2021 felt like an endless year. When one looks back at the many, many events that gripped us all throughout the year, it often feels almost impossible to believe that so much happened in one year.
Especially when it comes to COVID, the virus has raged in deadly waves throughout the year, and we are facing the Omicron variant as the year ends. As a result, it has been tough to see the bright side in 2021. And yet, as with every year, our readers joined us at every possible step, and have shown us that such a side exists.
All year round, we saw people help each other during our darkest hours, at times at the risk of their own lives. From helping a fellow citizen get an oxygen cylinder to campaigning 24×7 on social media for available hospital beds for a stranger’s mother — the kindness of others knew no bounds. And while it would be impossible to catalogue every single act of selfless kindness our readers displayed this year, here is our attempt to highlight a few, which touched us deeply.
Here’s how you joined us and helped The Better India create a massive impact in the lives of thousands of people in 2021.
1. The time when you stepped up to help India’s children sail through the pandemic.
The exponential rise in COVID-19 infections and subsequent deaths in 2021 were far more devastating for children than the first wave, particularly for those from underprivileged communities. From their education taking a backseat to them being in dire need of immediate support — children across India were forced to retreat several steps in their journey towards a future of hope.
While many children lost their parents to the deadly virus, many saw their parents suffer financially due to job losses. To address this urgent crisis, The Better India launched ‘To India’s Children’, a campaign as part of which we worked with various NGOs across India to help children fight the impact of COVID-19. These organisations, spread across the country, aimed to help children by providing them access to education, nutrition, shelter, support and more. The four NGOs that we worked with were Parikrma Humanity Foundation from the South, Snehalaya from the West, Ek Tara from East and Rouble Nagi Art Foundation in the North. These NGOs were struggling to support either orphaned children or children from the underserved communities with either shelter, nutrition, sanitation or access to education.
With your help, we raised a fund of Rs 21,82,518 through our Milaap fundraiser and a fund of Rs 15,08,000 through donations from our corporate partners.
WakeFit donated 32 mattresses for kids staying at RNAF Centres, Lifebuoy donated 4,000 kits of lifebuoy soaps to all 4 NGOs, MG Motors donated 50 refurbished laptops that were provided to children at Ek Tara and Parikrma. MG Motors also helped us with sponsoring the education of 20 orphaned children staying at Snehalaya. Lastly, Conscious Foods helped us with 270 grocery kits for children at Parikrma, RNAF and Snehalaya.
2. The time when we helped street vendors have their solar-powered carts.
Roadside vegetable, fruit, and food sellers are a common sight across the country. At the same time, they are also often overlooked in our fast-paced lives. From the number of hours they work to earn meagre incomes to the hurdles they face when arranging for necessities like their carts — the struggles of street vendors are unimaginable for many.
A closer look might reveal a broken wheel or a makeshift piece in the corner to keep the vehicle standing. Many times, the damage is beyond repair, and they are left immobile. But helpless vendors continue to use the carts, unable to move them around to expand their areas of operation. This is because they couldn’t afford new carts and because renting one involves daily payments, no matter how derelict the vehicle was.
This year, many such street vendors tried to build a livelihood while earning just Rs 300-400 a day at a time when COVID-19 has further worsened their chances of recuperating from losses.
With the help of our readers, The Better India gave a few of these vendors hope.
With our campaign #GiftACart, The Better India worked towards donating solar e-carts called ATUM to vendors in Hyderabad. These carts developed by Visaka industries are eco-friendly and have a solar roof to generate electricity for the cart’s functioning. Highly cost-effective and long-lasting, these carts require no maintenance and are rough weather resilient.
The Better India launched a fundraiser on Milaap and crowdfunded Rs 2 Lakh to help six such vendors who were in urgent need of carts.
3. The time you joined our New Year’s resolution from 2019.
In December 2019, we at The Better India made a New Year’s Resolution that in 2020 we would help sponsor the education of children from low-income backgrounds in Bengaluru.
We launched #ProjectDreamSchool, as part of which The Better India worked with Dream School Foundation to sponsor the education of 32 children studying in government, semi-government aided and private schools.
However, unlike every other year, the academic year 2020-21 saw unprecedented circumstances because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With parents of these students losing their jobs, each family had to be supported with financial aid to pay their rents, access to food, etc.
Financial problems, limited internet time and lack of proper connectivity in the previous academic year led to unattended classes and incomplete school work for many. It severely impacted student learning and continuity. Many parents were forced to consider discontinuing their children’s education for at least a year.
The Better India, with your help, stood by our resolution to support these students and launched Project Dream School 2021. We collectively raised a sum of Rs 4,08,685 through your help and a like-minded corporate partner, Lexus India has helped Dream School Foundation with a sum of Rs 1,00,000 under their ‘SpreadTheLight’ initiative. Collectively, we were able to help these children attain an important milestone in their education.
4. The time when we honoured India’s COVID Soldiers.
In 2020, we executed a very successful first season of India’s COVID Soldiers, in association with ATE Chandra Foundation. We received over 2,800 nominations from across the country!
India’s COVID Soldiers aimed to document stories of those who have used innovation, democratised information, driven awareness, provided equal opportunities and much more. The campaign also drove engagement and hopes to create a bridge between those providing support, those who need it, and those who would like to contribute towards these wonderful initiatives.
Our award nominees and winners from 2020 went on to scale their impact, and we are proud of the visibility each soldier received for their remarkable contributions.
From a cab driver turning his taxi into a free ambulance, to a tribal man donning a PPE kit to go door to door delivering medicines to those in need, our nomination forms were full of heartwarming stories. We received a total of 1,365 nominations from 122 cities and villages across the country. Twelve people out of these were awarded Rs 50,000 cash prize each, which most of them used up to scale their efforts further.
5. The time when you helped farmers flourish, even in a pandemic!
Shamshad Zakir Hussain Mulla and her husband Zakir from Gujarat were struggling to feed their kids and decided to give up traditional farming to grow organic roses. Under their brand ‘Shama Gulkand’, they make and sell gulkand, rose water and face packs. Here’s what Shamshad says happened when The Better India readers read her story – “My phone has not stopped ringing! Earlier it was very difficult for us to sell our products in Gujarat also. However, now my orders are being delivered pan India. I am overbooked and currently, we are not taking any orders because I have run out of the resources and space to produce more roses for the Gulkand. Earlier we used to pot 1,000 roses in a day and that would work for us for a long time. Now we are potting 1,000 more each day!”
In another story, The Better India published an article on how 11 farmers from Maharashtra turned lockdown 2020 into a new business opportunity. The farmers in Maharashtra got together and came up with a plan. They started a WhatsApp group to directly contact customers instead of dealing with middlemen. In a year, this WhatsApp group turned into a full-fledged company having a network of 480 farmers and came to be known as ‘Kissan Konnect’
After The Better India’s story on their business, our readers helped Kissan Konnect reach newer heights. One of the founding members of the group Manish More said, “Our sales and customer inquiries have gone up since the article was published. The increase in our sales has further helped us expand our business and help more farmers. In the beginning, we used to work with 5-6 tonnes of orders in a day and now we have reached about 20 tonnes of produce in a day!”
However, this isn’t all. Manish mentions that the best impact that has come out of the article is their new venture, Mom’s kitchen. He says, “A few women who got to know about us through the article reached out to us and said we are agricultural labourers and right now we are barely earning anything, please help us. We assembled a group of 50 women and trained them to make traditional Maharashtrian chutneys, chikkis and Kodai Papad. So along with our produce, we have also started selling these items. They make up 50% of our revenues!”
6. The time when you gave wings to small businesses across India.
In March 2021, The Better India Hindi covered a video of Meenakshi Dhakad, a woman entrepreneur from the Neemuch district of Madhya Pradesh. Meenakshi, earlier a Visa Consultant, left the job and came back to her village to start honey bee farming. Alongside, she trained several women from her village and started a women empowerment program. Recently she started her brand and does honey processing and makes value-added products.
The Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh took notice of our video and appreciated her through a letter. The government has recently started the ‘Earth Mission’ through which they are trying to empower such small scale entrepreneurs. This mission was launched first with Meenakshi’s program, with the Chief Minister doing a virtual inauguration and discussing the project briefly with Meenakshi. She is now planning to launch her program in other surrounding villages too.
In another story, Sudam Sahu, a farmer from Katapali village in Bargarh district, is trying to promote the use of indigenous seeds in farming in the region. In the last 19 years, seed saver Sudam has collected and stored over 1,000 varieties of seeds and has developed his seed bank at Bargarh. We wrote Sudam’s story and this is what he says happened: “Within two days of the article getting published, I started getting orders from many parts of the country (more than 250!). I am happy that this huge collection of seeds will be used by farmers across the country. Moreover, a team from the PMO also visited my farm to see my collection!”
Here is what another entrepreneur, Savitha Bhatt, who makes sweets free from maida, sugar and preservatives tells us: “I am very grateful that The Better India found us online. They have built us into a brand. Usually, people don’t buy sweets once the festivals are over. However, it’s such luck that our article was published during the time of festivals! People became aware of us and started buying our product even after the festivals got over! Till 3 days after the article was published, we were getting some 100-200 calls per day and these were all calls to place orders and just talk to us. We were overwhelmed with joy! Not only was my uncle’s phone ringing but mine and our home landline as well! We couldn’t pick all the calls. It was crazy! We also placed our most number of orders in a day which was 24 orders. Earlier our number had gone up to 17 orders once but we hadn’t reached 24 orders ever. I would like to thank your founder and organization for doing this work.”
7. The time when we helped unsung heroes step up their efforts.
While travelling via bus, Mangaluru based Rajani Shetty saw a stray dog begging for food in the street. But instead of turning a blind eye, she got off the bus and fed the dog. Since that day, she has been rescuing and feeding hundreds of stray animals in Mangaluru. Rajani, who works as domestic help, finds time to cook food for the animals every day. Around 200 kg of rice and chicken is prepared which feeds over 800 stray animals in the city. Since our coverage of her, Rajani has received more than Rs 30,000. Our readers from other countries who watched our video called her, and appreciated her work and have pledged to donate more than Rs 70,000 to support her in her cause.
Ashish and Puja Singh, a Varanasi couple, running the Kutumb Foundation that has rescued and adopted 50 children tell us: “The impact of the article was so much so that not only we got many calls from people across the nation but also from NRI living in Dubai. There was a person who was so inspired that he immediately donated 18,000 to support a child education program, the cost of educating a child for a full year.
Another instance was that Celebrity RJ Richa Anirudh’s team contacted us and an interview of me along with Puja was broadcasted in BIG FM ‘Big Heroes’ program throughout the country. We got more calls from organisations like DonateKart to collaborate.
Our story when it goes out gives us appreciation and with that, we feel that our aim to build this world a better place is something just not our own and many people believe in it.”
In another story about Tamil Nadu’s D Indra, who is unable to walk herself, but that hasn’t stopped her running her organisation ‘Prem Illam’, which cares for children with disabilities and those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. She grows organic food to feed the children as well as those around her village. As soon as the article went out, here is what Indra came back to us with! – “Indra said, “The impact through your article has been nothing short of a miracle for me. I am extremely happy. I got several calls from various newspapers and people to interview and congratulate me. All India Radio covered my story through their Twitter account. Other than that, a woman from Delhi emailed me to congratulate us and also told me that she has donated Rs 25,000 to our organization! I am so thrilled and grateful for this. Thank you to everyone at The Better India for making this happen. More than a month after the article was published one more man from Delhi donated Rs 10,000 having read your article.”
Another unsung hero we wrote about, Suren Abreu, has been no less than a lifesaver for patients in need of blood platelets. To date, the 53-year-old from Kalyan in Thane district, Maharashtra, has donated blood around 117 times, and platelets around 95 times. And even the pandemic hasn’t deterred him from his regular visits to the hospital! Suren happily informs us “On the very first day after the article was published, I had three people asking for details on how to become platelet donors. One of them has already registered and got herself tested, while the other two will start soon. Over the days following the article, I have received around 25 requests from around the country, some were for clarifications on the process, on the possible ill-effects, and on hospitals at which they could donate. The fact that one of these many requests has already become a donor, and the knowledge that so many have asked for details, gives me great hope that your article has inspired many people to consider donating blood or platelets during these times and, hopefully, afterwards too. Once again, many thanks for helping create awareness on something so simple, yet so vital for the life of cancer patients on chemotherapy.”
8. The time when we helped innovations grow into successful ventures.
We covered the story of Raju Mupparapu from Telangana who has built an innovative device that is helping 400 villages save around 30 per cent of their electricity bills! Raju excitedly tells us: “After your video was published, life changed. I have received global recognition from various global leaders. Got an order worth 3.5 lakh, to set up my innovation in 40 villages. The State Government has declared an award for his Innovation on 16 December 2021 and will be given by the Industry Minister, and all after watching the video on The Better India platform!”
9. The time when brands joined us and helped create change.
The Better India partnered with Dettol to find and curate 100 inspiring stories of extraordinary individuals who found their place amidst millions of homes across India. For the first time in history, Dettol replaced its logo on the Liquid Handwash bottles with the stories of the unsung heroes of COVID-19, honouring them for their selfless deeds during the most difficult times.
We also partnered with Nokia for the campaign #LikeTeacherLikeStudent, an impact campaign that helped hundreds of students, who lost access to offline classrooms, study on smartphones. Nokia came forward to empower many teachers across India through the power of technology. This resulted in inspiring student-teacher stories that were captured beautifully through a series of content assets on The Better India. The campaign reached out to almost 3 million people through our online platforms.
With another campaign #SurfExcelChangeIsGood, the FMCG partnered with The Better India to launch its #CleanFuture initiative. The partnership was aimed at creating awareness about plastic recycling by reaching millions of our socially conscious audience. To support the mission, we collaborated with 6 Eco Warriors who took the pledge to move towards a #Clean Future & better tomorrow on World Clean-Up Day!
Last but not the least, this New Year, Duroflex, along with The Better India, launched the second season of their initiative ‘Gift of Sleep’. Children from over 15 shelter homes received mattresses with the help of our partner Catalysts for Social Action, along with 230 students of Shanti Bhavan, a residential school for children coming from the background of generational poverty.
With the hope that every kid can enjoy at least eight hours of quality sleep—the initiative amounts to gifting 1.5 million hours of sleep this year to the kids who need it the most.
Thank you for helping us create this impact. Thank you for making India truly better. Here’s to 2022 and the positive change we can look forward to with the help of you, wonderful readers.