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  • Writer's pictureVaidehi Pant

From Surplus to Smiles: One Drive at a Time!

There is a temple next to where I live. It’s a fairly normal sight: people walking to and fro, chanting hymns and bhajans in praise of various gods, buying offerings and sweets. 

In this everyday haze, one often overlooks the line of beggars, elders, men, women, children and even babies, holding their hands out. They run to people who they see with food and get angrily swatted away or even beaten with sticks, as if they deserve to be there and sleep hungry. As if it’s acceptable to not bat an eye when one sees a child on the streets, crying for food. 

We try to help them as much as we can, giving them packets of milk, juice and bread. And every time, we have to leave their pleading faces in a haste. 

For us, it’s just food. But what is it for them?

Currently, there are 828 million hungry people in the world. 1 out of 10 people sleep hungry every night, and more die of hunger than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. 

And the worst part? 85% of these people live in food surplus countries. 

Even though countries like India have food resources in a huge amount, they still fail to deliver enough food to every citizen so that no one spends their day hungry. The lack of consistent food distribution towards people who need it is the primary cause of so much world hunger. 

To make a difference at this stage, governments need the help of small NGOs, organisations and driven people to contribute to helping our country, and the world, to control hunger. And that’s where Robin Hood Army steps in!

Modelled on the Re-Food program in Portugal, the Robin Hood Army is a zero-funds volunteer organisation that works to get surplus food from restaurants and communities to serve the less fortunate.

Their “Robins” are largely students and young working professionals – everyone does this in their free time. The lesser fortunate sections of society they serve include homeless families, orphanages, patients from public hospitals and old age homes.

We had the privilege of interviewing Saloni Sharma, a Robin who has been associated with RHA for 8 long years! She started as a volunteer in the Pune chapter of the organisation, and now, she is working as a growth lead. Saloni works with high impact cities, also called Million+ cities, and helps with scaling their efforts to eradicate hunger! 

“For the hungry, food is a privilege, a luxury”, she says. “These shocking facts keep us Robins going.”

Saloni also shares how she came across RHA.

“I wanted to donate a bag of clothes, and I just randomly found their website. I contacted them, and they said that they weren’t working in Pune at the time, so they said I could just give the bag to someone who needed it. I was really inspired by this approach. Later, when RHA opened a firm in Pune, I quickly signed up and went for a drive, which was basically what they called collecting food from restaurants and distributing them to any underprivileged person that they could see. Those Sunday drives slowly became a part of life.”

She also mentions how the experience has changed her as a human: “It moved something in me, changed my perspective of looking at the world. It humbled me.”

Robin Hood Army’s approach and spread has, from 2014 till date, served 28,164,165 people, covered 159 cities and 13 countries. Their vision is to become a global engine which brings out the best of humanity using food as a medium.

Also, RHA doesn’t give any kind of certification or reward for working with them. From their website: we want our team to serve less fortunate people, not build their own polished resumes! “We do it for the smiles”, adds Saloni. 

Ever heard of the saying: “Teaching someone how to fish is better than giving them a fish”? Well, that’s what RHA is practising. As well as providing the underprivileged with food and resources (the fish), they are upskilling them with education, a tool that will help them become productive citizens of society and make the world a better place (the fishing). 

Introducing The Robin Hood Academy.

Spanning 190+ cities across India, the Academy has admitted over 5832+ students and helped 5191+ kids enrol in government schools to continue their learning journey, for free!

Their vision towards this cause is that “creating access to education is the purest form of nation building. Every child on the streets should have the opportunity for a better life. Period.”

Robin Hood Army is part of the inspiring community of global changemakers who aspire to completely suppress hunger and make the world a better place. We salute their selfless efforts and passion towards this cause. 

So, when are you going for your next drive?

Written By Vaidehi Pant

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