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Clothe a needy, start the New Year on a different note

By Azera Rahman, IANS

New Delhi : While the rest of the capital, like elsewhere, would be busy uncorking the champagne and partying the night away on New Year’s eve, the Goonj team would be driving down the streets, distributing woollens and warmth to pavement dwellers until the next morning.

An NGO (www.goonj.info) operating in 19 states across the country, Goonj, headed by Anshu Gupta, is a group of committed individuals, most of them young volunteers freshly out of college, who work with the aim of resource mobilization – by turning ones’ waste into the others’ basic amenity.

New Year’s Eve, observed as Cloth Day by Goonj, is one of their latest initiatives started on Jan 1 this year and has fetched them a resounding response.

“The Cloth Day is an extension of what we do on New Year’s Eve, and indeed throughout the winters – of driving to random places and distributing clothes to the needy,” Gupta told IANS.

“But in order to get the public involved and sensitise them to helping the needy, we started the Cloth Day on which we ask people to donate at least one piece of cloth which will go on to give warmth to an unknown person shivering in the cold, in some corner of the country,” he said.

There are an estimated 150,000 homeless people on the capital’s roads alone. Of them, 10,000 are women who, unlike their male counterparts, don’t even have a shelter home to turn to on bitter winter nights.

On Jan 1, Gupta and his team received four mini vans loaded with clothes from just four collection camps in the Delhi-NCR region – indicative of how their initiative has managed to touch the masses.

“On the coming Jan 1, 2008, other than our own distribution centres, which are open throughout the year to receive clothes and other amenities, commercial outlets like Bombay Dyeing and Reebok are also joining in by letting out part of some of their outlets as collection centres,” Gupta said.

“What we are simply saying is that donate at least one piece of cloth and start your New Year on a different note… on a more noble note, by clothing a poor person on the road, in an urban slum or in a village,” he added.

Anuradha Gupta, a schoolteacher in west Delhi who is a part of Goonj’s effort, said that she couldn’t start her new year on a better note.

“On Jan 1, I am going to be home all day. That’s because I have had my home address printed on all Goonj’s pamphlets and posters as one of the collection centres. So I am hoping that lots of people come to donate clothes on that day.

“Although it is something we all must strive to do each day, but symbolically, I don’t think there is a better way to start the New Year than on this note,” she said.

Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Jalandhar and Hyderabad are Goonj’s five collection centres from which 20,000 kg of clothes go every month to the rest of the 14 beneficiary states, where they operate through 100 local partner groups.

Some of Goonj’s distribution centres are in south Delhi’s Greater Kailash, Sainik Farms and Panchsheel Park area, north Delhi’s Malkaganj area, west Delhi’s Punjabi Bagh and Vishnu Park and east Delhi’s Patparganj.

Thus, like every year, this Dec 31 too, Gupta, his wife, his eight-year-old daughter, friends and the Goonj team would be on the roads 11 p.m. onwards until the wee hours of the morning celebrating the New Year in their own way.

(For more information about the collection centres, one can visit their website www.goonj.info)