By CHAITHALI PISUPATI
THE conventional list of basic needs of a human being is food, water, clothing and shelter and the lack of these means poverty, which seems simple enough to comprehend.
I am often faced with a lot of questions regarding my work with underprivileged people. A common one that makes me very happy is: “How can I help the underprivileged at an individual level?” as it reinforces my belief that intrinsically most humans are good.
So, how do we answer this question?
Before I proceed, it is important to mention a disclaimer: Any action that provides help or happiness, no matter how little, is important. Every single act of kindness is a step in the right direction.
Here, I am simply using the knowledge I have gained from working closely in marginalised communities to give a little insight into their lives and their real needs. As the scope of this topic is very vast, I will not touch upon corporate social responsibility at all but stick to social service by individuals.
Giving Is Good For The Soul
True, but this alone cannot be your driving force. It is important to analyse if what you wish to do or give is making its maximum impact.
For example, a growing trend is to celebrate a birthday or a special occasion in an orphanage – cake, gifts and the works. On the one hand, it is great to see a family share their happiness with the have-nots; but on the other, the children have a great time one evening only to go back to their austere, no-frills lives for the rest of the month.
A better option would be to look beyond the day. By all means celebrate with the kids in the orphanage but perhaps try and cut the budget by a third. Speak to the administration of the organisation of your choice and get a list of their requirements for a period like a month. You might be able to help with
- Health and hygiene products for a week/month
- Groceries for a week/month
- School books or stationery for a week/month
All these may make your day less fancy but you will make a much larger impact.
Recycling Is Not Charity
People often ask me: “Hey, here is something I don’t need – can I give it off [sic] to your people?” This is a good idea but take a minute to understand if what you want to give is something that the poor really need. It is not charity to dispose what you don’t need and then get upset if people don’t want it. Most things you don’t need will have a taker. Take time to find the best use for it.
Respect The Receiver
I am often faced with donors who expect children they support to skip school to meet them, or for women to excuse themselves from work so they can engage in their charity events. As much as they need your help, it is only when you respect their time, their work and them as equals will we satisfy the real need.
Finally, while food is the still one of the biggest unmet needs of India’s poor, this is a symptom and not the larger problem. And the same applies to clothing and shelter.
The real problem is the lack of access to a stable and upwardly mobile livelihood, affordable education, healthcare and saving and credit facilities.
If we can work towards creating access to these needs, the underprivileged will have a better future to look forward to.
Pic by: Clare Arni
Chaithali Pisupati spent 12 years in different career pursuits ranging from airlines, retail, teaching, facilities management and e-commerce industries, before she joined the Parinaam Foundation, an NGO working largely with women and children in the slums of Bangalore. In her free time, she works with dogs and attempts to create awareness on pet adoptions and the evils of animal testing in cosmetics.