The Robin Hood Army in Sri Lanka
Meals are important to keep us going throughout the day. But for some people in our society, having at least one meal for the day could be an unachievable dream. Being an agricultural society, Sri Lanka for years has boasted of its paddy and other grains that are harvested to feed the citizens. But as in the rest of the world, whether these resources are being distributed equally remains a question. The United Nations declared the global hunger emergency as the largest humanitarian crisis back in 1945 and the figures haven’t changed since then. According to the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), figures of stunting and wasting especially among children in Sri Lanka remains at an alarming level while the country is already experiencing a nutrition deficit. Keeping this in mind, The Robin Hood Army was initiated in India, another country with a similar fate. Two years ago, The Robin Hood Army in Sri Lanka took lead in this vision to eliminate hunger and the global wastage of food.
Speaking to the Mirror for Hope, Hanzalah Haroon, Lead Volunteer of Robin Hood Army (RHA) Sri Lanka said that the initiative started two years ago in Colombo. “The global body is present in over 70 countries and we recently reached Brazil as well. We have seen a lot of untouched food in buffets, restaurants, weddings and other functions which often get thrown away. The objective of The Robin Hood Army is to collect surplus food and distribute to less-fortunate people. We are a volunteer-based organization and anybody from five years onwards can help us out. We have mothers coming with their children and even the elderly coming in to volunteer with us. We collect food every day and go to an area where people would need food the most. These include the waththas and sometimes people inform us about people who need food and we go and distribute accordingly.”
RHA is currently active in Colombo and Hanzalah believes that it’s important to strengthen the volunteer base first. “We have requests from all over the country but eventually we want do develop a hypo-local concept where we have volunteers in every locality. What’s quite interesting about RHA is that we have gone against all principles of a non-governmental organization. We don’t have an office and we usually have weekly meet-ups at a restaurant in Colpetty and we don’t collect money.
Everybody dedicates their time to feed another person. We receive smiles and gratitude in abundance and that is more than enough. So far we have 15-20 active volunteers and we want to increase this group eventually. We have three teams for scouting, volunteering and managing the restaurants. Collections start at 9.00pm every day and distribution depends on the number of people available. If it’s less than 30 we can go as planned but if the number exceeds more than 100 people we make sure that we have enough food to give everyone first. We don’t like to give half of the people and expect them to share.”
The objective of The Robin Hood Army is to collect surplus food and distribute to less-fortunate people
Some of our volunteers are still studying and the core team includes a group of university students. “It is a known fact that food is wasted and we have people who can afford three meals a day and those who cannot. Therefore if you have the resources, giving away the excess is your responsibility. So far we have fed more than 35000 people and this keeps increasing. Volunteers are the backbone of this initiative and they can really add to this pace.”
The Mirror For Hope team recently joined them on one of their food rounds and we were impressed by their commitment. “I make dhal and put them in small cups to be given along with the bread,” said Dila Weerasinghe, another volunteer of The Robin Hood Army. “I go on Mondays and Thursdays along with my team and we usually cover Galle Road, Galle Face and the Fort Railway Station. It’s mainly done for the passion and we are trying to attract more restaurants to give us their excess food.” It was a heart-melting experience to see less fortunate people falling asleep on the roadside and grabbing food packets the very moment they are given to them. Although it is past their meal times they accept the food packets and some start munching as soon as they receive it.
This is a corporate social initiative that every star-class hotel and any big or small restaurant could join hands with. After all why throw away the excess food when it has been cooked to feed somebody anyway?
I go on Mondays and Thursdays along with my team and we usually cover Galle Road, Galle Face and the Fort Railway Station. It’s mainly done for the passion and we are trying to attract more restaurants to give us their excess food
Pix by Damith Wickramasinghe
Volunteer today and be a part of the global fight to eliminate hunger and food wastage. Click http://robinhoodarmy.com/ for more details.