Transforming Perspectives at the Brink
While Covid 19 has truly overturned the world order, it has also provided humanity a unique opportunity to pause, reflect and re calibrate. For me, a volunteering opportunity to deliver food to slums in Bangalore, provided many insights I would not have ordinarily imagined.
As the lockdown was announced, a pair of 25 year olds, got together to donate free meals to nearby slum dwellers / daily wage earners. In less than a week the project scaled up to over 3000 lunch packs daily from a mere 500. This crisis management team transformed a high end kitchen, to a bustling high performance high energy food factory that’s feeding thousands of people.
Moving from the paranoia of getting infected to voluntarily diving into the depths of the local slums in order to provide the dwellers what they need in an orderly manner, here are some insights I gathered.
First, rather than money, initiative and enthusiasm rise to be the key ingredients for managing a humanitarian crisis. At break-neck speed, a group of like-minded enthusiasts were able to delve into their personal networks to set up a meticulous system of food delivery that is literally saving lives. Personal involvement, effort and compassion are the secret to facilitating resources. Money alone is not the catalyst to making a difference or creating a momentum of this kind.
Secondly, a complex yet strong logistical network that involves people from all walks of life to come together with the singleminded purpose to serve the needy – is imperative. Privileged executives, business tycoons, real estate moguls band together to walk-their-talk, overcoming every obstacle in precarious lockdown conditions. No one is bothered by identity, position, cast or creed. Teamwork makes anything and everything possible.
The truly deprived are humane, open and trusting. While they live on the edge and flounder for their meals, these people are friendly, grateful, resilient and very helpful to one another. They will share and facilitate their resources and express genuine concern that everyone gets their fair share.
Furthermore, the crisis management skills that one experiences real-time in situations such as these are incredible. It is amazing how much one can learn and get done- from sourcing, transporting and storing raw material to cooking, packing, delivering, and combating lockdown restrictions.
With no surprise, technology once again rises as a critical enabler to scale up operations. This complex data driven operation was made efficient by the use of technology like IVR and a customized software.
Finally, the emotional rewards of moving beyond our comfort zones, are unparalleled. One twinkling smile, two little extended hands claiming a simple meal joyfully, an old woman’s hands raised in gratitude can shift perspectives about life as we know it.10