Holding up a fist full of rice, Shainaz Sheik, president of the Interact Club of Samskar-The Life School, Hyderabad, RID 3150, says, “This is all it takes to end starvation deaths and address the issue of hunger and malnutrition in our local communities.” Shainaz and her club members are encouraging students across different schools in Hyderabad to donate a handful of rice to help end hunger in the city through Project Fist of Rice.
It all started when RC Hyderabad Legends, the parent club, encouraged the Interactors to bring a handful of rice from their homes while coming to school and drop it into a container kept at the entrance. The first round of donations helped collect 250kg of rice which was given to the Devnar School for the Blind, in Begumpet, Hyderabad. “The Interactors experienced first-hand the joy of giving and we encouraged them to keep the project going,” says Mohana Vamsi, president of RC Hyderabad Legends.
Later, some of the Interactors along with few Rotarians, visited orphanages across the city to carry out research for the project. “An orphanage with 30–40 children needs close to 300kg of rice to provide its inmates with two meals a day. If the orphanage does not have enough rice, the children have to sleep hungry,” says Vamsi. The Interactors were “deeply moved when they came to know about the struggle these children face,” and began an active campaign to fight hunger.
While researching, they came across a study published in the Food Policy journal that said that food aid programmes, including the donation of rice, “can have a significant impact on reducing hunger in India. It said that the provision of food aid led to an increase in food intake in women and children. These food donations can lead to improved health, reduce anaemia and enhance growth in children.”
The Interactors gradually increased the amount of rice they donated and other students followed suit. This initiative gained momentum and spread beyond the school. The project began receiving large donations of rice from individuals and organisations through the Rotarians’ contacts.
“There are children around the world without sufficient food, clothing or home. Whether it’s Ukraine, Syria or Turkey, children are suffering everywhere. The least we can do is help our own communities and make life easy for children around us,” says Shainaz. As an Interactor she “has learnt to appreciate what I have and I want to give back to the community, even in the smallest way.”
Another issue with donating food, points out Vamsi, is that “people are more generous during festivals than they are the rest of the year. The problem here is that the hunger crisis isn’t seasonal. It’s something that needs to be addressed throughout the year.” Last Diwali, the Interactors set up stalls at other schools and conducted awareness programmes to sensitise students and parents about hunger and its drastic effects on the less privileged.
Recently when the district hosted a cricket match between Bollywood and Tollywood actors as a PR event, RC Hyderabad Legends purchased 250 tickets for the match at ₹250 a ticket and sold them to club members at ₹599 a ticket; Interactors too sold 70 tickets at ₹400 each. The money made was donated to the Fist of Rice initiative.
The club’s target is to collect 20,230kg of rice by June 2023. “We started with a fist of rice and have already collected over 10,000kg of rice, and donated it to orphanages in our city. Our rice container has literally transformed into an akshaya patra — the more we give out, the fuller it gets,” says the 15-year-old Interact president.