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Meet the Sunday heroes

As you sip your chai this morning, look out the window. You might just find these local do-gooders using their Sunday to make the city, your city, a better place.

brunch Updated: Jan 03, 2015 21:05 IST
Junisha Dama

For MOST of us, Sunday is a fun day – a time to put up our feet and forget that Monday exists. But for several Mumbaikars, Sunday is for getting up, getting out and making the city that much more liveable. Ordinary people have been getting together on their day off, volunteering their time to fix, feed, rescue, teach and protect, and have loads of fun in the process.

Here are their adventures. So what did your Sunday do for the world today?

The Friendly Neighbourhood Aides

Thirty years ago, a group of school children started an initiative to feed the homeless around the central suburbs. The kids are all grown up now, and all are businessmen.

But here’s what hasn’t changed: they still use their Sunday to spread the love, and they do more than feed. The group – they call themselves Sunday Friends – prefers to be anonymous. But their work doesn’t go unnoticed. Sundays begin with feeding 600 people in the Sion area and 200 in Chunabhatti. They also distribute fruits to roughly 80 patients in Sion Hospital, buy medicines for them and arrange for food for their families.

The Sunday Friends started their operation from a single car. But logistics have expanded over the years. They now organise several blood donation camps and are now taking organ donation under their wing as well. “We want to encourage skin donation in particular because the awareness for that is considerably low,” says Yogesh Doshi, one of the members.

“We have a strong association with Sion Hospital and are trying to raise funds for equipment and machines for the hospital as well,” Doshi says that help pours in from the local residents, but Sunday Friends prefer to fund most of their activities on their own. They also teach 50 street children basic English and Maths at the Little Angels High School, making Sion smile wider on Sunday.

To help: Register as a volunteer at

The Anti-Water-Waster Squad

This superhero with a plumber for a sidekick visits houses in Mira Road, attends to every water waster and protects every victim of water shortage. Aabid Surti, could well be called Waterboy. Growing up watching his mother wait in long queues every morning for water, Surti says he could not bear to hear the sound of water dripping from leaking taps.

“Wherever I heard a tap leaking, I’d request people to fix it. But they would ask ‘why?’ and believed that a few leaking drops wasn’t a waste,” he says. “Most would complain that plumbers didn’t come home for such meagre jobs.

”Haunted by the idea of hundreds of bottles worth of water being poured down the drain, he geared up to fix the problems himself; so what if he was 80 years old? Surti, along with his plumber Riyaaz Ahmed and a volunteer Tejal Shah (who helps get building society permissions to fix the taps) spend three hours every Sunday fixing leaking taps in the neighbourhood.

Between February 2007-08 alone, Surti visited 1,166 houses, fixed 414 leaking taps and approximately saved three million litres of water. He wants no praise in return, just for others to adopt the model and not let dripping taps waste more water.

Surti is trying to get other senior citizens to adopt his model and is reaching out to students too. His message is simple: “If I can, you can too.”

To adopt the model: Email Surti at

or visit his website

The Guys Who Paws For Effect

There’s a reason Mumbai dogs are so friendly. They have been seeing friendly faces and helping hands every Sunday morning. Volunteers from The Welfare of Stray Dogs (WSD) head out every weekend, providing basic first-aid to street dogs, looking for new cases and following up on old ones. Barks don’t scare them. Maggots don’t deter them. And all the wagging tails on the streets mean they’ve been doing their job.

WSD was founded in 1985, to offer a different solution to curb stray population than electrocution of animals. Their vaccination and sterilisation programmes have lowered the number of rabies CASES and they’ve made people realise that stray animals are Mumbaikars too. “We want to build a long-term relationship between humans and dogs,” says Abodh Aras, CEO of WSD. “So we reduce the problems of living with dogs.”

This means, at 9.30am, when you are just waking up, WSD volunteers are already meeting near Eros cinema at Churchgate. Injured dogs that don’t need hospitalisation are treated on site.

The more serious cases are taken to the hospital. The volunteers aren’t the only do-gooders. Aras says that WSD wouldn’t be able to operate at their best without street dwellers. To date, the organisation has helped almost 1,30,000 dogs using donations and WSD’s garage sales. They also publish calendars featuring the dogs, which are sold to raise money.

Why waste a Sunday caring for a stray? “There is so much you can learn from a dog,” says Aras. Tolerance is just one virtue.

To help: Register at To report about an injured dog, call the helpline on 4222838.

Creating Problem Solvers

New heroes have just come out of hiding. And they’re aiming to mentor street children much like a Big Brother programme in the US would. Green Batti brings together a young professional and a child with fewer resources (all the street children are students of Teach for India). “When I adopted a school in Dharavi a few years ago, I noticed that the children did not have enough exposure to the world as we know it today,” says Samyak Chakrabarty, one of the members.

So the curriculum revolves around some impact areas – problem solving, goal setting, critical thinking and creative imagination – which aims to expose the children to realities other than their own.

The project, which is under the wing of a start-up Social Quotient, puts their plan into action by creating games, stories and other content that will make learning a fun experience. “We use technology in the form of laptops and iPads so that the kids will get a different experience,” he adds.

How will mentoring 500 children help the city? “Charity isn’t only about donating food and clothes, but also about giving time to these kids.

Most of these kids come from backgrounds where chances of them getting involved in criminal activities are high. If giving exposure to them helps them avoid criminal behavior, then we have moulded 500 better citizens,” says Chakrabarty. The project was launched on Children’s Day, November 14, 2013.

To help: Email the team at

The Army of Street Fighters

H amara Footpath works with nearly 60 street children in ways that may leave passersby surprised. They rehabilitate the kids by educating them and getting them placed in permanent homes, teach the children’s families about birth control and help them get off substance abuse. They also have a new project in the offing that deals with child sexual abuse, an issue to which street kids are particularly vulnerable.

“We are trying to develop a model that other organisations can also adopt,” says Ishita Manek, a volunteer. “Currently, we have a few counsellors who conduct sessions with the children.” The regular Sunday classes come with a twist, focussing on practical lessons like using maths in life situations: they create a dummy book-store and teach kids to deal with the cashier and keep accounts.

Hamara Footpath is a community group that began on the streets of Churchgate in 2006. What began as an informal engagement with street children, encouraging them to learn, has grown in strength and outreach since then.

It aims at creating a strong future for the city’s street kids. “We believe in a qualitative approach. We don’t want the kids to simply pass an exam, we want them to score good marks as well,” says Taha Jodiawala, a member. Some of the families associated with the group have also been rehabilitated from the street to permanent residences.

To volunteer: Email the team at

From HT Brunch, January 4, 2015
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