What would you do on a Sunday? Plan a movie or an outing with friends? Well, Anand Sinha and Neel Ghose also did the same one afternoon but with a twist. They took 6 underprivileged kids along with them and that changed their life. It marked the birth of an army and led to a huge platform where a lot of Robins, as they would like to call themselves, came together to make a difference. Robin Hood Army, started by Neel Ghose and Anand Sinha in 2014, is paving a path for a world without deaths caused due to hunger and they are not planning to stop anytime soon.
We wanted to bring out the story and journey of Robin Hood Army and had an opportunity to interact with Uma Chilakamarri, an Interior Designer by profession and the Hyderabad lead of Robin Hood Army. She took us through the journey of Robin Hood Army and their mission and what one can do to contribute to it. So, without wasting any time further, let’s dive into the interview.
I see what you guys do as a very noble thing to do. Could you please explain to our readers how this organization came to be?
In 2014 August, the founder, Neel Ghoshe, came across an organisation by the name Refood in Portugal, where excess food from the restaurants is distributed amongst the needy. After returning back he implemented the same in India. That’s how Robin Hood Army came into existence. We started RHA in Hyderabad in September 2014.
What motivated you to join this organization?
I have seen my parents serve the needy as a child and later after I got married my husband and I used to collect clothes from our friends and relatives during winters and distribute them in the middle of the night to the really needy people. When my nephew introduced me to RHA I was more than thrilled to be a part of this organisation.
Could you elaborate a little on the mission of the organization?
We started out with a simple motto of ‘No food Wastage’. So the food that gets left over in the restaurants and marriage functions is collected by us and distributed amongst the needy. We in Hyderabad feed close to 10,000 people a week with the excess food we collect from restaurants and functions. The only rule we follow in RHA is that we do not accept any donation in the form of money. All our donations are only in kind.
Your taglines ‘Think less, do more’ and ‘1% done’ comes across as very interesting. Could you explain the concept behind the taglines?
Our concept is simple. Collect every morsel of food that otherwise gets trashed and feed the needy. All our robins/volunteers are working professionals. We collect food and distribute in our free time. Since there is no money involved we do what we do out of passion. And how much ever we do, there is always someone sleeping hungry every single night.
How do you reach out to volunteers and restaurants?
Generally, our volunteers/restaurants get in touch with us by word of mouth or through social media. We share all the pictures of our food distribution drives in our social media. Seeing the good work we are doing, people either join as volunteers or become our donors.
How do you make sure all the kids are fed properly and what kind of precautions do you guys take to make sure that the food is clean and healthy?
When we go to pick up the food from either restaurants or functions, as a rule, we check the quality by eating the food ourselves before we pick it up. Many times we reject the food if the quality is not good. While serving we carry our own paper plates and serve as much as the person can consume immediately. We do not collect/serve excess food for storing purposes.
Are there any personal anecdotes about the organization that you would like to share with us?
There are too many of them. When you suddenly appear from nowhere and serve good food lovingly to the starving, unexpecting needy person, the joy and sometimes tears in their eyes and the blessings they shower on you is something you have to experience personally.
Going through some of your organization’s achievements, I learned that you guys have gone international, by setting up chapters in 10 other countries. Could you tell us a little about that?
RHA has its presence in 113 cities in India and 18 countries abroad. So whenever someone from a city/town comes across the activities we do and wants to set up RHA in their city/town, we guide them and help them set it up. Each city has its own City Head and volunteers. Our only rule is no donation in the form of money. So across all these cities and countries, we all work on that rule very strictly. And each city/town/country operates in a way suiting their conditions.
What do you tell people who would like to join the organization or on the fence about it?
We tell them to experience the joy of serving the needy personally. Once they experience that they will automatically want to be a part of the organisation.
Could you walk us through the process?
Every city has a Facebook group. You can click on the join button on that group and our volunteer coordinator will get in touch with them and induct them. Alternatively, they can get in touch with any Robin they come across and the Robin will guide you and connect you to the volunteer coordinator.
During our research, we happened to watch Neel Ghose in an episode of Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC). Could you explain more about the episode and how it helped RHA?
There was a special episode where organisations doing good work across the country were invited to the show and given the prize money. RHA was shortlisted for one of the episodes and after the KBC interview, our Robin strength grew by 50%
Why do you refuse to take monetary donations?
Our motto is to save the excess food that otherwise gets wasted either in restaurants/ functions from getting trashed so money doesn’t come into the picture in that. We also believe that money changes a lot of equations. And we also wanted to show that to do good work you need not involve money and can do the same by using the resources that are otherwise getting wasted.
Apart from fighting hunger, we found that RHA is organizing a lot of programs to help the underprivileged. Could you tell us about Robin Hood Academy and other similar programs?
Most of the cities run Robin Hood Academy where underprivileged children are taught free of cost by the Robins. We also put these children back in schools and monitor their studies regularly.
In which areas are you planning to contribute to in the future?
We are concentrating on girl child education and are working towards enrolling girl children into schools.
If there’s anything that you think we missed or would want our readers to know about your organisation, please feel free to share it.
As per statistics, every night 7000 people die of hunger in India. The food we waste carelessly can fill the stomach of a hungry person. Be aware. Spread the word. No food wastage.
Always 1% done