It started with a newspaper article. Amisha, one of our team members, had read about women who had donated saris and those saris had been distributed to NGOs. The distribution in at least one NGO had been accompanied by professional makeovers, and a photoshoot both conducted by volunteers. Amisha recommended we do this in Mumbai — it’ll be a great way to get middle-aged women to know about ConnectFor, and it can happen in time for Diwali! It would be win-win!We thought about it, strapped for resource, and wondered, can we pull this off?The clincher came in the form of a video that went viral on whatsapp — “The Story of A Sari” which showed how powerful and transformative this activity could actually be. Any dilemma was resolved right then, and somewhere near the end of September, we decided to combine Daan Utsav (Joy of Giving Week), Diwali, and our determination to engage with a new demographic in this one initiative.
We broke it down — people are generous, but we didn’t think people would go out of their way to drop things off; in a city like Bombay, location and convenience take priority over much else. We tied up with location partners — The Blow Dry Bar, and Orra Diamond Jewelery, and managed to get 8 locations distributed across Mumbai where women could drop off their saris. We were amazed by the way people responded to the simple whatsapp message with a call for action — many women offered to make their homes or offices additional drop off centres; groups were coordinating and collecting saris together, and donors from Mumbai and even outside India were committing significant amounts — 500 saris came from just one donor!
Once the whatsapps started pouring in and we could estimate how many saris we were receiving, we started contacting NGO partners working with women and understanding how many saris each of them would require. Our goal was to collect 500 saris; we reached 1643. These saris were distributed across 6 NGOs by our volunteers — Animedh Charitable Trust, Trishul, Bap Nu Ghar, The Family Welfare Association, Apne Aap Women’s Collective, and Urja Trust.
Animedh Charitable Trust works with skilling women, by setting up training centres inside their communities and paying them a stipend to learn tailoring, connecting them with employment once the training is completed. For them, they were celebrating the graduation of many of their batches, and we got to be part of the graduation ceremonies, the saris we were donated becoming rewards to these women for their months of tireless work and balancing home and training. Nivedita, a trustee of Animedh, was wonderful to work with, coordinating and arranging for 250 saris to be distributed across more than 8 graduation ceremonies!
At Trishul, the story was one of faith manifesting. Lopa, who works with Trishul, narrated to us this touching incident:
“Some days ago, during Durga Pujo, I was observing people offering saris to Ma Durga, and had this sudden urge to gift saris to our ladies in Trishul. I spoke to the Pujo committee and asked them to keep aside some saris for me, so that I can buy and gift the needy ladies, but somehow this didn’t work out, and I was a little upset. In just a few days time, I got a call from an organisation, ConnectFor, asking me whether I want some saris as they have collected and wanted to donate. I said obviously, I would be happy to take and distribute. I assumed they might have collected 50/100 maximum — I reach the centre and guess what? There are 800+ saris! Now I have enough to give all the ladies, all the kids to take home to their mothers, and still have enough to take to the village and distribute among the tribal ladies! ConnectFor really helped me make my dream come true.”
Each story, from every NGO is heartening, but what is most heartening is the generosity of our volunteers and donors, who in 10 days banded together and gave us the opportunity to reach over 1500 women and make sure they had something new, something bright to light up their Diwali! At ConnectFor, we are constantly amazed by these acts that reinforce the goodness of individuals, and this campaign, the response from all ends, and its entire execution have really given us a reason to hope, and to celebrate a very happy Diwali!