Meet The Man Behind The Organisations Saving Lives And Feeding Thousands

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Meet The Man Behind The Organisations Saving Lives And Feeding Thousands

How much money do you need to save hundreds of lives? How much money to feed thousands? “Not a single paise,” Khushroo Poacha says.

Khushroo had to grow up quickly when he lost his father at 16 and began working. He’s seen deprivation up close. He watched people lose loved ones because they couldn’t get blood donations on time. He saw patients’ relatives survive on nothing more than roti and pyaaz as they spent time in hospitals. He’s seen children not get enough to eat.

But how could a railway clerk with a limited income help people?

He started when he put his entire Provident Fund into creating Indian Blood Donors, a website that linked blood donors to those who needed blood. It has come a long way and today saves thousands of lives every year. But it wasn’t enough. Khushroo wanted to do more.

When his mother was in hospital, he watched patients’ relatives and came to a realisation. "People sell off their property so they can afford to pay for treatment. There are those who travel great distances to come to the big hospitals. Where do they eat?”

And that’s how he came up with the idea of connecting those who wished to serve food with those who needed it. The Seva Kitchen App launched earlier this year has already made sure 4,000 people received food from donors.

Khushroo’s initiatives have attracted thousands of volunteers.

Seva Kitchen feeds not just patients’ relatives but large numbers of the needy and underprivileged. Several ‘Neki Ka Pitara’ or ‘Fridges of Kindness’ have been set up around the country in hospitals and schools for the underprivileged – 5 in Nagpur, 3 in Hyderabad, 1 in Thane and 2 at the Haryana-Delhi border. Each fridge has its own WhatsApp Group. Donors fill the fridges with ready to eat food like fruit, juice, milk, and dry fruit.

The fridge is opened by a social worker – what is needed is taken without any monitoring. When the fridge is empty, the social worker posts a picture of the empty shelves and a donor will fill it. “The entire operation happens seamlessly from donor to fridge,” Khushroo says. There is no middleman.

Khushroo believes in the Power of One and is inspiring so many people to combat the inequalities of society and help the needy.

Bhavesh Joshi Superhero celebrates the Insaafer spirit of Khushroo Poacha!    

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In 1994, Khushroo Poacha was with his grandmother in the hospital when he heard a huge racket in the middle of the night. He looked out to see a group of people thrashing a resident doctor. Alarmed, he went up to them to ask what had happened. “The doctor killed my wife!” a distraught man said.

What had actually happened was far more common but no less cruel for the frequent occurrence it is. The doctor had asked for 2 units of blood. The patient’s relatives, from a very rural area, could not arrange for the blood in time. As they scrambled to and from a blood bank, the patient died of cardiac arrest.

The incident settled uncomfortably in Poacha’s mind.

Khushroo Poacha had had to grow up in a hurry. He lost his father at the age of 16 and so had to begin earning. At 18, he found a job in the Indian Railways where he continues to work. Today Poacha runs the charitable initiatives IndianBloodDonors.com, Seva Kitchen, and Neki Ka Pitara (the Fridge of Kindness) that harness the power of hundreds of volunteers and bring relief and aid to thousands every year. He does it ‘without a single paise’ he says, a decision he took in the year 2000.

In 1999 when a friend lost an employee because they couldn’t access O-negative blood, Poacha thought, “Abhi kuch karna hai.” He put his entire Provident Fund into creating a website meant to link blood donors to those who needed blood. At first it didn’t take off. When the Gujarat earthquake happened, Poacha called Zee News and told them to run the web address on the ticker. The help provided was immediate and tangible. “Within a year,” he says, “we were on BBC World!”

When the Indian Blood Donors helpline needed funding to sustain it, Poacha decided to call a few companies who had offered help. “But these potential sponsors had such a huge list of requirements,” Poacha says, “and they wanted me to share my donors’ data! I said ‘no’.”

“Mr Poacha,” he was categorically told by one CEO of a massive organization, “You cannot do good work without money.” Poacha still laughs. “I don’t know if it was ego but I said, ‘I will prove to you that good work can be done without any money!’ I decided to never form an NGO and never accept money.”

As Indian Blood Donors began to thrive, Poacha’s personal experience inspired another initiative. When his mother was in the hospital, he watched patients’ relatives eating dry bread with onions. Sometimes they’d go hungry. “I realised then that people sell off their property so they can afford to pay for treatment. There are those who travel great distances to come to the big hospitals. Where do they eat?”

That’s how he came up with the idea of connecting those with excess food to those who needed food. He began to connect those who wished to serve food and those who needed it. Today, there’s also a Seva Kitchen App that was launched earlier this year that has already made sure 4,000 people received food from donors.

The Seva Kitchen initiative feeds not just patients’ relatives but large numbers of the needy and underprivileged. Several ‘Fridges of Kindness’ have been set up around the country in hospitals and schools for the underprivileged – 5 in Nagpur, 3 in Hyderabad, 1 in Thane and 2 at the Haryana-Delhi border. Each fridge has its own Whatsapp Group. Donors fill the fridges with ready to eat food like fruit, juice, milk, and dry fruit. Twice a day, the fridge is opened by a social worker – what is needed is taken without any monitoring. When the fridge is empty, the social worker posts a picture of the empty shelves and a donor will fill it. “The entire operation happens seamlessly from donor to fridge,” Poacha says, with no middleman.

It’s not always been smooth-sailing and Poacha has had his moments of despair. But he’s always ended up overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers. “Before social media, I used to distribute Indian Blood Donor stickers to raise awareness,” he says. “One day, a lady asked for some but I had only 3 left. One was torn. Still, she took them. A few days later, she called him to tell me that she had had 25,000 stickers printed. It was the same with a man who found out I needed stamps to send the stickers out. He told me he’d send me stamps worth Rs. 1,500. Then he sent me stamps worth Rs. 18,000. These miracles happen every day. You go out there with humility and selflessness to serve society, and help will come. Some days I only have to think it and the assistance I require to help people arrives!”

The initiatives are changing lives in unprecedented ways. “There are folks from the Page 3 crowd who arrive to serve food to the needy in 46-degree heat,” he says. “They’ve never experienced this kind of happiness. They’ve never felt this kind of gratitude to be given the opportunity to serve.”

He credits his Parsi upbringing, the everyday kindness his mother was famous in their area for, and a deep belief in the goodness of people and the Power of One. “Trouble with today is everyone wants numbers. What’s your reach? What are the statistics? Did Mother Teresa have a revenue model?” He laughs. “I ask what are you speaking of numbers for? How many followers did Hitler have? And how many did Jesus? That’s the answer to your question.”