In the last four months of the ongoing coronavirus crisis, Kerala has witnessed several ingenious and heartfelt ways of people donating and raising money for the chief minister’s disaster relief fund.
In Kollam, a 60-year-old woman sold off her goats, a precious means of livelihood, to make a contribution. In Ernakulam, a kid, who had pooled in his pocket money to buy accessories for his cycle, chose to donate the money. In Kasaragod, a six-member Covid-affected family, overwhelmed by the care and treatment they received at the hospital, sent a cheque of Rs 1 lakh to the CM fund upon discharge.
Now in the state’s Idukki district, a bunch of young volunteers are assembling and selling LED bulbs, the proceeds of which will entirely go towards the CM’s relief fund. The novel idea was mooted by officials of the Kerala State Youth Welfare Board (KSYWB) as a means of simultaneously raising funds as well as imparting a long-term skill-building exercise for youngsters.
The organisation procured raw-materials from Madhya Pradesh for the bulb-making unit and imparted training to a group of volunteers who expressed interest in the work. In the last five days, around 10 volunteers in Thodupuzha town have finished making nearly 600 9W-bulbs as part of the first phase of the project. Expenses for their food and travel are taken care of.
VS Bindu, district programme officer of the KSYWB, said, “In the wake of the 2018 floods, we had raised an army of volunteers known as the Kerala Voluntary Youth Action Force (KVYAF) mainly to provide support and relief during emergency situations. Around 1600 volunteers at the state-level were selected and given extensive training in disaster management, first aid, motivation and martial arts like karate. Over the last three months, many of these volunteers have been working day and night in cleaning activities, community kitchens, supplying essential medicines and at Covid care centres.”
“We drew some of these volunteers into the LED bulb-making unit because the training could help them earn a livelihood in the long-run. Right now, we are selling the bulbs to raise money for Covid-relief, but in future we plan to set up a production unit with their involvement,” she added.
Public policy experts have recognised that the historically-strong bonds within communities at the grassroot level in Kerala have been a prime contributing factor in the state’s progress especially in social, educational and health spheres. Such communities exist in the form of art or sports clubs, youth outfits of political parties, self-help groups like Kudumbashree or individual volunteers joining hands during a crisis like the KVYAF. During extreme circumstances like the 2018 floods, these groups have worked wonders in providing immediate relief on the ground, helping to plug gaps of government outreach.
In Thodupuzha, 21-year-old Jithu, who finished a three-year degree course in English literature this year, is among those volunteering to make the bulbs.
“We had a half-day training class on how to make the bulbs. Since I have some experience and interest in electrical work, it was easy for me. It’s very rewarding,” he said.
The project is in pilot mode in Idukki district and if proved successful will be replicated in other districts. Idukki has a target of selling 5000 bulbs. At a cost that will hover around Rs 100 per bulb in the open market, the young volunteers hope to raise around Rs 5 lakhs for the CM relief fund.
“This way, instead of going to a house and asking a person to donate Rs 100, he/she can just buy a bulb and thereby make a donation indirectly,” said Bindu.