There is a location in Chennai where hundreds of individuals living on the streets can go to pick up some pre-packaged food without having to compromise their sense of honour or dignity.
The community fridges that were installed by an orthodontist in Chennai named Issa Fathima Jasmine through her non-profit organisation known as ‘The Public Foundation’ are also a blessing to a great number of low-income families who are unable to afford three meals a day due to their lack of income.
Issa has organised the installation of approximately 15 community fridges in the cities of Chennai, Vellore, and Bengaluru. The idea receives support from the community members who regularly stock the refrigerator with food either brought from their own houses or purchased from nearby hotels.
Issa began delivering meals to a woman who had been living under a bridge close to her apartment in 2015, and this marked the beginning of the effort in a very humble fashion. But sadly, the woman did not survive for very long.
I was looking for another person to whom I could provide food and I wanted to find them. Issa, 39, who realised that an uncountable number of people in the country go to sleep hungry every night, says that she truly wanted to do it because it gave her inner peace. “I really wanted to do it because it gave me inner peace.”
“I came across an effort called “community fridges” in several nations including the United Kingdom and Germany and others while I was studying ways to assist needy people with obtaining food. These countries include others. As I had that thinking, I realised that I could also do it in Chennai.
The participation of the communities in the surrounding area is necessary for the community fridges to be a viable and successful endeavour in the long run.
Issa also came to the conclusion that the refrigerators could only be placed in areas where both those in need and people willing to donate food were present at the same time.
So, in 2017, she used her own money to install the first communal fridge close to the tennis court in Besant Nagar, which is located in Chennai. It was approximately 1,250,000 rupees in price.
The second obstacle that needed to be overcome was raising awareness among the community members about the project. She accomplished this by engaging in conversation with the community members and persuading them to take part in the community fridge effort by donating food.
Issa explains, “I told them how the refrigerator would be useful to feed the hungry and how they could be a part of the project.” “I told them how the fridge would be beneficial to feed the hungry.”
As a response, members of the neighbourhood started bringing any extra food from their houses that would have been thrown away under any other circumstance and placing it in the refrigerator. People today frequently carry their own pre-packaged meals from hotels and store them in their refrigerators.
Issa went it alone when he first started the programme, but it has since grown to include five core team members and other volunteers working under them.
At least ten different volunteers are connected to each core team member. They appear and offer assistance anytime there is a need for it, according to Issa.
The refrigerators have a capacity that ranges anywhere from 400 to 600 lires. According to Issa, the cost of installing a single refrigerator might range anywhere from one hundred thousand to two and a half thousand rupees (INR), depending on the size of the refrigerator and the location that is selected.
On a daily basis, anywhere from seventy to one hundred individuals are helped by each refrigerator. That indicates that Issa’s project feeds approximately one thousand individuals on a daily basis.
Today, as a result of the initiative’s overwhelming level of success, an increasing number of individuals are contacting Issa’s non-profit organisation in an effort to have communal refrigerators installed in their neighbourhoods.
“But, we are not going to just install the refrigerator anywhere we please. According to Issa, “I personally visit each and every venue that my team selects in order to analyse whether or not the location has access to contributors as well as beneficiaries.”
She prefers to install the refrigerators in “hunger zones,” which are areas where the people who will most benefit from them, such as the homeless, labourers, and beggars, are concentrated.
Issa has begun a number of other projects in addition to this one, which has been given the name Ayyamittu Unn and literally translates to “before you eat, share the food with the poor.” Issa has also begun a number of other initiatives.
She works in the rural areas surrounding Chennai, Vellore, and Bengaluru, where she and her team provide essentials such as food, clothing, and stationery to underprivileged families and children attending local schools.
Issa calculates that the charity has given away approximately 87 kg worth of clothing, 2,674 kg worth of books, 2,819 pairs of shoes, and 2,531 kg worth of toys as of this point in time.
“We also work during natural disasters and offer relief materials to the affected people,” Issa says, adding that people observe her work and come forward to support her work by either providing funds or offering to volunteer with her. “We also work during natural disasters and offer relief materials to the affected people,” Issa says.
Issa attended SBOA School & Junior College in Anna Nagar and graduated from there with a Class 12 diploma. She completed her Bachelor of Dental Surgery at Sri Ramachandra University.
She held a position as an assistant professor in a community college for a period of time. She currently holds a position as a consultant orthodontist within a corporate dental chain, and she visits the clinic in the evenings. The first part of the day is set aside for the volunteer work that she does.
Isn’t it tough for her to juggle the demands of her job and the several social activities she participates in?
When you take the time to organise your days more thoroughly, things become much simpler. There are times when I schedule out the entire week in advance. Issa explains, “In addition, I worked as a lecturer for a while, but these days I concentrate solely on my profession and my social work.”
Since I am able to successfully juggle both my medical practise and my work with a charitable organisation, I haven’t given much attention to the possibility of switching careers. I take pleasure in being able to accomplish both.”
Issa is a total health and fitness nut. Before she eats breakfast, she completes her morning routine of exercise and meditation, which she does after getting up early.
She is an avid reader of literature on personal development. “I always have a book with me, and I read whenever I get the time,” she says. “I always have a book with me.” Carol Dweck’s “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” is her go-to recommendation for a good read.