Published: 23rd June 2021
These Kerala law students came together to rebuild the sea wall and distribute resources for families in flood-affected Chellanam
Around 50 NSS volunteers from Government Law College, Ernakulam came together to raise money and distribute essentials to the people of Chellanam
A plea for help began circulating on the National Service Scheme’s WhatsApp groups on behalf of the people of Chellanam, a seaside hamlet in Kerala that's been hit badly by sea erosion. An action plan from an NSS Programme Officer from Sacred Heart College, Thevara immediately resonated with the students of the Scheme’s Unit 22 in Government Law College, Ernakulam. On May 24, the two NSS units came together to fill hundreds of sacks with sand in an effort to temporarily rebuild the sea wall in the Gram Panchayat after the area was ravaged by the rains on May 14.
Muhammad Ajmal KK, Prasanth S Kumar and Vishnuprasad NK, three first year students and NSS volunteers went on to set up the Save Chellanam Challenge after they witnessed the plight of the locals themselves. Around 50 volunteers in the college were quick to back the idea and they decided that 50 kits of food essentials would be given to a single ward in Chellanam that has been worst-hit by the crisis.
BACKED UP: Around 50 volunteers in the college supported the cause
Dr Lina Acca Mathew, Assistant Professor and NSS Coordinator at the Government Law College, says, “The idea was for the volunteers to identify 50 beneficiaries by approaching the ward member himself. Since he represents the constitutional machinery, they wanted to make sure that their efforts would be reflected from the grassroots itself. Each volunteer was tasked with finding a minimum of 20 people each to contribute towards the effort.”
She continues, “Ordinarily, the NSS does not do any canvassing or work towards fundraising, people voluntarily contribute towards our causes. But due to the pandemic, this was the best way to reach people in such a short period of time.” Punjab National Bank offered quick support to the students by opening an account for Anaswara KP, the Volunteer Secretary in just a matter of hours. In a matter of weeks, the students crossed their targeted amount of Rs 35,000 and managed to raise an amount of Rs 93,000 by the first week of June.
WARD OFF: The students distributed kits to wards that were most in need
On June 5, the Save Chellanam project carried out their first phase of work. On a Saturday morning, the law students arrived at Ward 20 of the Chellanam Gram Panchayat, where the flood had resulted in the worst destruction. They went on to distribute 50 kits of food and essentials to the families in the area. Anaswara KP and 12 NSS volunteers spearheaded the mission with their college Principal Bindu M Nambiar and Coordinator Lina Mathew.
The second phase was introduced on June 11. With the help of the Panchayat Secretary, they distributed another 50 food and essentials kits to 50 more families in Ward 13. In this phase, the students distributed more than 1000 notebooks for around 100 students of Ward 19 in North Chellanam. They also handed over 350 notebooks to the Headmistress of the Puthenthode Government Higher School for students who lost their belongings to the flood.
PACKED UP: The kits contained around 14 items each
Lina says, “Each kit cost approximately ₹600 rupees. This has around 14 items each that were procured by the students themselves. They spent hours, in the middle of a lockdown, bargaining with vendors in and around the Ernakulam district to secure the best resources for the best price. They put a lot of thought and effort into this. The notebooks were ruled, unruled, 4-line, 2-line of college size depending on the schools and students.”
She adds, “As budding lawyers, legislators and government officials, they are willing to assist and dedicate themselves in any social endeavour to bring about a lasting solution to these problems faced in our state.” Recently, Unit 22 learned that students in Ward 13 of the Chellanam Gram Panchayat who'd lost their homes to the cyclones had not been able to access their online classes after TV sets and phones were destroyed. Now, the student volunteers are working with government authorities to help secure three smartphones for these students.