A story from the Indian Heartland with a lesson for us All.

by HelpAge India August 1, 2013 0 comments

8100 destitute elders from 557 Elder Self Help Groups HelpAge India had helped form came together and collected Five Lakh Forty Thousand (5.40 lakh) for the victims of Uttarakhand supporting HelpAge India’s Uttarakhand Relief & Rehabilitation initiative.

It isn’t very often one gets to hear a story that surprises yet inspires one at the same time. But straight from the Indian heartland comes such a story. In the far reaches of Supaul, Darbhanga and Madhubani districts in Bihar, a group of elders went around holding in their hand a rickety little tin box, whose uneven clatter was a call for urgent help. A call for support for the victims of the Uttarakhand disaster.

These groups of elders from 38 villages of these 3 districts and extremely modest backgrounds accomplished a feat few would have expected of even the most well heeled individuals in urban India. A true example of humanity with a heart.

“Hum issey guzar chukey hain. 2008 main jab baar aaye thi aur hamara sab kuch beh gaya tha, ghar-bar, khaaney tak ki liye kuch nahi tha, tab logo ne hamari maddad ki thi. Hum isliye jaantey hain kis daur se Utarakhand ke log guzar rahey hain aur apna karz chukana chahtey hain, unki maddad kerna chahtey hain”. (“We have been through this. In 2008 the floods destroyed everything, our houses, our livelihood; we didn’t even have food to eat. People then came forward and helped us. That’s why we know what the people of Uttarakhand are going through, and we want to repay that debt, we want to help them),” says Siyaram Das, 62 year and member of Elder Self Help Group in Madhubani District.

The average income of a working elder in rural Bihar is barely Rs.30 – 40 per day. These Elder Self Help Group members were mostly farmers, who had lost their all during the 2008 Bihar Floods and in fact were recipients of HelpAge relief themselves.

It is truly astounding, that a small group of elders situated far away from the state where the disaster took place, went all out to help those much in need. In a marathon effort in a space of barely two weeks, they collected such a huge amount from their villages. I am truly humbled by this experience.” – Rajeshwar Devarakonda, Head of Social Protection & Emergencies, HelpAge India.

Maybe it was the very ‘disaster’ that brought them together in this time of need for they had been there and experienced it first hand. As they say this is ‘Karz chukana’ for them, a debt they want to pay back to society, which helped them when they were in dire need post the Bihar Floods.

They left no stone unturned, the rickety looking tin box was a magic piggy box for donations. The elders walked from street to street deep into the villages collecting money ranging from Rs.1 to Rs.150. Some even donated Dhotis and Saris.

Uttarakhand is becoming an already forgotten story in people’s mind, I hope this inspires people to come forward and support our relief work, for winter is already setting in and the people of the state are in grave need of Winter relief” says Manjira Khurana, Country Head, Advocacy & Communications, HelpAge India.

On August 18, the formal cheque will be handed over to HelpAge in Bihar.

While we sit comfortably in our drawing rooms sipping our tea, worrying about inflation and rising prices, a small group of elders braved their daily wages to help those who were in desperate need. Surely there is a lesson for all of us in this story!

For more info contact:
Sonali Sharma: 9810676562