It was another birthday celebration for her October born children in 2017, when Sonali Ghosh, a Corporate Trainer, Psychotherapist and a mother of two, turned up at a local NGO to sponsor a meal for the children there. The children at the NGO, plates and glasses in hand, sat in a neat queue against the wall of the half constructed single room that served as a classroom and contact centre for the local NGO. Expectantly yet patiently the children awaited their turn to be called out and receive the freshly cooked jeera rice, dal-makhni and sevai kheer. There was enough for everyone, but they must not waste, they were told. A simple meal, yet one that was hugely relished. The children polished off their plates and came back for more, smiling faces lighting up the room. These were children of construction workers from adjacent slums who were supported by the local NGO. Sonali was touched beyond measure. ‘The celebration must continue’, she thought and a resolve grew within her, ‘not for one day, but for every possible day in the lives of these children.’ The challenge now was how could this be achieved?
Discussing various possibilities and looking up logistics, she decided to arrange for freshly cooked stuffed vegetarian parathas to be served once every day at the school. The paratha stuffing would change every day to include seasonal vegetables and sometimes lentils. She approached her cook for making the parathas. Her cook willingly decided to give the cause a try and became the official cook for the project that was soon to be named ‘Happy Parathas’. The per-paratha-cost was worked out in mutual agreement with the cook. But the question still remained how would this project be funded?
With no experience of community service, she reached out to her network of like-minded friends for crowdfunding, who pooled in donations and support to aid her cause. Together with a band of seven women, ‘Beautiful Minds’ was born to sponsor the project. Come December the same year, and the fresh piping hot stuffed parathas were ready to be served.
What started out with one school soon jumped to four schools by December 2019, as the contributors also grew from 7 to 30 plus. From 70 children to around 200 children. The number of cooks have also doubled. The cooks have to sign an affidavit document of agreement that clearly lists down the Beautiful Mind’s uncompromising expectations of quality and hygiene to be met in making the parathas. The document clearly details the selected brands of ingredient that must be used in the making of the parathas.
The schools which enjoys the Happy Parathas are:
Beautiful Minds is not an NGO, but a people’s initiative. While it strives to account for every paisa spent, it maintains both transparency as well as confidentiality for the contributors. Sonali feels it is not a very difficult or time consuming work to keep the accounts in order. Beautiful Minds, now supported by busy professionals, both men and women, believes in giving back to society, keeping the experience hassle free, transparent and joyful. All that is needed is to commit per month a minimum contribution of a Thousand Rupees/- or in its multiples. It is important to keep the commitment consistent though, as the fund is primarily used to feed children. It needs a mention here, the entire model thrives on trust something that may be difficult though not impossible to achieve during these times. Even in the times of lockdown, Beautiful Minds could sponsor distribution of dry ration to the families of some of the children from the schools they serve the Happy Parathas.
Sometimes, simplicity is in the giving and that’s what made Giving Circle support Sonali’s simple yet life-changing cause. Like hitting two evils with one stone, Sonali and Beautiful Minds is not only taking children closer to education through their dedicated community service but is helping them with a healthy meal too. There are several underprivileged schools out there looking for a helping hand to make the future better for these children. Help Sonali expand her circle of goodness by joining her or start your own circle of goodness in your community and make something as basic as parathas available to these food-deprived souls. If Sonali, a working professional and a mother of two can make it happen, so can you!
Her gesture shows that all it takes is goodwill and the support of a few like-minded people to change or rather save a life. Sonali has shown us how to do it despite having a busy career, so what’s stopping you?