-As told to Pragya Mukherjee
While the rest of the city parties on New Years Eve, a handful of
dedicated people spend the night going around the city, giving
blankets to the homeless sleeping on cold sidewalks. These knights of
the destitute are volunteers with a charity organization called Goonj.
Sujata Chatterji, one such volunteer, talks about her experiences with
these New Year’s Eve blanket distribution drives.
DU Beat: What is Goonj?
Sujata: It is an India based Charity Organization which concerns
itself with many issues. One of our many ventures is the collection of
old clothes, woolens and blankets which we then proceed to distribute
to the needy.
DU Beat: So what are these ‘blanket distribution drives’?
Sujata: Goonj volunteers organize ‘Rahat Winter’ projects that involve
distributing blankets and woolens among the poor during the chilly
winter months. On New Years Eve we make an event of it by going around
all night, covering people sleeping on sidewalks with blankets, or by
giving out woolens and blankets at Night Shelters and hospitals.
DU Beat: How did this project start?
Sujata: The New Years Eve distribution has been occurring every year,
for many years now. It was initiated and carried out by Anshu Gupta,
the founder of Goonj. Anshu, his family and a few other volunteers are
regulars who do this every New Year’s Eve.
DU Beat: How do you go about the distribution?
Sujata: The whole project is very well organized. The volunteers set
out around 10:00 pm in cars. Apart from blanketing the homeless
sleeping on pavements and sidewalks, we also distribute in Night
Shelters and in the waiting rooms of Government hospitals where poor
patients or their relatives have pass the night in the bitter cold.
Last year, when we went to the Safdarjung hospital, we found people
sitting huddled up on bits of newspapers or cardboard in the
corridors. They were extremely grateful for the warm clothing we had
brought. It gives us a real sense of fulfillment when our small
gestures are well received.
DU Beat: Would you urge the readers to take up this cause?
Sujata: I would love it if more people came forward to do something
for any good cause. When you actually go out there yourself, bundled
in jackets and sweaters, and see these people sleeping on the cold
ground with only rags to cover themselves, do you truly realize how
privileged you are. When I would come home around three in the morning
and take a hot bath or sink into my warm bed, I realized how thankful
I should be for these great comforts. Experiences of these sorts make
you stop taking life for granted. All your problems appear
insignificant when faced with the suffering and hardships that these
DU Beat: Lately people are becoming involved in NGOs and charity
works. How is this any different?
Sujata: Charity work seems to have become a fad lately. Everyone is
into it. While any work for a good cause is commendable, if it’s done
without any real belief or interest it becomes meaningless. People
should be aware of the suffering in our country and should want to do
something to help. Donations are good, but donating time and effort is
even more rewarding. It’s very easy to find small things to do to help
others, and such work can easily be integrated into our lives. I am an
ordinary person of moderate means myself, but I still try to find time
for small services and gestures, which in turn only serve to make my
life more meaningful.
DU Beat: Any message for the readers?
Sujata: As one of my friends often says while helping us with our
work: Lets Goonj it!
If you wish to find out more about Goonj or how to donate for its
cause, please visit www.goonj.info
To volunteer for the New Years Eve blanket/warm clothing distribution
project, contact 26972351