Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead

What started as a small gesture, feeding destitute children, by 31-year-old Darshan and his friends has turned into a full-blown movement. An email Darshan Chandan sent to a restaurant, after being deeply disappointed with the service he got there, changed the course of his life. When the restaurant management apologized for the poor service and offered to give him
free food, Darshan refused the offer and asked them to feed underprivileged children instead.

The restaurant agreed with Darshan’s suggestion and, after feeding the children, sent him pictures. “This is the moment that changed me forever. The smile on the faces of those children touched me. And that is when I decided to do something about it,’ he says. Thus, the BhookMitao campaign was born. On June 7, 2015, Darshan and his friends went and fed a couple of children in a slum in Vadodara, Gujarat. Today, the BhookMitao movement provides nutritious lunch on Sundays to as many as 1,200 children in Vadodara in ten different spots. No monetary donation is accepted, only raw materials for the meals.

The movement has spread to five more cities, including Mumbai. The number of volunteers has grown from six to over 600. “The response has truly been overwhelming. A big part of the credit goes to the social media. Every day we have people writing in asking how they can contribute or volunteer,’ Darshan says.

A few weeks after the program began, some volunteers at a particular spot in Vadodara realized that two children, who used to come regularly for lunch on Sundays, were missing. A couple of the volunteers decided to go and find out why these children had suddenly stopped coming. When they approached the grandparents, they told the volunteers that they had realized the importance of education; the children were sent back to their village and admitted to a school. “This was such a motivational moment for all of us, especially because these two children were made to beg during the week. This is exactly the kind of change we want to bring about,’ says Darshan.

Apart from feeding the children, the volunteers also talk with the parents about school and the importance of education.. “My mantra in life is ISR — Individual Social Responsibility. Instead of waiting for governments or other organizations to bring about a change, every individual needs to start doing something on his/her own. This is what will actually usher in change,’ says Darshan.

A movement that started off with just a couple of people now has a volunteer base of people of all ages and from all walks of life. And this gives a lot of hope to Darshan, who wants to see this movement become a pan-India one.

by Meryl Garcia