Story of the unsung heroes-spirit of volunteerism

Extraveller (January 13, 2016)

We all know about the recent torrential rains in the southern state of India, Tamil Nadu. The fury of nature was so vast that continuous days of rain left the major areas reeling under 3-4 feet of water. It was water everywhere and the capital city of Chennai was also very badly affected. Though this recent flood in Chennai devastated the city but the spirit of Chennai refused to succumb during the devastation and at this time they had the support of Smile Foundation.

Smile Foundation is a national level development organisation came forward at such a time of calamity. Smile Foundation benefits over 300,000 underprivileged children, their families and the community directly through 158 welfare projects on subjects such as education, healthcare, livelihood, and women empowerment across 25 states of India. Adopting a life cycle approach of development, Smile Foundation focuses its interventions on children, their families and the community.

Smile Foundation, with its welfare interventions focused on children and their families, responds to the call of humanity in times of calamities under its Disaster Response programme. From the Kashmir earthquake in 2005 to the Uttarakhand floods, J&K floods and the recent Nepal earthquake, Smile Foundation has acted promptly to reach out and respond to the immediate needs of the disaster affected people, while also maintaining a sustainable approach to help them rebuild their lives by facilitating their education, healthcare and livelihood.

During the recent unleash of torrential rains everything in Chennai was reeling under water, the only thing refused to die down was the Spirit of Chennai. Chennai stood tall and faced the calamities fearlessly, hand in hand.

Smile Foundation started relief work as the rain got heavier and flood hit Chennai. From day one Smile Foundation reached out the flood stricken areas with dry foods, bottled water, survival kits and medical facilities. The Disaster Response team of Smile Foundation actively aided the rescue and immediate relief efforts in the city and reached approx 6 lakh people with water and food. The team had procured and distributed relief materials through 12 distribution hubs with each distribution point catering to 6-8 sub locations.

As per the need assessment done by the team on ground, water contamination was identified as a major issue, and a possible outbreak of water-borne diseases was detected. Hence the first priority was to mobilize safe drinking water in large quantity, along with dry and packaged food. In the phase I operation, Smile Foundation’s Disaster Response team had been able to distribute over 37780 kgs of dry food and 7, 56,000 litres of water supplied by PepsiCo.

The areas being covered during flood were mainly Pallavaram, Annaputtur, Naagai keni, Karima Nagar and Mudichur in Kanchipuram district; Ponneri, Ennor, Seethanambakkam and Minjur in Thiruninravuur district and the entire Chennai city region. As the water receded, the mobile hospital of Smile Foundation, Smile on Wheels (SOW) started delivering healthcare services. The Smile on Wheels van was equipped with doctors, lab technicians, Pathology services etc and also distributed medicines as well. In the next phase multi specialty health services are going to start to cope up with aftermath of the disaster.

But all said and done it was a mammoth task to accomplish alone. The team from Smile got people who offered their selfless service and helped us in reaching out. There were almost 500 such volunteers who fearlessly set out, risking their own lives and safety, to help their fellow citizens. Several of them are first-time volunteers and also those who have been rescued from the floods themselves. The volunteers worked day in & day out in extreme weather conditions, half submerged in water , exposed standing in stagnating water with sometimes cuts and bruises. There was no electric supply with feeble network coverage that hampered the co-ordination between rescuing teams and made it worse. Rain, flood, stagnant water & the high risks of adopting water borne diseases thereafter, nothing could stop them to continue the selfless service. I salute Smile Foundation and the volunteers, i.e. those unsung heroes who braved everything and stood up in the time of devastation.

All said and one, now the bad times are over but still further need assessment is now being done to devise short term and long term plans for rehabilitation and revival of the affected children and families in identified flood affected areas.

For more information about Smile Foundattion – please visit –