All the way back in 1996, Avinash Alag decided to quit his legal career and start Blossoms School with the sole purpose of service — service towards those who weren’t as fortunate in life as he was. Very soon, to reach out to more people, he started an education centre in a slum called Madrasi Colony, in Meerut, and named the initiative Gyanoday. It expanded to three more centres — two in Dehradun, and another in Delhi. Avinash calls these centres Vatikas.
Owing to the far-reaching success of Gyanoday, the organisation has earned a lot of goodwill, respect and trust in the community. On March 24 this year, the local administration reached out to its team for help in creating and distributing food for all those who were now stuck at home, without any rations or even money to buy some.
One of the smartest ideas Gyanoday came up with was to team up with the local gurudwaras, use their existing infrastructure to prepare food en masse, and rallied about 25 volunteers to distribute these to the families. The effort was aided by the Uttar Pradesh police department, which helped them identify families to reach out to. By now, Gyanoday’s team has fed over 2,50,000 people and distributed 13,000 dry ration packets, 10,000 face masks and 9,000 sanitiser bottles. Additionally, the team remembers to keep serving refreshments to the policemen and frontline medical workers.
The operation is running smoothly, but Avinash remains concerned for the future, and justifiably so: “Even a bigger challenge is going to be rehabilitating all the families who lost their jobs, lost all their savings and also their businesses. There will be a need for self-help groups to help them cope with their emotional health, entrepreneurs will have to create more jobs and financial institutions will have to help them set up small enterprises to get back on their feet.”