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What We Learnt About Sisterhood When We ‘Accidentally’ Began Fundraising For Amphan Relief

Posted: May 29, 2020

Needing to do something concrete, we started CARE (Creativity and Art for Amphan Relief Efforts), a 5-day long initiative to lend support to NGOs working on ground, and we’re astonished at its success. It was sisterhood all the way.

When fellow writer, Women’s Web contributor and dear friend, Piyusha Vir and I woke up, in different parts of the world, on the 24th of May, 2020, I promise you, we didn’t wake up thinking, “chalo, aaj kuch kraanti laate hain.” (Come, let’s bring about a revolution.) Neither of us is an activist or a social worker. We have never done anything like this before.

We were just women exhausted by the onslaught of bad news– COVID, the migrant crisis, Amphan, etc. one after the other. What we ourselves hadn’t realized at the time, is that the exhaustion had reached a tipping point, but we were still in our own individual cocoons of despair and dejection at what was happening around us and now with Amphan.

I don’t know what exactly was on Piyusha’s mind, when she put up a beautiful piece of art on her Facebook wall, and asked her friends if they would like to bid on it. The proceeds, she said, would be donated to an organization that was working on rehabilitation of those affected by Amphan. I don’t even know what I myself, was thinking, when I replied asking if I could offer some of my poetry and photography for the effort, and if we could do this together. Another friend too, offered to put up some poetry, and the idea for CARE was seeded in our minds.

Over the next two days, we planned out the details with the help of a dear friend – one who is much more capable and experienced, and without whose help, we could not have done this at all. She also created a beautiful logo for us. Unfortunately, she has asked not to be named, so we can’t tell you who she is. But you know who you are, and you know how much we love you!

By early 27th morning, India time, we had the rules, the FAQs, the art that the two of us had pooled together, and the Facebook page ready and live.

It is important to mention here that we had no inkling whatsoever of how the people would respond. In fact, we had our doubts and fear – would anything get sold at all? Questions like ‘Who would buy?’ were right on top of our minds. And yet, despite all our self-doubts, we rallied around each other and clicked on ‘Set Page Visibility to Public’.

With five pieces of art on sale, we began inviting people to check the page out.

And it was Magic!

Then, the magic happened. Magic of women coming together in the blink of an eye. In no time, we had 10 Likes. 25 likes. 50 likes.

Our heads were buzzing faster and louder than the notifications.

And then the cash register began ringing. One acknowledgment receipt came in. We’d already made our first sale! We whooped and hopped and rejoiced, congratulating ourselves that we didn’t get out at duck.

We had hoped when we began, that we would raise, at least if not more, Rs 5000, in the five days that the page would be live. (Piyusha, who pretends to be more pragmatic, says she’d have been happy with even a couple of hundred rupees! She was gobsmacked when within our first hour or so, we’d crossed 2.5K!) Now, within two days, we have more than doubled that amount!

As of writing this article, we’re getting emails from women beyond our immediate circle of friends. And messages from friends of friends showing their interest to contribute their art or buy a piece of stunning beauty captured through a paintbrush or a camera lens.

What is CARE exactly?

CARE (Creativity and Art for Amphan Relief Efforts) is a temporary page set up as an effort to aid fundraising for organizations like Goonj or initiatives like the College Street Relief Drive, that are working on the ground to help people affected by Cyclone Amphan. We don’t intend to do this post May 31st which is when we hope to return to our normal lives.

The idea is simple. We sourced artwork and other creative output – poetry, photography, dance classes, public speaking classes etc. from our extended network of friends. We also put up some of our own art. We assigned a price to the same (based on what the artist themselves thought it was worth, plus what we thought it deserved, because we wanted to make sure that no artist felt devalued.)

All this art is now available on the CARE Facebook Page. We also have a list of NGOs and NPOs that we think are trust-worthy.

How does it work?

If someone is interested in buying a particular artwork or skill class, they need to first donate an amount equivalent to the price of the artwork, to any of the listed organizations, and send us the proof of payment. Then, that artwork is marked as ‘sold’ to them, and we share the contact details of the ‘buyer’ with the ‘artist’ so that they can be sent the art they ‘purchased.’

The detailed procedure, rules and FAQs about the initiative and the list of trusted organizations can be found here.

It is important to note here that neither Piyusha, nor I, are associated with or claiming to represent any of these NGOs.

Right now, the CARE page is live and running, and will continue to do so till the 31st of May. We are still adding new artwork every day, even as pieces are selling fast! We will stop adding new artwork on the 30th.

The Sisterhood showed up!

Like I said before, Piyusha and I didn’t really expect so much success, especially since these are difficult times for everyone. People have been donating a lot to various fundraisers recently, and we fully expected people to have some donation ‘fatigue.’

We could not have been more wrong. Our friends, especially our female friends, showed up for us and how! Kirthi Jayakumar, Anupama Dalmia, Manmeet Narang, Radhika Tabrez, Anushree Kulkarni, Anjali Gurmukhani Sharma, Seema Taneja, Poorabie K, Archana Natraj, Vandana Bhasin, Paromita Bardoloi, Shivani Salil, Jasmine Khurana, (and many others whose names our tired minds refuse to recall now) pitched in with actively sharing the posts and the page.

They donated their art to be put up for sale. They made donations to the NGOs. They shared our posts, spread the word, and kept checking in with us to see how they could help. They got their friends to pitch in. Even girls as young as 10 are pitching in!

Piyusha and I are absolutely overwhelmed by the support and love we have received, and believe me, I’m tearing up even as I write this. All of you who have supported us through different things, thank you for all the love and CARE!

The power of the sisterhood is so strong on the page, that a mansplainer who wandered in realized his mistake and deleted his comment on his own, even before Piyusha or I could reply to his inanities!

Piyusha and I take care of each other too. There have been times when we’ve reprimanded each other for not sleeping enough. We wake up early and sleep only when our heads and fingers refuse to obey us anymore. Thankfully, we’re only doing this for two more days! We consult each other, share the work, cheer each other up, and have conversations like this (after which we laugh like crazy when we realize how ecstatically exhausted we both are):

The life lessons learnt

When we see comments like “you’re doing a good job,” we’re baffled, because a lot of this feels surreal. This is not something that we are ‘doing’ as much as something that is ‘happening’ on its own, powered by the kindness of our friends. We don’t understand it at all.

As Piyusha says, it seems more like the universe has taken over control and is driving us.

That doesn’t mean however, that we haven’t learnt a few lessons in the process.

Firstly, we are rediscovering art and creativity for ourselves. As pieces come in, we ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ over them. We are realizing that art doesn’t have any boundaries. We even have a gardening session on offer!

It puts one in an amazingly positive mind space. Even if you don’t intend to donate, come and do some ‘window shopping’ on the CARE page, and you will know what I mean.

Secondly, we are learning new skills and gaining new knowledge. We know a little more today than we did a few days ago. We’re also putting into use skills we’d forgotten we even had and excelled in during our previous corporate/hotel careers.

Third, we are realizing that there is a lot of good in the world. It is easy to experience a sense of despair when one sees everything that is going wrong in the world. An experience like this however, brings into focus the fact that not everyone is self-serving and insensitive. We certainly feel grateful that we have such a wonderful circle of friends, who stepped up to hold us up.

The most important thing we have learnt, though, is that you need not be ‘special’ to do something like this. Very often, we see someone doing good, and applaud, but are afraid to take that step ourselves, because we are led to believe that those people possess a certain something. That is not true.

We’re two random women, on opposite ends of the globe. We haven’t even met each other in person! And yet, here we are, high-fiving each other or laughing ‘evil corporate laughs’ when we cross each new target we set our eyes on.

We may not change the world. We can’t eradicate all the hate and negativity.

But we also don’t have to.

All we need to do is care. A little bit.

And believe in the power of the sisterhood!

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This article is co-written by the two ladies who have begun CARE. Vijayalakshmi Harish is a writer and poet. She is also a voracious reader. Piyusha Vir is a CELTA-certified English Language and Creative Writing Coach. She quit her high-profile hotel sales career and turned to writing in 2015. Her writings on various platforms like Sheroes, LBB Delhi, Readomania, Momspresso and Womens Web have won her much accolades and appreciation. She has authored two books - Just Another Day-a collection of thriller short stories, and Dashavatar-Stories of Lord Vishnu, both published by Readomania Publishing.

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