Friday, August 05, 2005

Give, but Sensitively and Appropriately, Please

Please see this post and this one about donating clothes for flood relief. As Amit and Dilip have pointed out, donating inappropriate clothes could just lead to more heaps of waste lying by the roadside, as happened in the tsunami-affected areas. On the other hand, here is an organisation, Goonj, that is sensitive to the poor's anxiety about clothes. Here is a brief note on their recycling model in Good News India (itself a fine site). Briefly, Goonj seems to have pioneered a reuse model that works on three links: collection, processing, and distribution. Here is an extract from the article:
"Garments and linen are inspected for cleanliness, washed or repaired where necessary, folded with care, slotted to various destinations and packed in clean sacks. Goonj does not accept or distribute undergarments like bras, panties and briefs, as these have the potential to hurt recipients' self-esteem. Unusable or rejected pieces are further processed to create saleable articles that fund Goonj's operations. The most popular is the door mat, made of twisted rag strips, hand-sewn together... At collection camps, donors often get pumped up enough to bring in old newspapers and bottles which are sold, with proceeds to Goonj. Companies let Goonj carry away heaps of discarded xerox copies. Goonj brings them over and pounces on the blank-side. They make note pads out of them for sale. Goonj has never bought paper for correspondence or promotions. It uses only discarded one-side unused paper....Goonj has now begun the 'School to School Programme' which seeks to channel city children's old books, lunch boxes, water bottles, uniforms shoes and so on to rural children. There is also their winter-watch, when Goonj volunteers patrol Delhi's streets to give away warm blankets to shivering poor."
What impresses me is both the sensitivity and the simplicity of the process. Among other useful innovations, Goonj has apparently developed that most useful of hygiene items for poor women and girls: the low-cost sanitary napkin. A very humane and most useful innovation for women who have suffered for years using dirty rags: "They use any rag to dry themselves- it's usually a dirty rag. They get infected, often the low-grade kind, not quite the killer variety. They exist with it, in the background, not quite dead but barely living."

Goonj has been based in Delhi with other centres but had not yet set up base in Mumbai. Hearing about the Mumbai floods and the immediate need for relief work here, the organisation has now located a space to start its work here.

Here are details of the Goonj contact person and their just-identified collection centre in Mumbai: the contact person is called Jasmine, her number (this information is being provided here with her permission) is 9324222219, and her email

The collection address is:
RBI Society
A4 Akshay Bldg
(in the lane opp Food Inn)
Andheri West

Jasmine requests that anyone going across to this collection centre should please call her in advance, so that she can ensure that someone will be present to collect the materials.

They are looking for donations of: clothes, sheets, dry rations (oil, sugar, rice etc), medical supplies and - important - SCHOOL supplies.

They will also be looking for volunteers to help with the sorting, but that will be the next step, after the collection commences.

Cross-posted at Indian Writing.
Thanks to Neela and Charu for first pointing me to the work that Goonj does.