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They sell trash to save lives

December 24, 2009 09:04 IST

Shail Shah is a 23-year-old IT engineer. He works with Adani Wilmar, a leading edible oil company, but there's something else that keeps this young go-getter busy.

In his free time, Shail along with 65 other young people from Ahmedabad, come together to raise money for deserving, needy families, distribute food and supplies to slum-dwellers and spend time with orphans and old-aged.

While the social activities of this group are varied, one of the more commendable efforts is Shail's initiative to raise money for dialysis patients. He along with 25-year-old Palakh Jain have been raising money by visiting homes, and picking up and selling old newspaper and other recyclable material for the last four years.

People who hear of them through word of mouth or recent news reports call them up and they arrange for the paper or other trash to be picked up. This is then sold at the recyclers', who give them a slightly higher rate than the normal. And this money is channeled into the fund -- a fund provides patients suffering from kidney failure with dialysis. "It is not a one-time expense," explains Shail. These patients need dialyses on a weekly basis and, costing about Rs 12,000-15,000 per month, it is out of reach for many.

But why have they chosen such an unconventional route to raising money? "Well, when you just ask people for money whatever the cause may be, they are reluctant. They are not sure of whether the funds will be utilised for the right purpose, whether the funds will reach the people who need it. This way they can contribute without actually having to give us their money."

The first patient he reached out to was a lady who suffered renal failure during childbirth. Being from an impoverished background she needed help and approached Shail. He extended his assistance from his own pocket but as he learnt of the many others who were suffering just for lack of money, he decided to mobilise funds through his network of friends.

"Another patient, a rickshaw driver, approached me saying that if I could just help him with one week's dialysis, he would live for a week longer enabling him to earn enough money for the next week's session," says Palakh.

So far they have raised Rs 1.72 lakhs but Shail is looking to the future with caution. "While we do want to help more people, we don't want to risk neglecting our older patients. Since dialysis is a recurrent expense we need to ensure that all our patients are taken care of."

The duo has tied up with the Gujarat Kidney Foundation and a panel of six nephrologists. It is from here that deserving patients are identified and assisted. They also collaborate with the Thackershy Trust, where dialysis is administered at a nominal rate. Candidates are screened to make sure that they are truly in need of assistance. The nephrologists charge a marginal amount, which is then covered by the fund.

Apart from this they are also involved in other social activities. They visit old-age homes every fortnight, a school for mentally challenged children every week where they interact with the children and organise dance parties, distribute khichdi and blankets to slum dwellers. A friend's parents have donated two vehicles to the cause, which are used to transport volunteers and supplies every week.

It all began with a drive home from a party. It was winter and this group of youngsters saw people shivering in the cold. This sight prompted them to rustle up some funds to buy them blankets. Since then the group has grown, as has their scope of activity.

And what does the future hold? "Five years down the line, no Indian should die for lack of funds – that is our goal, and we are working towards it," says Shail, brimming with hope and confidence.

Shifra Menezes