Volunteer Piyali Chatterjee Ghosh collects a cheque from elderly couple Sunity and Ramendu Nandi as a part of her errands on behalf of the elderly in Sonari, Jamshedpur, on Thursday. Picture by Animesh Sengupta
The unique human helpline for senior citizens in Jamshedpur is getting calls from aspiring volunteers who are sexagenarians themselves.
Retired Tata Steel employee and founder of Sonari NGO Nehru Bal Vikas Kendra Jammi Sri Kumar says his helpline numbers 09204750117 and 09430338896 are busy these days. Many people want to join his team of five young volunteers who run errands for free for elderly people living alone.
Interestingly, some of the most serious wannabe volunteers are over 60 years old, but fit enough to help out people their age and above who are not as fortunate health-wise.
The Telegraph had published a report on 68-year-old Kumar’s unique endeavour (Senior citizens, say hello to human helpline, Nov. 26). Most people, young and old, approached him after reading the report, he says with a smile.
Kumar was pleasantly surprised when the trio of Shankar Balakrishnan (64), Ashok Kumar Upadhyay (65) and K.N. Mishra (63) called him up, evincing interest in his project.
“All three are good people and looking forward to work with my existing team of youngsters Raja Ghosh, Raju Das, Ajitesh Kumar, Piyali Chatterjee Ghosh and Mamta Yadav,” he said. “Age is just a number.”
Sixty-four-year-old Kadma resident Balakrishnan, who retired from Tata Tayo, proved it with his words. “I’m fit. Helping senior citizens by going to hospital, getting them medicines or vegetables, depositing their phone bills or doing their bank work will make me feel energised,” he said.
On Kumar, Balakrishnan said: “He’s doing a wonderful job. I’d like to join him.”
Upadhyay, who lives in Sonari with his better half, said: “I am already fetching senior citizens medicines. I’m jovial by nature and can talk and share jokes with them.”
Kumar, who wants to extend his network to Sakchi, Bistupur, Baridih and Sidhgora, added he would love committed people on board. “I try to keep operations totally transparent. I have instructed my team to not accept cash from senior citizens for paying electricity and phone bills. My team accepts cheques. We pay for vegetables, grocery and medicines which is later reimbursed by the senior citizens,” he added.
His best reward? “My son Sharad, who works in Hyderabad, offered to send Rs 2,000 a month for fuel and other costs incurred by my team,” he said.