While travelling in Ludhiana on a dreary day, DRR Nitika Pahwa, D 3070, was caught off-guard by a group of children begging on the streets. They immediately started to badger her for money or whatever she could part with. “I told them that I am ready to give them fruits and not money. And I was moved by the way they ate the fruits given to them,” recalls Nitika. This incident planted the idea in her head of doing something to address the hunger of street children, who are forced to beg for their food.
She shared this incident with other Rotaractors and the new year was ushered in with a project against hunger, named Annapurna. The aim was to feed the street children in and around Ludhiana by identifying localities where they are found in large numbers. The RAC Government College for Girls took up this initiative and all its 50 members joined it — either individually or in groups — with the goal of making the city hunger-free. “We found out that most people who beg want to work to make a living, but can’t find jobs. Some of them have children who also beg for food which is really sad. They accost us, seeking alms, telling us that they have not eaten for days,” she adds.
The Rotaractors either provide food from their homes or buy it from local restaurants or dhabas to give these people, who are mostly women and children. Taking a cue from the club, the Rotary clubs of Ludhiana North and Palanpur have taken up the distribution of food packets to the needy. “In all, nearly 300 Rotaractors in our district are involved in this project on a daily basis. Money is collected by groups or sourced from the parent Rotary club for buying food from hotels. We strictly provide food and not money to these people,” explains Nitika.
Till the first week of February, the Rotaractors had reached out to 150 hungry people in the city and “the plan is to tie up with three gurudwaras which will prepare food in their langars (community kitchens) and give them to Rotaractors at a concessional rate,” says Himanshi Joshi, President, RAC Government College for Girls.
The food prepared at the langars will be taken and distributed to the slums and areas where it is most needed, she says. The saddest part is that the beneficiaries with their untidy look, disheveled hair and torn clothes are living on the fringes of society as nobody is there to help them or provide them with a decent livelihood, she adds.