Moved by the plight of homeless people stranded on the streets, Naeem and Parveen who were on a grocery run when they came across of an appalling sight of the people living in temples, railway station, and bus stops without the proper shelter and were struggling to find even a morsel of food, the couple decided to go the extra mile and lend a hand to those in need.
There were hundreds of people, living in clusters around the city according to Naeem as he did not know he will end up helping hundreds of people through his small act of kindness.
That day, in the grocery store, the couple spent an extra Rs 3000 to purchase biscuits and other snacks for some of them, little did he know that in the next two months, he is going to shelter at least 80 homeless people on the street and help over 50 of them to set up a business.
On March 24, Naeem Tabrez Khan, a Chennai-based techie embarked on a journey to Erode to bring his family back to Chennai. It was supposed to be a one-day trip but, by the time he reached Erode, it was almost impossible to travel to Chennai. So, he decided to stay there for one day.
This one single day led him to this noble cause when he with his wife Parveen went out for groceries. Naeem was preparing for a certification exam due in June. To let him focus, his wife, Mahathaj Parveen, and children decided to spend a few months in the city with their relatives.
Thus, he ended up travelling to Erode. When the rumours of an unprecedented lockdown began surfacing, he wanted his family to get back home.
Back to his act of going beyond
After distributing the dry food items to a hundred needy people, Naeem realized that this would not suffice their need of a hot meal. So, he approached his friends and acquaintances through social media to gather enough money to make 100 food packets every day.
Luckily, he got a gracious local caterer — Shabir Ahmed — who agreed to help him. From making 100 packets a day, they were serving 520 lunch packets, and 100 breakfast packets, in a span of 30 days.
"The quality and quantity of food were always top-notch, and we ensured that those who ate it, enjoyed it," told Naim to TheBetterIndia foundation.
One day, Municipal Corporation of Erode spotted Naeem, Parveen and Shabir, while distributing the food packets. Being apprehensive of the fact that it might risk their lives, authorities tried to stop them. But Naeem was adamant for the cause that he decided to write a letter to officials assuring them about the safety norms being followed, while distribution, and requesting them a place to reside 100 homeless people.
What followed next on April 26, was the permission from the officials to let those people stay in a nearby government school. He and Parveen moved 80 people to a government school.
They did not just stop there
They approached local NGOs for volunteering, to provide three meals a day, along with tea, coffee, and snacks. They also started giving them a herbal drink, Kabasura Kudineer, to boost their immunity. This drink was being served at quarantine centers across the state according to them.
Naeem told TheBetterIndia that he got helped by some individual political organizations also. Thus, he could accomplish this work.
Apart from this, Naim and Parveen ensured that they created a positive environment for everyone. They conducted games on certain days and even screened movies.
Later, Naim also created a website — humanitywins.co.in — where he would update the work he did, along with pictures and videos.
Through the website, they received approximately Rs 29.5 lakh and with the help of such bulk donations, they were able to set up businesses for about 15 people in the beginning.
A man who had physical disabilities got helped by them. He had to stop working a few years ago, so they converted his manual-start auto-rickshaw into an auto-start. There was a watchmaker who needed work, so they invested in a small shop where he could restart his business. Apart from this, they also secured work for 50 individuals at construction sites, restaurants, grocery stores, and similar places according to Naeem, who along with his family is still living in Erode, and continues to provide constant support to those staying at the school.
When the lockdown restrictions eased, some of them managed to find work, while some left for other cities. But there are still 15 people taking shelter at the school, and the corporation has agreed to allow them to reside here until it officially resumes. Shabir continues to make three meals a day for them, and I am constantly looking out for employment opportunities for them. "I am grateful for this experience; it has truly made me realize how we only need a few small actions to make a powerful impact," TheBetterIndia quotes him as saying.
One of the beneficiaries, S Sivaraj, 55, of Salem district, who is now the owner of a watch repair shop, told TOI that he did not know he would own a shop even in his wildest dreams.