Children crowd around Piyush Goswami in Nagaland.
Children crowd around Piyush Goswami in Nagaland.

Being the change: When holiday trips turn into philanthropy

A Bangalore couple is combining travel with philanthropy and crowdfunding, via a project called Rest of My Family. Their aim: to unite rural and urban India to effect change at the grassroot level
By Pankti Mehta Kadakia | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON OCT 19, 2015 03:38 PM IST

We all have those stories - tales of hardship and humanity gathered from strangers on our travels, shared by friendly locals on ferry boats or jeep taxis.

Sometimes it’s about a wastrel son who won’t find a job; other times it’s a crop that’s failed for three years in succession. The tales can be heart-rending, they can make you want to reach out. But it’s hard to know how.

Young travel bloggers Piyush Goswami, 30, and Akshatha Shetty, 28, decided to find a way. And they now have a crowdfunding campaign that’s brought in Rs 20 lakh and counting. They call it Rest of My Family (ROMF). “It’s an attempt to connect, and give others a chance to connect, with our extended human family around the country,” says Goswami, a freelance photographer.

Over the past three months, as they waited for the money to flow into the online initiative, they have also begun a pilot project - a grassroots initiative to bring access to water and electricity for the Van Bawariya hunter-gatherer tribe of 200, based in Jinwara, Rajasthan.

“We plan to partner with local NGOs to dig a well and install solar panels,” says Goswami. The tribe, which the couple ran across earlier this year, currently shares a single tap, active only for one hour a day, and has no electricity supply.

Akshatha Shetty with three generations of a Kalbelia tribe in Pushkar.
Akshatha Shetty with three generations of a Kalbelia tribe in Pushkar.

STARTING SMALL
The couple’s journey began in 2013. Determined to travel more, they quit their jobs as photographer and journalist respectively, gave up their Bangalore homes, and began making their way across rural India, from Rajasthan to Nagaland, experiencing and documenting local cultures.

“Initially, we had planned a photoblog,” says Shetty, “dispatching stories to raise awareness of community struggles.” But the couple soon realised that while this satisfied them creatively, it made little difference to the villagers. “These people became more than just names or faces to us, and we wanted to do something that would help them in a tangible way,” says Shetty. So, three months ago, the duo launched Rest of my Family on Indiegogo, with a goal of $30,000 (about Rs 19.40 lakh). The project has already raised Rs 20.40 lakh and will accept donations for another week.

Meanwhile, the couple is surviving on the money they make from freelance writing and photography assignments. And travelling to identify more places and causes to return to. “While the larger goal is to change urban mindsets, we are also determined to bring about change on the ground, through simple, grassroots solutions,” says Shetty.

Towards this end, the duo will also partner with NGOs or individuals to focus on the areas of healthcare, sanitation, education, nutrition, child labour, and female infanticide over the next 12 months, as they drive across the country visiting areas they have identified for their projects.

A plantation worker at an estate in the Annamalai mountains, where Rest of My Family has been reporting on the growing demand for raised wages.
A plantation worker at an estate in the Annamalai mountains, where Rest of My Family has been reporting on the growing demand for raised wages.

In the three months since they launched ROMF, Goswami and Shetty have covered about 3,500 kilometres in their jeep, mainly in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. “We’ve been making our way through Naxal-affected areas where governance is minimal and there is a lot to be done,” says Goswami. “We often have to sleep in the car overnight, but usually we make friends with community members and someone offers us room in their home.”

Access to water, electricity and education have emerged as key issues at every stop.

The 25-family Malasar tribe in Nelliampathy, Kerala, for instance, has no electricity and gets its water supply through a single narrow pipe. In summer, they have to walk several kilometres to a lake for water.

Apart from helping them lay down a wide, properly laid-out pipe, the duo aims to ensure that they are provided with solar lighting, in partnership with CSR arms of organisations and with the help of individual funding.

CHANGE MAKERS
Their first ‘action story’ has already seen some progress. Three months ago, Goswami and Shetty met 14-year-old Mari in Bodinayakanur, Tamil Nadu. His father had left the family eight years earlier and the boy had been forced to quit school in Class 8 to help support the family.

He earns Rs 100 a day working at a garage and has developed a passion for automobiles. Shetty and Goswami are now in talks with NGO Smiley Faction to sponsor vocational training for Mari, and to fund his younger brother’s education. “Mari is a sincere, hardworking boy, and will take all the help he can get,” says Kallima, the boy’s maternal aunt. “He deserves a better life, and we are so grateful that strangers are helping to give him an opportunity.”

Shiv Vishvanathan, sociologist: This is a unique idea that shows concern and commitment, and an interesting experiment. Their blog will keep a constant dialogue going. Since their methods are not fixed, they will have to stay focused to create the impact they intend to.

Piyush Goswami, photographer and co-founder of Rest of My Family: The thing we have realised is that we often don’t know what people really need. In some areas, their mud homes work fine, but they would like a community vehicle they can use in case of emergencies.

Akshatha Shetty, writer and co-founder of Rest of My Family: People everywhere are the same. They want to be loved, accepted and cared for. And we hope, in our own little way, to help make people understand that, to truly connect Indians as one large family.

Gautam Kulkarni, Dubai-based businessman who contributed $5,000 (about Rs 3.25 lakh) to the campaign: I’ve always wanted to travel around rural India, so I decided to contribute - to make a difference and experience India through this unique project.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
app
Close
Singapore Airline sets up pre-departure Covid-19 tests to Revive Travel(Twitter/hellofinstra)
Singapore Airline sets up pre-departure Covid-19 tests to Revive Travel(Twitter/hellofinstra)

Singapore Airline sets up pre-departure Covid-19 tests to Revive Travel

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON JAN 20, 2021 10:28 AM IST
In order to revive travel demand destroyed by the Covid-19 pandemic, Singapore Airlines has now started a trail of pre-departure coronavirus tests for people flying from Singapore as well as those travelling to the city-state from Jakarta and Medan in Indonesia
Close
National Mall lights up for Americans unable to attend Biden's inauguration(Twitter/kyle_teamjoe)
National Mall lights up for Americans unable to attend Biden's inauguration(Twitter/kyle_teamjoe)

National Mall lights up for Americans unable to attend Biden's inauguration

ANI
UPDATED ON JAN 20, 2021 10:11 AM IST
A display of 'Field of Flags' (made up of 191,500 US flags) and 56 pillars of light (representing the 50 states and US territories) illuminate the National Mall in honour of Americans who can't attend the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on January 20
Close
Snow fills Kashmir resort with tourists again(AP)
Snow fills Kashmir resort with tourists again(AP)

Tourists make way to the snow filled Kashmir resorts again

AP, Gulmarg
PUBLISHED ON JAN 20, 2021 08:22 AM IST
  • Gulmarg is once again filled with domestic tourists who are having a gala time skiing, sledging and trekking. That is not all, the resorts are sold out until February end.
Close
With its cavernous malls, frenetic construction and legions of foreign workers, Dubai was built on the promise of globalization, drawing largely from the aviation, hospitality and retail sectors — all hard hit by the virus.(Unsplash)
With its cavernous malls, frenetic construction and legions of foreign workers, Dubai was built on the promise of globalization, drawing largely from the aviation, hospitality and retail sectors — all hard hit by the virus.(Unsplash)

Dubai, party haven amid pandemic, faces its biggest surge

AP, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 06:16 PM IST
Since becoming one of the world's first destinations to open up for tourism, Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, has promoted itself as the ideal pandemic vacation spot.
Close
The travel pass will keep passengers in control of their data and facilitate sharing their test results with airlines and authorities for travel. (Pixabay)
The travel pass will keep passengers in control of their data and facilitate sharing their test results with airlines and authorities for travel. (Pixabay)

UAE’s Emirates and Etihad Airways to introduce Covid-19 travel pass

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 04:46 PM IST
Dubai’s Emirates and Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways have partnered with the International Air Transport Association to introduce a travel pass for passengers who have been inoculated against Covid-19 or have tested negative.
Close
Due to the prevailing conditions in Europe, Disneyland Paris will not reopen on February 13 as initially planned.(Unsplash)
Due to the prevailing conditions in Europe, Disneyland Paris will not reopen on February 13 as initially planned.(Unsplash)

Disneyland Paris postpones re-opening to April 2 amid surge in Covid-19 cases

ANI, Paris [france]
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 01:04 PM IST
Amid the continuous surge in coronavirus cases in Europe, Disneyland Paris has announced its decision to postpone its re-opening from February 13 to April 2.
Close
In an executive order, Trump said he is removing the restrictions applicable to the European Union, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland and Brazil. (Pixabay)
In an executive order, Trump said he is removing the restrictions applicable to the European Union, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland and Brazil. (Pixabay)

Not the right time to lift restrictions on international travel: Jen Psaki

PTI, Washington
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 12:11 PM IST
The incoming Biden Administration Monday opposed the move of the outgoing President Donald Trump to lift travel restrictions on Europe and Brazil arguing that this is not the right time to do so in the midst of worsening of the coronavirus pandemic.
Close
Even as Covid cases spike, Trump lifts travel restrictions on Europe and Brazil(Twitter/Complex/ATLairport)
Even as Covid cases spike, Trump lifts travel restrictions on Europe and Brazil(Twitter/Complex/ATLairport)

Even as Covid cases spike, Trump lifts travel restrictions on Europe and Brazil

PTI
UPDATED ON JAN 19, 2021 07:32 AM IST
Despite US surpassing 24 million Covid-19 cases, Donald Trump has issued an executive order that will lift the travel restrictions on European Union, Britain, Ireland and Brazil but not China and Iran. This will be brought into effect a week after he leaves office
Close
Finland not yet going to open borders for tourists(Pexels)
Finland not yet going to open borders for tourists(Pexels)

Finland to not open borders for tourists any time soon, says Interior Ministry

ANI, Helsinki
PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 08:00 PM IST
  • On Friday, the Finnish Ministry of the Interior announced that they will not open borders for tourists, in fact, they are ready to introduce new coronavirus-related restrictions on travel.
Close
Craving for a beach vacation? These 5 places should be on your must-visit list(Pexels)
Craving for a beach vacation? These 5 places should be on your must-visit list(Pexels)

Craving for a beach vacation? These 5 places should be on your must-visit list

By Nishtha Grover, Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 18, 2021 07:24 PM IST
  • A vacation on a beach can solve every problem, at least for the time being. Goa has become the celebrity-favourite vacation spot as after Malaika Arora and Arjun Kapoor ringing in their New Year, Mira Rajput and Shahid Kapoor are also taking a quick vacation there. Here are 5 places that should be on your must-visit list if you are craving for some beach time.
Close
Health authorities quarantined two hotels and closed ski schools in the posh Swiss resort of St Moritz on Monday to try to curb an outbreak of the highly infectious new coronavirus variant.(Unsplash)
Health authorities quarantined two hotels and closed ski schools in the posh Swiss resort of St Moritz on Monday to try to curb an outbreak of the highly infectious new coronavirus variant.(Unsplash)

A Swiss ski resort quarantines hotels, shuts schools to contain Covid variant

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 02:47 PM IST
Health authorities quarantined two hotels and closed ski schools in the posh Swiss resort of St Moritz on Monday to try to curb an outbreak of the highly infectious new coronavirus variant.
Close
Vaccines will be offered to people aged 70 and over, and those deemed “clinically extremely vulnerable” from Monday. (Unsplash)
Vaccines will be offered to people aged 70 and over, and those deemed “clinically extremely vulnerable” from Monday. (Unsplash)

UK steps up mass vaccination program as travel corridors close

Bloomberg, United Kingdom
UPDATED ON JAN 18, 2021 12:12 PM IST
The U.K. will step up its mass coronavirus vaccination program this week, offering shots to millions more people, as the country shuts its borders to anyone who hasn’t tested negative.
Close
Australia likely to keep borders closed this year to avoid Covid-19 spread(Twitter/destiinations)
Australia likely to keep borders closed this year to avoid Covid-19 spread(Twitter/destiinations)

Australia likely to keep borders closed this year to avoid Covid-19 spread

Reuters
UPDATED ON JAN 18, 2021 08:18 AM IST
Australia unlikely to fully reopen borders in 2021 even as coronavirus cases slide and even if most of the population is vaccinated against Covid-19
Close
Raab warned on Sunday there would be more checks by Public Health England to make sure people are self-isolating in their own homes for 10 days after arrival.(Pixabay)
Raab warned on Sunday there would be more checks by Public Health England to make sure people are self-isolating in their own homes for 10 days after arrival.(Pixabay)

UK doesn’t rule out quarantine hotels, GPS to fight virus

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 06:13 PM IST
The U.K. government will “consider all possibilities” to enforce Covid-19 rules for travelers, and won’t rule out setting up quarantine hotels and using GPS trackers to fight the spread of the coronavirus
Close
India's first Labour Movement museum to come up in Kerala(Pexels)
India's first Labour Movement museum to come up in Kerala(Pexels)

Kerala will soon have India's first ever Labour Movement museum

PTI, Kochi
UPDATED ON JAN 17, 2021 05:08 PM IST
  • Labour Movement museum, that is opening up in Alappuzha, Kerala, will the the first of its kind museum in India. It will showcase the history of world labour movement through huge repository of documents and exhibits.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP