supporter of rural projects concerning education, health and upliftment of women. He always made it a point of visiting and keeping in touch with the various enitities he helped monetarily and in kind, and they too appreciated his visits and looked forward to them. Just giving a cheque was never OK with him. (I found out , how much, after he was no more and I got great and wonderful letters from these organizations).

    Today, a lot of organizations do door to door visits for collecting donations and the folks always emphasize how you can get an income tax deduction under whatever clause etc.

    Thats a telling commentary on our attitudes today towards helpng those in need. And those NGO’s who can afford door to door campaigns, exploit it fully.

    I am so glad you wrote this post.

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    1. Suranga, yes, our attitudes have changed today. In earlier days, people supported social projects quietly and because they felt it was their duty to help those less fortunate.

      I am sure that the organisations your father helped must have appreciated the personal interest he took in their work.

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  4. This is perhaps just what the doctor ordered. As i go on a weekly trip to Madurai and down South, perhaps to some villages. Perhaps to some simple people, who look at aircrafts flying above and wondering how it is in another world….

    I am taking with me a message..that the flight lands on empty plains with tall buildings. Tall people and empty hearts. The last time something like this happened, a tribal elder asked me if everybody was like this. I told him there are exceptions.

    You are one !

    Great post. As usual !

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  5. I totally agree with you that the help should be minimum in terms of money and maximum in terms of efforts.

    A postive approach towards life can not only brings happiness in our lives but also in the lives of other persons.

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  6. That was an inspiring post..

    there is nothing more rewarding than giving from the heart but most of us hold it back…

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  7. Very true. Friends of ours run a home for street children. We do make those ‘online contributions’, but prefer giving to this place. Maybe not a well-known NGO, but it gives us greater satisfaction when we do go to this place and see the good work they have done. It is not that they ( those who run this place) have all the time in the world. All those who have started this are successful chartered accountants, doctors, engineers and others, who devote sometime off a week to this project. Kudos to you. You are always doing something for the benefit of the needy.

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  8. Wonderful post and I really loved this… Money really helps… There is no doubt on that but the personal touch we give to that makes it really worthy…

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  9. You’re right about making the difference to society by contributing in a helpful way rather than just handing out cash. Besides being greatly pleasurable, one also puts to use resources which would otherwise have been rendered date-barred. There are several such things like books, toys, bicycles, clothes and such articles which can be given away to the needy. I do hope that we all learn to part with our belongings and make our small mark in this world. Thanks for this inspiring post!

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  10. Hello Manju,

    I have read that “Hands that serve are holier than lips that pray”. Well bless you and your friends for this effort.

    Donations are also important as money is always helpful in continuing good work. It is important that more people should share a small part of their incomes every year for good causes.

    However, the satisfaction got from doing something yourself is unparalleled. Very noble effort and we hope you continue doing this. Maybe add on some of us bloggers in Mumbai……………………Cheers

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  11. this is so true…you can easily donate money….what I am concerned about is how my money is used! Isn’t it nice to be able to see the results of your efforts? Whether it is money, or time or resources that you can donate, its always satisfying to know that what you contributed actually did make a difference!

    Great post as usual!

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