[To know how Project Smile is empowering the needy in Bengaluru and how you can help, click here.]
Bengaluru is in the midst of the heaviest rainfall in a decade. The city’s transportation, local shops and schools are struggling to stand tall in the flood which has brought the city to its knees.
Those living here can vouch for the recent wrath of nature. Bengaluru is known as the city with umpteen opportunities, especially in the IT sector; hence, the name – the silicon valley of India. But the rains pose a hindrance for people to reach their offices, shop for groceries, or step out on the streets.
When it has affected us so adversely, what about the ones who reside in slums?
This was their condition:
Those who live in these slums submerged in water, are our neighbours. More often than not, they are located behind our brick houses and our tall office buildings, however, we remain unaware of their plight. We think that such conditions can hardly persist in an urban city, but the reality is highly contrasting.
Project Smile Trust
A not-for-profit organisation, Project Smile Trust, brings the truth to us while giving us an opportunity to give back to the society.
Founded by a group of individuals bound by a common goal – to spread happiness – the organisation is empowering those who need support to sustain life.
“We see a lot of people struggling with even basic necessities which are their rights. We began helping people out according to their needs in order to bring smiles on their faces. The entire work of our NGO revolves around that – to make people happy. We firmly believe that if we make others smile, God will smile upon us,” said Yasha Achar of Project Smile to The Logical Indian.
Project Smile is the realisation of a vision to serve humanity. We realize that our responsibilities are immense and we have to step up to fulfil the needs of our fellow citizens. We cannot afford to wait for others. It has to be us, and there is no better time than now, reads the organisation’s website.
During the Bengaluru rains, which are still ongoing, the worst affected were the slums in the city. They have been a witness to clogged drains, causing sewage water to flood the streets and, in turn, entering their homes. This standing water has become a breeding ground for mosquitoes which cause deadly diseases and take many poor lives each year. People are unable to sleep at night because their homes are submerged in water. They sit on buckets because water is everywhere.
Project Smile aims to end this suffering.
“We started the mercy campaign with the aim to clean up the slums. One by one we started fogging these places with disinfectants which are government approved and harmless while educating people how to keep their neighbourhood clean,” said Yasha.
Bangalore has seen rough weather in the last one month. Rains have caused viruses, flu, and different vector borne…
The NGO also tries to give them meals at least once every day as they cannot cook on their wooden chulhas in the rain.
“We think that urban areas do not suffer from these issues but people are struggling to live even in a city like Bangalore,“ added Yasha.
The Mercy Campaign is currently working in five areas across the city.
The NGO has a dedicated strength of 35-40 people who are always there to work on a voluntary basis. These are people who have a strong desire to help others and they do it free of charge. Sometimes, the locals help them out too with transportation. Project Smile gives them small compensation as daily wages. They also get help from auto rickshaw drivers to deliver goods.
There are no full-time workers but a dedicated bunch of people who come back from their corporate jobs and help the NGO out with backend work. They have college students, working people, families and a dedicated photography team helping them out.
Project Smile’s work doesn’t end with cleaning the slums; but is only the beginning.
It is disheartening to witness people living in subhuman conditions – broken roofs and walls fail to protect them from bad weather and the pests take a toll on their health and well-being.
Project Smile has been repairing roofs, walls, floors, constructing indoor bathrooms, plumbing, and where needed, reconstructing entire houses from scratch. Every construction is government approved.
“Many people with civil engineering and architectural background help us out. They use their skill and time to give back to the society. Some people come in the mornings, some in the evenings and some work throughout the day. There is a lot of team effort,” said Yasha.
“The most inspiring thing is to see families comes together with their little children and help out. Even elderly people come and help out. It’s a heartwarming sight. It’s like a community service where everyone wants to do some good,” continued Yasha.
Empowering the poor
The ultimate goal of Project Smile is to empower people to be able to take care of themselves. They have different support projects for widows, orphans, elderly and the differently-abled.
“We wish to see these people stand on their own two feet. We cannot be there for them forever so our main aim is to empower them completely so that they can fend for themselves,” said Yasha.
“We take care of their basic needs so that they can focus on making their lives better by spending time on education and work. Our ultimate desire is to enable people to make each other happy,” she continued.
The story of Mariya
Project Smile team met Mariya one and a half years ago during one of its seasonal drives in the slums. She is an orphan who was living in a tiny room without a bathroom and kitchen.
When the team met Mariya, she was using a broken calliper that was not only ineffective and useless, it was also causing her a lot of pain whenever she used it. Hence, she had stopped walking at all and had resorted to crawling around the house to even use the bathroom which was located outside in her neighbour’s home 50 metres away.
Under Project Smile’s Disability Support Project, the NGO started taking her to different physiotherapists and specialists in order to provide her with orthotics that were custom made according to her needs. After a long series of hospital visits, they provided her with Orthotic callipers with which she can walk using crutches.
They have also moved her out of her shack to a more dignified living space which has special railings, support, toilet seat, bath seat etc. The kitchen was also customised to make it easier for her to access all the utilities with ease. The entire house has been fitted with ‘grab handles’ to help Mariya walk.
Presently, Mariya takes care of herself by making a living through the two sewing machines that Project Smile has given her.
Like her, there are hundreds other who need such support.
“We, at Project Smile believe it is our duty and responsibility to alleviate the suffering of our fellow human beings. We owe it to ourselves, our society, and our future generations to establish peace, justice and harmony, and strengthen the fabric of society by doing what we can”, says Operations Director Mohammed Ummer.
Project Smile has embarked upon an important journey – to traverse the hardships of life with those not born with the same privilege as us. Each of us plays an important role in this journey, and you can help too.
If you are a resident of Bengaluru and wish to directly support Project Smile’s humanitarian work, click here to volunteer.
Equally important are the funds needed to do the groundwork. To donate to the NGO’s work, empowering the needy to stand on their feet, click here.
No number of helping hands are enough. Project Smile’s goal of bringing a smile on every person’s face will only see light with your help.
To know more about Project Smile and their work, click here.