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17 Sep 2019, Edition - 1526, Tuesday

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Coimbatore

Reaching out to the needy through kindnes

Umaima Shafiq

A single person can change many lives. Coimbatore’s Vaishnavi Balaji has touched and transformed many lives through two simple initiatives based on the values of compassion and service.

Vaishnavi Balaji decided to take up social service after she found a woman fainting near her house in Saibaba Colony in 2015. She revived the woman with some water and two slices of bread from a neighbour’s house. Today, she runs Food Bank Coimbatore with several food donors and volunteers who have one mission – to feed the hungry.

“It was a profound moment for me when that lady blessed me back then. I realised how crucial hunger is and decided to serve home-cooked fresh food for the needy everyday. My friend and I began Food Bank Coimbatore with about 20 packets of food. Today our group has 200 food donors and many volunteers to distribute the food to the needy and hungry on the streets of Coimbatore. Food Bank is a social media platform whose members are working professionals. The programme is entirely non-profit and is done with a lot of passion. There is no money involved,” she told The Covai Post.

Food Bank also coordinates with orphanages and homes for the aged like Eera Nenjam and Helping Hearts to get the destitute admitted there. “Our volunteers also counsel the needy to start earning. We teach vocations like fishing, cooking and other trades. Our aim is to make Coimbatore hunger-free so that there will be no need for Food Bank. We meet every Thursday and on weekends during lunch hours to discuss and fine tune the organisation’s activities.”

Teaching youth about safety

Vaishnavi also runs another non-profit organisation called Youthful India that advocates Stay Safe policy. “This is a unique platform through which we conduct awareness sessions for parents, school and college students, corporate bodies and the public. So far, we have connected with about 30,000 people not only in Coimbatore, but also Tirupur, Erode and other cities. Our focus areas are: abuse – physical or mental, online addiction, gadget addiction, and other social issues. We are providing awareness to both boys and girls, teaching them about success and failure. Many of them become suicide-prone at a tender age. We counsel them to accept failure, move forward and teach them never to become abusers.”

She believes that abuse can be physical, verbal, visual and psychological. Youthful India conducts live sessions through social counsellors, lawyers and experts. The issues are explained through stories and interactive materials. “Because kids cannot understand these issues easily, our sessions make them realise that their real heroes are parents, siblings, friends and teachers. We make them understand that they shouldn’t hide from these people. We have around 50 members who meet regularly. We counsel parents to spend quality time with their children during their formative years. We also have a helpline for troubled youth – 9944876331.”

Vaishnavi’s efforts to address two different social issues in a single city are unique and highly deserve appreciation.

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