One of the highest forms of service in society is to feed the underprivileged and needy people. With this belief, Atul Ajmera started a movement in his town, Osmanabad, to feed the poor people.
Having brought up in Osmanabad, he lived near the civil hospital. He observed that people would come from far off villages to treat their family members at the hospital.
All those who came for treatment to the town struggled to afford a basic meal there and he was disheartened to see this.
Osmanabad is located in drought-prone region and is categorised as one of the most underdeveloped districts in the country. The farmer suicides in the region over the past years explain the terrible conditions in which they survive.
Ajmera knew that he always wanted to do something to contribute to the community. He recently moved back to his hometown after giving up his job as an engineer at Mumbai. Coincidentally, he watched a video of Azhar Maqsusi on WhatsApp, a man who feeds hundreds of people on the street in Hyderabad daily.
At once, Ajmera knew that he wanted to do something for the community and the video which he saw gave him inspiration. He felt that he could definitely do the same in his own hometown. He decided that he would be starting a community service along with his friends to provide food to all those who came to the civil hospital.
"For the poor farmers, it is never as simple as just coming to the hospital," explains Ajmera.
Many patients have to travel sometimes 60 km up and down just to get their family members treated. Apart from this, they also have to arrange their own food. It costs nearly ₹1,000-1,200 to arrange meals. In drought-like situations, it is extremely distressing for the farmers to arrange everything and it puts immense pressure on them financially.
Ajmera started providing a basic meal such as rice and vegetables to all those who have been waiting for long hours outside the civil hospital. A few of his friends got 30 people together and asked for ₹1,000 donations per month from families in the region.
Soon, they arranged funds to get started and project Annapurna was born. They decided to establish their service outside the hospital.
As a result of food getting delivered to patients and their kin coming to the hospital, the total beds in the hospital also increased. The civil hospital's capacity increased from 50 beds now to 200 beds. For the growth of the hospital, Ajmera thinks this service has played an important part.
Similar to their work outside the civil hospital, Annapurna began supplying food to the Kushtidham, a shelter home for leprosy patients. The local municipality approached Annapurna to provide relief to people in this shelter home.
The shelter home for leprosy patients was badly maintained with lack of clean water and sanitation. Since the last four years, they've also started taking care of the Kushtidham.
Soon, items such as chapatis were also added to make the meal more wholesome. Today, the Annapurna kitchen employs three people that prepare close to 6,000 meals a month under hygienic and safe conditions.
All the necessary licenses are in place and the kitchen is monitored via CCTV. Even during the lockdown, Annapurna continued to supply food to the needy. The facility at the hospital now continues but with the new social-distancing norms in place.
Ajmera wants to be present outside every civil hospital to support the needy with every opportunity he gets and encourages others to follow in his footsteps.
Annapurna is now a crucial part of Ajmera's life and he has impacted many lives through this.
Atul Ajmera's firm belief in community service shows us that anything could be achieved with strong will-power and one finds avenues when one looks out for possibilities.
This story has been received from Giving Circle. It is a platform that connects social change makers, donors, and volunteers. They are working to scale up these initiatives.