For as low as INR 100 you can sponsor a meal hamper for a street child.
We stare out of our car windows and wonder what we can do to help the street children. Some of us think of a day when we will have the time and resources to help them.
Gift A Meal is a fantastic initiative where you can be part of a genuine movement and make a difference in the lives of these children. For as low as INR 100 you can sponsor a wholesome and nutritious meal hamper for a street child.
What’s more, you can even participate in the distribution and play Santa with Faraz Ansari and his team of angels.
It was indeed an emotional moment when I saw Faraz’s eyes well up with tears when he spoke about this initiative. Read on to know more about a movement that is lighting up the lives of several street kids in Mumbai.
What is Gift a Meal about?
Gift A Meal is about making a child feel special and loved. A child who doesn’t have privileges like any other child. Like the little girl who lives on the streets of Marine Drive, right behind Mantralaya said happily, “It’s our birthday party every month!”
That’s what Gift A Meal is about! It is about spreading joy, in the tiniest way.
Why did you think of this cause?
In December 2015, my Facebook timeline was flooded with people playing secret Santa by sending one book and getting 36 books in return.
It made me sit back and wonder, what is wrong with all of us? We are surrounded by fellow citizens who barely manage one square meal. And here we are, unaware of the realities and burying our heads in the sand. That is when Gift A Meal was born.
I put up a status on Facebook. This time, you don’t get a book or 36 books in return, but you get an opportunity to put a smile on the faces of the babies who live on the streets of our beloved city. By merely contributing just INR 100 per meal, one can bring a smile to a child’s face. The money goes towards a meal hamper that contains nutritious food and goodies, is cheaper than a fancy, expensive latte.
Can you describe some of the challenges that you faced while setting up this initiative?
Gift A Meal is a monthly affair at present. I face a challenge every month when it is time to raise contributions. Despite requesting people to donate meals and constant reminders, raising contributions is still a mighty task. However, I have noticed that whenever there is an article about it in the media, people immediately think of this as a legitimate cause and want to contribute. Once a Delhi-based MNC wanted to set up a kiosk in their office but they backed out because we don’t have a website!
You could have funded Gift A Meal yourself or ask a funding agency to support you. Why did you decide to make it a crowd funding initiative?
I am well aware of many people who want to help out the children who live on the streets of Mumbai but somehow, don’t have the time to or don’t know how to go about it. I wanted to be a medium for all those people. I know many of them who don’t donate to NGOs because the NGOs have costs to run the outfit. However, with Gift A Meal, there is no NGO so there are no costs of running it, paying rent or other bills, etc. Whatever contribution comes in, goes to the babies in the form of nutritious food. Also, having the people involved brings some of them out of their homes and interact with the children. It wouldn’t have been the same if there was a funding agency involved. Gift A Meal is for by the people, of the people and that is what makes it so special.
Hunger and poverty will not reduce by your initiative. Then why do you still believe that it will make a difference?
Gift A Meal, by no ways and means, is about ending hunger or putting an end to poverty. Yes, we do feed the babies and other people who stop by and ask us for a meal. However, the whole idea for Gift A Meal is spreading happiness. I believe that it is slowly pushing the idea of inclusion, acceptance by giving some love and attention to the babies who live on the edges of our society.
It is about spreading some happiness. Given the world that we live in, happiness and love are the need of the hour, and, while we are at that, we also end up feeding a few hungry stomachs. Gift A Meal is thus about sensitizing and bringing in a sense of awareness in the hearts of people.
What does your family think about this cause? How do they support you?
I have been blessed with a wonderfully supportive family. In fact, when I started Gift A Meal, the first contributions came in from my dad, my mom, my cousins and my house-helps. In fact, all the meals are cooked at home. Thankfully, we have a wonderful chef and three amazing house helps who, along with me and my mom, take care of all the cooking and packing. Once the food is ready, my cousins come over to help us pack the boxes. So three days before the Gift A Meal day, my home is flooded with groceries and massive pots of food!
- What are the changes in your personality that you have noticed after you took up this cause?
I’ve been working with children from the start of my career as a director. First, it was directing them for musicals and after that, for films. So my bond with the babies has always been wonderful. In fact, I feel happiest when I am with them. It is therapeutic.
With Gift A Meal, I now have a new name – ‘Gift A Meal Bhaiya!’ ‘Faraz Santa’ and what not! But I am not complaining. Also, I have more than 800 friends between Colaba to Bandra now. So every time, I am passing by, they will run and come to me and tell me ‘God Bless You!’ ‘Faraz Santa, next time bring more lollipops!’, etc. That is the biggest change – I have more than 800 babies across the city and I have unknowingly become a half-parent to them. And that is a lot of responsibility.
- According to you, why is Gift A Meal so important for the well-being of the society?
Look around you. Humanity is killing itself with its own hand. We are creating our own end. Gift A Meal is that tiny ray of light that brings in a fleeting sense of love, happiness and joy which is the dire need of the hour. Yes, it doesn’t solve any larger evils of poverty or hunger or any other demons, but however, it will, with time, bring in inclusion and a sense of strong love and belonging that will make us love more.
- How long do you plan to continue with this initiative?
Gift A Meal will go on as long as I am breathing! From once a month, we will head to once a week and then hopefully, once a day.
- Recently, you conducted an allied initiative where you gifted rainwear to the street kids – tell us something about it.
The monsoon special of Gift A Meal was where we gave lots of umbrellas, raincoats, clothes to the babies. Some of these babies walk to school. Mumbai rains can be quite the task to function, so I decided to give raingear so that they don’t get wet and fall ill. The joy on their faces to have their own brand new umbrellas was something I will remember for a long, long time.
- Can you share an anecdote that took place during Gift a Meal, that touched your heart?
Oh, God! There are so many of those! While we were in the midst of our August edition of Gift A Meal, a little boy of about 10-12 years, comes to me, holds my hand and tells me that he wants to go to school. Later, I was told that he recently lost his mom to a disease. What broke my heart was that in the midst of such a tragedy, the boy was seeking to get himself educated. Now, obviously, I will make sure that he gets admitted into a school and look after him as long as I can.
- What has been the success ratio of Gift A Meal?
On an average, we give out 450-500 meals a month. August 2016 has been special; we gave out the maximum number of meals – 840
- What are your future plans with Gift A Meal?
In the next five years, I am planning to start a food truck (maybe more than one) that roams around the city, giving hot meals to whoever needs it. After which, I plan to set up a self-sustained model of inclusion – which educates the children, absorbs their parents into work of their choice and eventually, absorbs them all back into the system. Because that is all one needs – equal opportunities with their own choices.
- How can a donor ensure that the money is being spent correctly?
The best bet to know is, to COME ALONG WITH US! Yes, we will upload pictures and videos on Facebook; but come along, drive with us, feed the children. When you distribute the wonderful meal hampers yourself, you will know that the money has been spent correctly
.How can donors get in touch with you? Please share details of how they can pay for the meals as well.
We have a Facebook page – @GiftAMealIndia. The donor can message me there. Else then can drop me an email on email@example.com and I will give out the payment and distribution details.
- Can the donors accompany you as volunteers?
Absolutely! That is the plan, that we all do this together.
- Other than donations, what are the ways that the general public can get involved?
If someone has a big car, they can drive us around with the meals. If you don’t want to donate, you can spread the word about Gift A Meal on your social media platforms. You can get us contributions from people you know would like to contribute. Or you can always, come along and help us on the Gift A Meal day.
- Is there a calendar that you wish to share?
Follow the Gift A Meal page on Facebook – @GiftAMealIndia. It contains updates on our next drive. For now, it is October 21, 2016.
Gift A Meal received praise from several key members in the society, here are a few:
Film director & writer
Gift A Meal is such a thoughtful, sincere, and simple gesture by my young friend, Faraz and his gang – that it just immediately makes me hopeful. Faraz’s mother cooks, he and his friends spend a day distributing it straight into the hands of hungry little kids. Just wonderful. I hope it grows and grows.
Renowned theatre personality
This is a wonderful project started by Faraz. The donor contribution is used to give packets of little goodies to underprivileged children. An NGO who was the beneficiary said the little children were so delighted! Faraz personally went and bought fruit, nuts, etc. This sort of care and concern is shown by very few people. Please do give whatever you can to bring a smile on the little faces. Thank you.
National Award Winning Lyricist & Acclaimed Writer
Gift A Meal is the kind of humane gesture that makes this world a more beautiful & less brutal place. Some of us who are privileged enough to share our time or money or efforts to feed others, esp. kids, are really lucky. This should not just be a responsibility, but the most instinctive natural reaction. If you can share, then WHY NOT! Faraz, his band of friends, & everybody who contributes or even spreads the word around to help this initiative deserves a tight hug!
Writer & Media Strategist
Ever since I have known Faraz, I have observed that his heart beats for the under-privileged. When he came up with the Gift A Meal concept, it told me that he hasn’t changed at all. When I accompanied him for the meal distribution, I noticed that the quality of the food served was very good. His mom had not only cooked everything with love, but also ensured that there were enough food packets and goodies for each child. We all distributed the meals to the children of the rag pickers’ at Vakola Municipal School and later at the Laal Mitti slums. Watching the pitiable state of the children and their families was not easy. I was glad to be a part of his wonderful mission and I promise that I will be with Faraz for all such similar initiatives. I tagged along my 11-year-old son because I wanted him to observe Faraz and learn from him. Faraz is an inspiration to him. Unknowingly, he has taught him that humanity exists in this world. Thank you, Faraz.
Read more about Faraz Ansari here: https://www.facebook.com/farazarifansari/about
To know more about Gift A Meal or contribute: https://www.facebook.com/GiftAMealIndia/
Do you have a message to give Faraz? Write your message in the comments section and I will ensure that Faraz reads each one of them.
– Penned by Mayura Amarkant