Friday, 20 April 2012

First Kathir Dhan Experience

Kathir Dhan site 

"Kathir Dhan", as mentioned in a previous post, is the most charitable of all the ECO Kitchen programs. Individuals donate funds to celebrate an auspicious day or special occasion and ECO Kitchen uses the donation to feed vulnerable people within Chennai. Often, this comes in the form of an orphanage or old age home. Recently, I had my first experience of the program when I went along to a local slum community where we were going to be serving lunch.

Selfish dog who wouldn't share the shade with me

To get from the office in T. Nagar to the site, my colleagues took their motorbikes while I hopped into an auto rickshaw. Arriving at the agreed meeting place first, I ended up waiting about fifteen minutes. During this time, I realized how much I've come to appreciate shade. Here in Chennai, there is a noticeable difference when you move out of the sun and into a nice pocket of shade. Instantly, you feel refreshed and rejuvenated. However, it does feel ironic to be dodging sunny patches as I walk now, having spent the last four years in England desperately dreaming of sunny days. While waiting for my colleagues to arrive, I spotted some nice shade under a nearby store's awning. Unfortunately, as I moved into it, I discovered that this particular area of shade had already been claimed by a very grumpy dog who was distinctly unwilling to share with me. Feeling a bit ridiculous for letting the dog defeat me, I moved back into the sun and wished it would get lots of fleas as punishment.

Setting up for the food service

Luckily, my colleagues chose that moment to arrive. Unluckily, it turned out we were in slightly the wrong place and therefore needed to drive down the road a bit further. Since the distance was so short, my colleague S suggested that I hop on the back of her motorbike instead of dealing with an auto. Having ridden with her previously down the quiet country road that leads to ECO Kitchen's headquarters, I was familiar with her smooth and capable driving technique. Gingerly, and trying not to think about the fact that we were going to drive through Chennai traffic, I hopped on and we took off, providing endless entertainment for the children nearby who obviously found fault with my death grip on S and the bike's hand holds.


After a slightly harrowing but thankfully short ride, we arrived at the site. The houses were mainly constructed out of woven materials and very tightly packed together. On the right there was a truly disgusting looking river, which was an alarming shade of green in the sunlight. Seeing that I worried that it might prove to be too fragrant for me to handle but luckily the wind was blowing the other direction. After setting up a little table and putting down some tarps, we waited for the food to be delivered. It arrives in huge canisters and is served directly from them. The participants were given paper plates and the whole thing was served buffet style with ECO Kitchen employees serving.

Food canisters 

My job was to bounce around taking photos and handing out pamphlets explaining what the meal service was for. Unfortunately, this meant that ECO Kitchen received some great photos while I had barely any time to snap a few personal ones.

Local kids

What struck me the most during this experience were the people. The children were all so happy and friendly, excitedly asking me to take their pictures. Practising their English, they were overjoyed when I would continue the conversation. And they were so willing to help out with whatever they could, whether it was rinsing the serving utensils or finding rocks to keep the tarps in place. Their parents were equally kind and generous with both their times and their resources. For example, as the heat started to make me feel a little light headed, elderly women kept coming up to me and offering me their chairs. Looking at them, I felt very pathetic as I was only a third their age and yet no where near as tough and capable.

The kids with their mothers

The whole day really demonstrated to me the important work that ECO Kitchen is doing and how it can only be accomplished through donations. It was a useful site visit for me because, as part of my volunteer work with them, I'll be working on ways to increase the number of donations they receive each year. If anyone would like to take part, please visit the website

1 comment:

  1. Wow! This sounds like such a humbling adventure. Thanks for taking pictures and sharing it. I get so caught up in my first-world problems that it's really eye-opening to see something like this. Even more important, I love that you shared that these people were joyful. It's a reminder that we need to enjoy however little or however much we have!