He strives to fill stomachs of starved

He strives to fill stomachs of starved

His father is into transport business in Bengaluru. His brother, who is a software engineer in Wipro, also stays in Bengaluru. But 26-year-old Rishikesh Narayan Singh, a research scholar in Patna, was not lured by the lucre and decided to stay back to serve the poor and needy in Bihar.

Rishi, as he is fondly known among his friends, runs a voluntary organisation “Bihar Youth Force”, which is totally committed to social causes. The group runs free education centre “Gyanshala” for underprivileged children in different slums in Patna and a book bank too.

“Bihar Youth Force is neither a political outfit nor a non-governmental organisation. It basically runs community school Gyanshala which takes care of education of around 80 children from extremely poor families in Adalatganj locality. We (a group of dedicated volunteers) ensure that they are properly enrolled in government schools, get books, attend classes and even impart them private teaching for at least three hours every day,” Rishikesh told DH.

Gyanshala was launched on May 31, 2015. Initially, the idea was to ensure that the poor children, mostly from the rag-pickers families, do not get addicted to alcohol or drugs. Gradually, it took care of their education too.

For this yeoman service, the young lad was awarded National Education Excellence Award in 2017 in Goa by Governor Mridula Sinha. The National Education Summit this year was organised in Panaji and at the event those who have done extraordinary work in the field of education were felicitated.
Rishikesh is, however, not the one who would rest on his laurels. He now intends to expand his activity and fight another raging problem: hunger.

From June 15 onwards, he plans to launch Roti Bank to help hungry in his hometown. “The idea is to collect fresh chapatis (rotis) and cooked vegetables or pickles or other eatables, from those residing in Patna and distribute them among those who cannot afford to have a proper meal every day,” he said.
“Initially, we plan to feed at least 100 needy people who do not get proper meal. We will start from Ashok Rajpath near Patna Medical College and Hospital and cover up to Patna junction where there are many people who do not get adequate food. But at the same time, we will ensure that only genuine/needy people get the food as we do not intend to encourage bhiksha-vriti (begging),” he added.

From where did he get this idea of Roti Bank?  “Actually, the trend was started by dabbawallahs in Mumbai in 2015. Meanwhile, I saw some short movies and documentaries about how hunger struck people of Bundelkhand in Uttar Pradesh. I also watched on Youtube how the dabbawallahs ensured proper food to the needy. I would often watch here in Patna how several people fail to get proper meal every day. This gave me an idea why not start a Roti Bank here in the state capital.

“We have contacted 40 families in different apartments/societies and some individual families. They have agreed to be part of the campaign,” said Rishi.

The 21-member team of Rishikesh will provide two tiffin boxes each to volunteer homes. These families will provide meals. The members of the Bihar Youth Force will then collect the packed meals every evening.

They will check it for basic quality and freshness and then deliver food to the poor people living on footpaths, temples, hospitals or near railway stations between 8 pm and 9 pm.

“We have decided to check the freshness of the meal so as to avoid cases of food poisoning, which is common during summer and monsoon seasons,” he said.

The young social worker is aware that several other organisations had made similar efforts earlier but failed.

“I have been told that earlier experiment of some organisations had failed. It was mainly because of lack of logistic support. We, on the other hand, have done proper homework besides meticulous planning. We have been assured of quality food by those residing in apartments/societies. Once our effort gradually becomes successful, we will add more beneficiaries,” he said.

Rishi has launched a helpline number and those interested can join the programme. “Those who are keen to contribute to Roti Bank, can make a call or WhatsApp on 7050209999. My team members will go and collect the food. Our only request (to the volunteer homes) is that the food should be fresh,” he added.

Volunteer homes will have to fill in an application form. “It’s a simple form. Just fill it and get registered. Only registered members will be able to donate food,” he said.  Registration is important as one could trace the source of food packet in case of food poisoning.

In the coming days, he intends to help schoolchildren join the movement. “We are in the process of holding talks with schools which can support Roti Bank. We have requested students not to throw or waste their eatables. They can donate their food, if they wish so, to the needy,” said Rishikesh.

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