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The Robin Hood Army

August 30, 2017
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The Robin Hood Army is a volunteer based organisation that works to get surplus food from restaurants to the less fortunate sections of society in the cities across India, and 11 other countries. The organisation consists of over 12,350 volunteers spread across 48 cities, and has served food to over 3,436,531 people so far. The volunteers are largely young working professionals from varied fields. The lesser fortunate sections who the organisation reaches out to include homeless families, orphanages, night shelters, homes for abandoned children, patients from public hospitals, etc. We spoke to Sarim Khan, a third-year student of the Chemical Department, who has been managing this initiative in Roorkee, to understand how the whole system works.

How did the initiative get initialized in the institute?

I have been a volunteer of RHA in Greater Noida since my junior college, and whenever I am back at home on a holiday, I initiate a drive on my own with several other people. In other cities, RHA pilots tie-ups with certain restaurants to provide the food for the drives. In addition, you have a lot of families of your society who love to cook for the underprivileged children. One day, it occurred to me that we could initiate a similar chapter in Roorkee, wherein we would also take the excess food from our messes. I discussed this idea with Tanmay Bichu, my classmate, on the last bench of our classroom during one of our boring lectures. We both devised the team structure and thought our operations out. Really soon, we began our hunt to gather a team and a volunteer base. We conducted our first drive in Jalalpur on 9th August, with the surplus food from one of our messes. We fed over 70 people on our first drive. Then soon after that, we conducted a drive on the occasion of Independence Day with the surplus breakfast from the same mess. Since then we have conducted over 10 drives in a span of just 20 days with help of a volunteer base of 40, feeding over 1200 needy citizens of Roorkee.

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Which group of people does this initiative seek to help?

Mainly children. There’s a lot of temporary labour working on our campus near LHC and KB, and their families (especially children) live in slums in Jalalpur (2 km from KB gate). More than 100 families live there with over 200 children. Most of the children there don’t go to school, and only get to eat once in a day. In fact, breakfast was totally a new concept to them when we went there for our Independence Day drive!

On the ground level, what are the logistics involved in carrying out this operation?

We majorly operate on Saturdays and Sundays, but we have also have had drives on regular weekdays. So far we have been taking excess food from our messes, who prepare a tad bit of extra food keeping in mind the variable influx of students eating there. No doubt, sometimes we have to return empty handed from the messes as well when they had no excess food for the day, but we choose to see the bright side to it, which is no food wastage in that particular mess for the day. We transport the food in rectangular containers of our messes in an e-rickshaws taking utmost care of the quality of the food. What’s heartening is that the drivers of the e-rickshaws are very kind as well, offering to carry for free, but we always make sure to give them a fair fare for their services.

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Which places have received the benefits of this initiative so far?

Just before our first drive, Tanmay and I roamed in the outskirts of Roorkee to locate slums. We talked with the elders of the slums about the food availability there. So far we have expanded to 3 locations namely Jalalpur, Bhangedi and the slums near the Army Cantonment Area.

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What was the response elicited by the student fraternity of the institute towards this initiative?

A major chunk of the volunteer base belongs to RKB. Also, there is an active participation from members of the Rajiv, Jawahar, Kasturba and Ravindra. We have already had 2 drives from KB Mess as well. Some of the volunteers even volunteered on their birthday, dedicating their special day to community service. Our members from Jawahar also donated 40 brand new t-shirts that they had designed!

What are your plans regarding the increase in the scale and the reach of the group?

As is the case in other cities, we are piloting tie-ups with the restaurants of Roorkee to give us their excess food. We have also made a WhatsApp group of all the generous housewives in and around the campus who volunteer to prepare food for the needy on a rotational basis. We are also working on expanding our volunteer base by encouraging the professors to participate as well. Also, we don’t want to limit ourselves just to our campus, and hence, we are also working on involving the citizens of Roorkee outside of the institute. We have also talked to the families of army personnel regarding the same.

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What is your vision for this initiative?

Wiping out hunger from the face of Roorkee! I know it sounds far-fetched but we are trying to do just the same by covering all the slums in the vicinity of Roorkee, and trying to make sure that no citizen has to sleep hungry even if it’s only for two days in a week. We are working extensively on making this sustainable and we would really appreciate any help that we could get from IIT Roorkee junta. Along with this whole chain of food distribution, I have realised that a lot of people are willing to help us, so we just have to take a step ahead to latch onto all the help that we are getting from everyone.

The Robin Hood Army’s Roorkee Chapter has an ambitious goal, to make sure that no person in the vicinity of our campus sleeps hungry. You can help them achieve this target by volunteering with them or helping them out in anyway you can. Please reach out to Sarim Khan (9990553180) to be a part of this initiative.