While a pair of sandals changed the fortunes for Cinderella, there are millions of children in India who walk bare foot, unmindful of the grime, hard earth and the dangerous garbage it is scattered with. While for all of us, footwear is a necessity that we even wear them inside our homes and stock several shades of them to match our clothes, it is a big luxury for the lesser privileged.
The Rotaractors of District 3232 decided to address this glaring lacuna by providing quality footwear to poor, deprived children. Happy Feet, a year-long project, was initiated by five Rotaract clubs from the district.
It all began as a small project in 2016 with PMR Engineering College taking it up on a pilot basis with modest reach out programmes to deliver footwear in nearby villages. “From early 2017, our Community Service Team is coordinating the project with the host Rotaract Club of Saveetha Medical College, along with four other clubs, spreading out to slum colonies and shanties to present footwear to needy children,” says DRR C Dhanakodi.
Besides donating sandals, we speak to parents on adopting good hygiene and sanitation habits which are key for a healthy life.
The second edition of Happy Feet began in June, and the Rotaractors want to continue it throughout the year. “The scale of operation has expanded from this year as we cover not only urban slums, but also villages around our college. There are nearly 100 villages around Saveetha College and we target the anganwadi and balwadi centres where there are children below five years too,” explains Dr Prashant Rajendran, past president of the club.
Before kicking off the project, the Rotaractors made a presentation to their parent club RC Guindy which pooled in the necessary funds. “Fifty Rotaractors have formed a team to visit slums and villages. Besides donating sandals, we speak to parents on adopting good hygiene and sanitation habits which are key for a healthy livelihood,” says Rajendran who is studying II-year PG in Community Medicine.
On occasions like Children’s Day, the Rotaractors fan out to rural neighbourhoods and give motivational speeches for children and their parents. “So far, we have covered 1,000 children across the city including busy places like Parrys Corner, Central Railway Station and urban slums, besides government schools and villages near Thandalam, a suburb, where our college is situated,” he says.
While Marilyn Munroe said, “Give a girl the right shoes and she’ll conquer the world,” this is one small effort from the Rotaractors to help them in their path to success.
The district has plans to further expand the reach of Happy Feet project. All the five clubs would have delivered sandals to nearly 5,000 children by the end of this Rotary year, says Dhanakodi.
In December, through a Group Rotaract Meet (GRM), the district plans to raise funds for the Happy Feet project. “We are expecting a turnout of 2,500 Rotaractors at the GRM and we have fixed a registration fee of `100 per head,” he says.