In December, when Chennai city was devastated by unprecedented monsoon rains, and thousands of families were displaced, with many people losing their livelihoods, Rotarians from different parts of the country and outside India contributed generously to provide necessary support such as food and dry ration supplies and other relief measures to the affected families, says PDG
He says only on one day in November, Chennai city recorded the highest ever rainfall for a single day in 100 years, and this resulted in several low-lying areas getting submerged in water. The most affected and devastated were the poor and the marginalised living in these areas.
He said as the Tamil Nadu government reached out to NGOs for help, “the RC Madras North Charitable Trust sprung into action and just within a week, our club mobilised a sum of about ₹10 lakh to help those less fortunate around us.” This happened when one of his publications was released by Tamil Nadu CM M K Stalin. “As we came out of his room, some of the government officers reached out to me and said that the government is dealing with a grim situation in providing relief for the flood-affected in Chennai and sought our help as a voluntary organisation,” said Olivannan.
As he got into his car, he got a call from the local MLA asking Rotary to partner with the government in providing flood-relief material to the affected citizens. “As RI President Shekhar Mehta keeps saying, now both the central and state governments are asking Rotary for help and support in community service and we are always ready to partner with the government,” he adds.
To begin with 5,000 food packets were distributed to people who had no means to support themselves. Subsequently 1,700 ration kits comprising rice, wheat, rava, sugar, oil, tea etc, were distributed at eight different locations. “The total value of the project came to around ₹10 lakh, the money we had collected. Apart from Rotarians, many non-Rotarians also contributed substantially and helped Rotarians to undertake this project.”
As always, club members not only personally supervised the nitty-gritty of the project, but themselves visited the waterlogged areas to distribute the relief material to ensure that a wide number of deserving beneficiaries get the ration kits. Club president John Frederick, secretary Julian, Rotarians Shabeer, Banumurthy, Duraipandian, Venkatesh, Joseph, Mary Amudha, Jayaprakash, Kumar Rajendran and others were present at various distribution points and personally handed over the kits.
Three volunteers Vikram, Hemavathy and Ashok who have been relentlessly working for their local communities during such natural disasters, helped Rotary North to identify the beneficiaries. The two sitting MLAs Paranthaman and Dr Ezhilan (who is also a Rotarian and Foundation alumni) sought the support of Rotary to reach out to the deserving people in their respective constituencies.
Olivannan added that the project not only delivered timely help to the badly affected needy people but helped enormously to boost the public image of Rotary as the Rotarians’ voluntary work got good traction in the local media. Asked about any further help for the flood victims, he said now the situation was much better. “But we do have some money left and are always ready to help if the government wants a partnership.”
₹150 crore project during Covid
RC Madras North was also the club that played a phenomenal role during the worst part of the Covid pandemic, and when the entire country was reeling under oxygen shortage, particularly during the second wave, it distributed oxygen concentrators and cylinders worth ₹150 crore to government and trust hospitals across the country.
Giving details, Olivannan said that there is an organisation called ACT registered in India which helps during disaster management and crisis and its donations come from all over the world. As India faced acute shortage of oxygen cylinders during Covid, “they were able to procure oxygen concentrators and cylinders worth ₹150 crore,” but did not have the wherewithal to identify the beneficiaries and reach this equipment to them. “One of their key persons in the US is a close friend of my (immediate past) club president and when he contacted him, the president reached out to me, and as they wanted to reach the equipment to hospitals across India. I talked to RI President Mehta, and the logistics were worked out. Of the oxygen concentrators and cylinders distributed, equipment worth ₹23 crore came to Tamil Nadu,” he added.