At 12.30 pm every day, a long queue waits outside a tiny shop in one of the by-lanes behind Parel-based Tata Memorial Hospital for their turn to get free food. Each one lives on the footpath lining the cancer hospital and is a relative of some or the other patient admitted there. And their stay for months has emptied their pockets.
The tiny shop run by a trust, called ‘Jeevan Jyot’, serves lunch and dinner to around 600 people daily, along with free medicines for cancer treatment. The shop, manned by a dozen temporary volunteers, aims to help economically backward cancer patients and their families who have come from various parts of the country to seek treatment.
Among various unique methods Jeevan Jyot adopts, one is to invite local residents to donate old newspapers. “We get a lot of raddi and old clothes, which we sell to buy medicines. We also have a network of patients. Some people have extra medicines that they don’t require. We take the unexpired ones from them and pass it on to the hospital for poor patients,” said Diren Gada, who has been attached with Jeevan Jyot for four years now.
Harakhchand Savla (56), a hotelier in Nagpada, first launched this initiative 30 years ago by serving food to five people when he saw the families living on streets with just small suitcases and a thin mattresses to support them. “For 12 years, he spent from his own pockets. Word got around and people started helping,” Gada says.
Today, along with volunteers, the group circulates old toys to cancer patients and passes them on to other kids after it is returned. Recently, a picnic to theme park Essel World was organized for over 400 cancer-stricken children with funds donated by local Parel residents.
The shop has become a popular spot for extending help to cancer patients. Last week, blankets were distributed to families sleeping on pavements. “Sometimes, a donor would sponsor lunch and we could also get sweets to serve the people. Few patients in the hospital have also requested to be served food and a lunch box goes to them free of cost,” a volunteer said.
Devising new means for getting donations, the shop publishes names of donors (giving clothes or medicines or cash) in a local Jain tabloid. “People started reading the names and got inspired. That has helped us get more clothes and raddi in donation,” Gada says as a woman with a bag full of old newspapers enters the shop.