Brick-by-Brick : Rebuilding Bengal after Amphan
If you are reading this, there is a good chance you aren’t one of the thousands of people whose homes were washed away due to the devastation of Cyclone Amphan in West Bengal, Odisha and Bangladesh.
If you are reading this, it is probably also because you have been looking for avenues to help Bengal build back after the devastation.
Who are we and why are we fundraising?
We are a group of development sector professionals who met while working together in our current jobs at the social impact firm Sattva Consulting, and have varied academic and professional backgrounds from IIM-K, Oxford, Delhi University, VIT, Christ and Jadavpur University. We’re all from Bengal, and have incidentally worked on the ground with grassroots organizations in three of the worst affected districts in the state – South 24 Parganas, North 24 Parganas and Purba Medinipur.
In the immediate aftermath of the storm, in addition to checking in with our families and friends about their safety, we were also checking in with the NGOs we have worked with, to see how they were doing and how badly the communities had been impacted. When the communication networks finally opened up and the Whatsapp ticks turned blue, heart-breaking stories and pictures of these communities started pouring in. NGO veterans with over three decades of experience in the sector mentioned they had never seen such devastation in their career while supporting relief work. NGO staff had been sheltering people in their own homes after the storm washed away the mud houses and boats of ‘majhis’ or fishermen in villages close to the Digha coast, which was one of the first places to have come in the way of the storm’s unabated fury. Even utensils and bags of rice they had stored for the coming months had been taken away by the sea. Agricultural workers looked on as their summer crops lay before them destroyed, while the land was rendered too saline for them to sow any monsoon crops. Fish were reportedly dying in the ponds of those engaged in pisciculture. The storm had washed away not just their homes, but their livelihoods too. All this was, of course, on top of the hardships that these communities had already been going through because of the Covid-19 lockdown and the crisis of migrant workers, who had been spread out in all parts of the country, and were returning home after months.
At the same time, we were also getting queries from friends and family about potential avenues for donating funds to ‘legit’ NGOs conducting Amphan relief work in Bengal. While we pointed them towards some of the bigger and better-known NGOs, what we realized is that some of the NGOs who we knew had among the best reach and deepest community connects in these specific districts may not show up easily on a retail donor’s radar.
Subsequently, we reached out to 3 such grassroots NGOs, one in each of the districts:
- Whom we have personally visited and vetted for their track record of really good work on the ground
- Who we know have local presence and excellent community reach, which is especially important at this time with large parts of the districts still cut off from outside assistance
- Who have already started relief work in these areas
- Who aren't as active on social media to catch your eye, but are in immediate need of funds to support the affected communities with food and shelter
The organizations for whom we are fundraising
1.Kajla Janakalyan Samity (KJKS) for Amphan Relief in Purba Medinipur
( http://www.kjksindia.org.in/ )
Kajla works primarily with rural communities in the district of Purba Medinipur, on the issues of education, health, women empowerment, child protection and disaster relief. Their outreach extends to over 10,00,000 people in the area. Under the Amphan relief work, they are working largely with fishermen families and those who depend on agriculture or allied work to make a living in the region.
2.Samaj Unnayan Kendra (SUK) for Amphan Relief in South 24 Parganas
( http://www.samajunnayankendra.org/ )
Samaj Unnayan Kendra has been working on economic empowerment since 1975. Their programmes cater to youth, brick kiln workers, acid attack victims, survivors of human flesh trade and the disabled. They have disaster relief centers across South 24 Parganas which have been running over capacity. SUK needs urgent funds to rehabilitate more than 50,000 people now rendered homeless and jobless.
3.Dhagagia Social Welfare Society (DSWS) for Amphan Relief in North 24 Parganas
DSWS has been working across districts in West Bengal. ~60% of houses in North 24 Parganas have been destroyed. The source of livelihoods in this area is small-holder farming. All farmlands have been destroyed owing to excess salinity brought on by the cyclone. DSWS is working on rebuilding homes and immediate relief to 50,000+ families.
What kind of relief are the organizations providing
At present, these organizations are providing immediate relief to the communities in the form of:
- Temporary shelters, since in many areas more than 50% houses have been completely demolished
- Dry and cooked food, since food stocks and even utensils have been washed away
- Drinking water as well as chlorine tablets, as a lot of water sources have been left unusable in the immediate term and there is a risk of exposure to water-borne diseases
- Hygiene essentials, like bleaching powder, lime powder, phenyl etc. to maintain sanitary conditions and reduce the risk of disease
- Other essentials, like blankets, bedsheets, utensils, torchlights, sanitary napkins
A house demolished to the ground near the coast of Digha, being rebuilt by the family, brick by brick. Image Credit: NGO Kajla, Purba Medinipur
How will your funds be transferred and utilized
Fundraiser target: We are trying to raise a minimum of INR 42,00,000 i.e. ~ USD 56,000 to be able to provide a basic minimum support to each of the NGOs. (This will be INR 14,00,000 per NGO)
Transfer of funds: Any donation to this fundraiser will be routed directly from GiveIndia’s platform to the bank accounts of the NGOs mentioned above. There will be no intermediaries.
Utilization of funds: Your funds will be utilized by the NGOs to buy the material to build shelters with tarpaulin ahead of the monsoons, distribute food, water and essential items, and provide medical support. Each of these items mentioned above costs between INR 200 - 600, and approximately INR 2500 ( ~ 30 USD) will be required to support at least one family in a holistic way.
Who to contact
If you have any queries or need more details, please message via LinkedIn or Facebook. Our names and ids have been shared below:
Some donors - especially those donating from outside of India - had some queries about the details being asked for in the donation page. In the case of Indian donors, the PAN section can be left blank if your donation amount is less than INR 50,000. Please do ping either of us on LinkedIn or Facebook, we have been able to personally resolve those queries without donors having to update a lot of details.
Update 1: May 30, 2020 - Our fundraiser in the media
To know more about the on-going situation on the ground, you can read about our fundraiser which was recently covered by CNN-News18. https://www.news18.com/news/buzz/how-two-women-miles-away-from-home-are-helping-rebuild-bengal-after-cyclone-amphan-brick-by-brick-2638265.html
Update 2: June 13, 2020 - Relief kit distribution in remote areas, as far up as Sunderbans
About 400 individuals donated, 100 supporters spread the word about our Amphan fundraiser, 2 social enterprises directed a % of their sales to us over the last two weeks, and Bengali Associations from across 2 countries collected funds on our behalf.
With the support of all these amazing people, we have raised more than INR 15 lakhs in a little over 15 days (and then some, sent directly to the NGOs as well), and now that the first tranche of donations has reached the NGOs we partnered with, one can see the impact.
Families that had been living on one meal of puffed rice a day, without so much as a roof over their heads, have now been given one month's worth of dry ration, tarpaulin sheets to cover their damaged roofs before the monsoons, and even small solar lights to steer clear of snakes at night in many areas that are still water-logged. We loved how the NGOs did this so thoughtfully and respectfully (all the while maintaining social distancing norms wherever it was possible!).
While we have been able to reach out to almost 1000 of the most vulnerable people in areas as remote as the Sunderbans, there are so many more families who are still in need of support.
If you were one of those who made this possible, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Please do consider donating (you can donate more than once too!) to help more of these families, or simply pass on this message to people in your network who might want to donate (and do add a personal recommendation, it works wonders - 2 of our supporters helped to raise almost INR 3 lakh just by passing on the messages in the right forums with a personal note vouching for our credibility).
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