Club for a CAUSE
The Monday Charity Club, Which Helps People In Need
Priya M Menon | TNN
This group of housewives gets together once a month, always on a Monday. And though they do take the time to catch up on each other’s lives, their concern extends to a larger section of society — the needy and the underprivileged. Topics discussed range from problems faced by working parents to discrimination against the girl child.
“I wanted to encourage housewives to do social work,” says 79-yearold Savithri Vaithi, who established the Monday Charity Club in 1970. From the age of 16, Savithri has been an untiring social worker, visiting the slums of Chennai.
The club, however, was established on a very modest note. “I used to teach women cooking and baking,” says Savithri, who holds a diploma in medico-social work. “I sounded them out about starting a charity club and we established it with the first group of students in my house in Alwarpet,” says Savithri. Kausalya Seshadri, 73, a founder-member and one of Savithri’s former students, says, “We wanted to start a ladies’ club not to just while away time but to do charity every month. Helping others gives us great personal satisfaction.”
Since the club consisted of housewives, Monday was a convenient day for them to meet. “We usually meet on the first Monday of every month, between 11 am and 1 pm,” says Kausalya. Any programme the club organises — be it lectures by eminent people or demonstrations — are also held on Mondays
Though they began with 20-odd members and the aim of doing one charitable deed a month, the club has grown exponentially over the years.
Today, it has 170 members and several ongoing charitable ventures. “We don’t just momentarily dole out help but are doing projects on a sustainable basis,” says 73-year-old Malini Kasthurirangan.
One of their older projects is the Book Bank, which helps college-going students. “They can enrol by paying Rs 20, borrow the prescribed textbooks for degree courses and return them after the academic year,” says Savithri.
Other projects to help needy students include funding poor students and Vidya Daan. “We request schools to recommend good students who need our help,” says Kausalya. They then ‘adopt’ students of Class VII, looking after their educational needs till Class XII.
The club was instrumental in setting up Vishranthi old age home. And the ‘Undrugol’ (literally meaning walking stick) project caters to people above 60 from lower socio-economic backgrounds. “We personally visit households and identify people,” says Savithri.
They are then given a photo-identity card. On the first Wednesday of every month, they come to the club to collect provisions — 5 kg rice, 1 kg dal, 1 kg oil and a little bit of tamarind, red chillies and dhaniya plus Rs 30 as pocket money. “This helps these elderly people live with their family and be independent at the same time,” says Savithri.
While the club has attracted sponsors over the years, today they are low on funds, admits Kausalya. Yet another concern is the fact that the club mainly consists of elderly people.
“Most of us started out together and are now grandmoms and even great-grandmoms, we are looking for younger members,” says Savithri. “Social work is our focus but we also do fun things together, like go on picnics.”
“We need younger people to take over from us, so I have enrolled my daughter-in-law and her sister,” says Kausalya. “We are even thinking of changing the day we meet to Saturdays as most women work these days.”
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This group meets once a month to spring-clean temples
Kamini Mathai | TNN
HAPPY TO HELP: Members of the group at work
For about eight years now, on the fourth Sunday of every month, a group of people from various parts of Chennai and its suburbs meet up to spring-clean a temple somewhere in Tamil Nadu. While it began in 2001 as four friends thrashing out their idea for service to society, today the group has expanded to more than 400. And they call themselves the ‘Uzhavarappani Group’.
The original four founders of the group are B Srinivasan, a cooperative store employee in Tambaram, artist T Saravanan, S Ganeshan, an auditor and S Ayyappan, a store owner. They are still the main planners and get the requisite permission from the temple authorities.
“Our mentor, whom we used to call Krishnamoorthy Ayya, the man who inspired us to start, passed away sometime ago. But the core team remains the same. Usually, the four of us narrow down on the temple and then inform the members of the group and decide where and what time we can organise pick-ups etc,” says 48-year-old Srinivasan.
Transport is arranged for members who live in different areas in the city with each bus carrying around 50 people. “No one has ever written about us, we have never advertised our services. Still, the group has grown so much. It is only because of the conscientiousness of the volunteers,” says Srinivasan. He adds that since they have been doing this for years, it is so well organised that word just spreads and the volunteers arrive.
“We try and get to the temple by 8am so we can work till 6pm. The members are divided into various groups, which have their functions cut out for them. It’s all very well planned — one group takes care of cutting grass, another does whitewashing, the third group cooks food for the entire group, while the fourth polishes all the brass in the temple.
We always pick a temple that is dilapidated,” says Srinivasan. The group has people from all walks of life — from artists and government employees to doctors, housewives and businessmen
“We never ask people for money as this is a free service,” says Srinivasan. “But we usually have donors within the group who voluntarily take on various expenses, like the food served or the bus charge,” he adds.
To date, the group has cleaned more than 90 temples in Chennai and its surrounding districts.
“We know there will always be temples to clean and we are ready to clean them. Kancheepuram district alone has more than 1,000 temples. So, we have our work cut out for us for years to come,” says Srinivasan.