December 9, 2015
For the last few days, social media, especially Facebook, has been abuzz with activity of a different kind. It is about the good Samaritans involved in the relief work – while a few good hearts were doing different things, Alfred Jose, founder of NGO Feast on Streets’ and a resident of Chennai, did things differently.
A lot of people whom Alfred does not know personally are his friends on Facebook. They are based out of the U.S., Canada, Dubai and from across India. During the recent floods in Chennai, Alfred was able to connect with his friends in the virtual world through Facebook.
Thanks to his service provider the internet connection on his mobile phone was up and running almost all the time. Initially, he used his Facebook personal profile to share updates and images of the situation and the latest developments of the flood hit Chennai. However, for the past five days Alfred tells us that he has received requests on WhatsApp and on Facebook from people from as far as Chicago to check on their relatives who are mostly aged people and are residents of flood hit Chennai.
When other means of communication like land lines and mobile phones failed, Alfred visited them in person on foot. “I was accompanied by either of my friends, P.M. Suresh and Dr. Deepak. We walked through knee deep water and located the homes based on the address that was shared on Facebook. Finding a few homes was a challenge. However, we managed to find our way. We recorded a short video message of the residents of the home that we visited. The video was sent to the relative who requested us to visit the respective home,” Alfred says.
Ruby, a resident of Chicago had asked one of her friends Hamsashree from Chennai to check if her (Ruby’s) aunt, who is a resident of Labour Colony is safe. Hamsashree who is friends with Alfred on Facebook shared Ruby’s aunt’s address. Alfred and one of his friends visited the home, recorded a video of Ruby’s aunt and shared it with Ruby. Alfred tells us that in the last five days alone he has visited 22 homes and their videos were exchanged with their near and dear ones. Areas he covered are T. Nagar, West Mambalam, Saidapet and Virugambakkam.
“If time permits, I ask the person who has requested to visit their relative to send a recorded message. A few of them did so and I shared the video with the residents of the home that I visited. It was very gratifying to see their face light up with joy at the time of crisis,” Alfred says.
At present, Alfred is involved in helping in rehabilitation activities in Chennai. Feast on Streets’ NGO that was founded by him works towards feeding the needy with a meal on a chosen day of the week. Alfred and a few volunteers are working towards ensuring that the residents of flood hit Chennai have access to food and relief materiel. The team of volunteers are distributing blankets, mosquito coils, sanitary napkins, baby diapers, candles, match boxes, medicines, and milk powder, among other to flood hit residents of Chennai.