With 12,350 Robins, This Army Of Robin Hood Took Us To Roads To Feed Hungry
- IWB Post
- February 22, 2019
Remember Robin Hood and his rule of taking from the rich and distributing it to the poor? While the world may lay amidst disputes on whether he was a villain or not, one can safely say that he was blessed with the heartfelt wishes of those he helped. With this noble outlaw’s mantra at heart, one unique army in Delhi strives to erase every trace of hunger.
Though unlike Robin Hood, this army strictly prohibits its ‘Robins’ from any monetary collections. So what is this army of over 12,000 Robins up to?
People like us, who are lucky enough to have food on our plates four times a day, fail to recognize its importance. While we are out wasting the precious commodity, 800 million hungry people spend their nights in hopes of sleep as a brief respite. And the Robin Hood Army seeks to eliminate both hunger and food wastage.
Disturbed by the increase in the number of people in need of the very food so carelessly wasted, Neel Ghose, 28, inspired by an organisation in Portugal called ‘Refood,’ laid down the foundation of the Robin Hood Army, in Delhi, in August 2014, together with Anand Sinha and was later joined by Aarushi Batra as co-founder.
“Neel figured that if something like this is present in Portugal, then it should surely be there in India, where millions spend days combating their hunger,” Aarushi, 27, said.
On their very first drive this army, comprised of six people and dressed in green, served about 150 people; and in three years, it now consists of 12,350 volunteers who have served to over 34,36,531 people. The RHA is made up working professionals who devote their off days to bringing a smile on faces.
“Neel is now off to Harvard Business School to complete his MBA. Anand is working with Freecharge, and I am handling my family business of manufacturing automobile components. And all of us have vowed to spend our free time devoted to our cause.”
Spread over 40 cities in the Indian sub-continent itself, the RHA has its sister branches in countries like Singapore, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Pakistan, and all work on the same system – get in touch with restaurants and wedding caterers in an area who are ready to donate and collect the same at the end of the day.
“We figured it would be nice to be the middleman between surplus food from restaurants and the hungry people,” she added. “We make one thing very clear- the food they are donating should be of the quality that both they and I can consume, and they shouldn’t give anything that has gone bad just because it will go to slums and the hungry people. We taste the food to check it for ourselves. They are asked to preserve the food with care, following which our volunteers collect it and make that it is consumed within the time limit it is still fresh.”
Going to shelter homes, slums, homeless people, they strive to end the presence of hunger wherever they can find it.
“I remember the very first drive I went on. It was my birthday and has been the best one so far. There were these kids who kept thanking me for coming and giving them food. It was so gratifying! We also visited the patients in AIMS and realized how trivial our problems are compared to theirs,” she said.
The volunteers work on a system which divides a city into multiple chapters with its respective chapter heads. Based on the mantra of ‘no monetary collections” they travel from one place to another on their own expenses. On one such drive, Aarushi encountered a rather heart-wrenching situation.
“I met this very old lady on a flyover, who had been kicked out of her house by her own kids. I started talking to her and to my surprise, I came to know that she was a matron at the Lady Hardinge College and could speak fluent English. I was stumped! She asked me a question that left me speechless, “What would YOU do, if you were out on the streets? How would you survive?” she said. “And that profound sadness can be felt in every homeless person out there- so fragile but also living on with this unbelievable strength inside them.”
While fighting the issue of hunger, the RHA has taken up other initiatives as well. They have started the RHA Academy where they are providing the slum kids basic education. They have campaigns all the year round, like the blanket drive around Diwali, donating clothes, bags, toiletries, etc. From meeting kids with HIV Aids, making toilets out of waste paper material in Jodhpur to helping acid attack victims and visiting old-age homes.
There are no dull days when it comes to the variety of food items the Robins distribute. Ranging from khichdi, pao bhaji, rajma chawal, daal chawal, to pizzas, patties, muffins, etc. “If I could cook well,” she shared as we both start to laugh, sensing the common bond we share via our non-existent cooking skills. “I would make Rajma Chawal for them because that’s the one in high demand!”
Kindness is born in a heart by itself, but it does help when one lives amidst it. Hailing from a family who supports her wholeheartedly, her mother feeds the hungry on birthdays and festivals rather than throwing lavish parties. Well, she seems to be born to a family of Robins but how can others be more like her?
“Everyone can be a Robin without joining a particular organization. Just remember to utilize your food in a manner that it helps someone, like instead of giving money to beggars why not give them fresh homemade food. Pack up any extra food and go around your society. Give it to anyone who needs it. All we have to do is to be a teensy bit mindful,” Aarushi said.
Armed with the superpower of kindness, Aarushi would love to possess other abilities as well. “Actually it is a tie between flying and healing people. I would be able to reach people in need in a jiffy! Also, with my power to heal people, I would cure them of their emotional and physical wounds.”
While feeding the hungry may present itself as one solution to the growing concern of food wastage, the Robin Hood Army strives to alter the mentality of every individual.
“Every single one of our over 12,000 Robins is very cautious of wasting even a grain. This is the sort of thinking we want every individual to possess. We want to make sure that no one sleeps hungry, that everyone has a skill-set to support themselves. Everyone has a right to having their basic needs being fulfilled!”
Want to join this gallantry army of Robins? Click here to aid in their mission to wipe hunger off the face of the Earth.
First published on Nov 25, 2017.