The Astitva School at MIDC Dombivli, at any given time, has a pile of furniture that needs repairing. The school, which caters to the mentally challenged as well as those with a hearing disability, has over 400 students many of whom are below the age of 18. “Mischief is common among children this age and furniture and windows are constantly breaking,” reveals Radhika Gupte, trustee, Astitva organisation. “But funds are short and it is difficult for us to make sure the furniture is faultless at all times,” she rues. So last year, when the carpenters from Fevicol Champions Club devoted an entire day to repair work on the school’s campus, they became heroes not only to the organisation but also to the children at the school.
“They came to our institute, inspected the furniture, and worked on whatever needed repair. They fixed a number of windows, tables and chairs. It was wonderful,” recalls Gupte. “Even though we try to sanction repair work once a year, it gets difficult for us because our costs are far higher than the grant we receive from the government,” she adds.
Lokeshwar Vishwakarma, who spent his day labouring at a similar institute in Thane, recalls the look on the children’s faces on Shram Daan Diwas last year. “They watched us with such delight,” he exlaims. The 40-year-old carpenter, who has two little children of his own, claims he has never felt better about himself than he did at the end of that day. And yet, all through our conversation, the woodworker from Uttar Pradesh remains nonchalant about giving up a day’s worth of labour to offer a wonderfully thoughtful service to those in dire need.
Joining the club
Vishwakarma became a part of the Fevicol Champions Club three years ago and is today one among a total of 35,000 members, all from the woodworking community across the country. “Established in 2002, the FCC is a one-of-its-kind club that functions on three principles — bonding, training and social welfare,” explains Nilesh Mazumdar, president, sales and marketing, Fevicol. For Vishwakarma, the club has served as a valuable platform to network with people in the business. “The members meet often over a cup of chai and discuss work. Sometimes, if one of us is overloaded with work, we offer the job to another fellow member,” reveals the carpenter.
The club undertakes several activities through the year, including diabetes camps, blood donation drives, and awarding scholarships, etc. Shram Daan Diwas, one of the club’s biggest initiatives, was born in a bid to celebrate the club’s founding day, December 20. “We felt that making a contribution to society was the best way to celebrate the anniversary of the FCC,” opines Mazumdar. The objective of Shram Daan Diwas, he adds, is to unite woodworkers to donate a day towards social welfare.
For the community
The members of the club, adds Mazumdar, are an extremely self-motivated team. “FCC-Shram Daan Diwas is completely their own initiative. The smiling faces of the children from these needy institutes is something that charges them to come together and donate a day of their labour,” he says. “Yes, we are giving up on one day of labour, but it is for the welfare of society. Just knowing that much is enough to rid us of our worries. That makes it worth everything,” says Lalchand Sharma, a Jogeshwari-based contractor. Last year's pan-India Shram Daan Diwas initiative, with a total of 15,000 woodworkers participating, made it to the Limca Book of Records. “This year we plan to make it even bigger with more than 22,000 wood workers participating in Shram Daan Diwas across 325 institutes in 145 locations across the country,” says Mazumdar.
The members of the FCC identify institutions across the country that could do with a helping hand and get in touch with the authorities. Now that the initiative is better known, there are certain schools that get in touch with the club too. “We would certainly love to have them over again,” exclaims Gupte, certainly a very happy customer.