Palak a journalism graduate believes in simplifying the complicated and writing about the extraordinary lives of ordinary people. She calls herself a " hodophile" or in layman words- a person who loves to travel.
Eight years ago, Smita Chelamchela along with her husband, Anil, and children returned to Pune, Maharashtra, after quitting lucrative jobs in the information technology sector while residing in the United States.
After settling in, Smita decided to stay home and take care of the children, however, during her free time she always wondered of doing something that would contribute to empowering the society. Having lived half of her life as a working professional, she was aware of the significance of self-reliance in one's life.
"I thought to myself, I have education, resources, money, friends, as well as time. I am sitting at home, while there are people out there who can't even afford two meals a day," said Smita.
Smita said that she had an inclination towards giving back to the society since childhood. As a kid, she would gather the street children in her locality and turn a teacher for them. She was fortunate to still have such instincts.
"The word NGO had this negative connotation to it. Over the years, people had lost trust in the institution because there was no transparency and a lot of NGOs were badly managed," Smita said, adding that she decided to start small and hence started her initiative with a WhatsApp group.
She created a messaging group, Joy Of Serving Humanity (JOSH), to bring like-minded mothers to her cause and magnify the impact.
Initially, the group would identify a cause that they felt passionate about and work towards it or put efforts into solving a social concern. They would arrange for resources including materials, money or volunteers for their projects.
With time, the group's efforts and members witnessed a rise. Smita and Anil Chelamchela along with their team decided to launch a website and a fund that would act as a platform to connect the contributors to the beneficiaries, thereby facilitating the process of providing aid and support.
"At that time there was no in-kind donation non-profit website in India. The idea was to create a website which would give the same experience as an e-commerce website but for good causes," Smita explained.
A website— www.joshconnect.org and a fund was created which was run by the trustees. entirely on a voluntary basis, with no employees, and the basic charges for maintaining the website were borne by the couple.
"Our mission is to reach more people around the country. When people donate through our website, they get the satisfaction that the money is going to the right people. We share the invoices with the donors. They can also track their donation status online like any other e-commerce site," explained the social entrepreneur.
The JOSHConnect site aided in the distribution of around 12 lakh worth of groceries amid the coronavirus pandemic and also extended help to flood-hit states in Assam, Bihar, and West Bengal. It has also widely worked in parts of rural Maharashtra.
The JOSHConnect group also worked extensively in parts of rural Maharashtra and villages near Mumbai and Pune. Last year, they also supplied waterwheels in drought-affected areas and distributed Neelkamal roll-drums, so that women do not have to carry the water on their heads.
For farmers, they gave safety kits when using pesticides and had partnered with other organisations for the same. Similarly, in Satdharwadi Village in Latur, Maharashtra, they distributed solar lamps to 400 families.
Members from the group drove down to personally hand over these lamps to the locals to help them understand the importance of using clean energy. Grocery, toys, and education-related projects are still being conducted and one can find the relevant details on the website.
Smita is one of the finest examples of individuals who bring a change in society with the available resources at their disposal and resolute. She and her team have been tirelessly working towards helping the families of the marginalised groups.
Speaking on the mantra that has been her driving force, she said, "Follow your dreams. If by using your core skills you can get personal success and help your community at the same time, then nothing like it. We all need to march together, to help our country."
This story has been received from Giving Circle. It is a platform that connects social change makers, donors, and volunteers. They are working to scale up these initiatives.
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