Youth Feed India: An Insight by Nabeel Shah
The pandemic of 2020 inevitably posed a discourse of tribulations across myriad spectrums; financially and economically, the demography was altered for the worse with individuals scattering to maintain their livelihood and safety. With particular regard to the vulnerable and underprivileged, the Indian population starved and suffered. In light of this despondency, nine individuals with parallel motives upheld the Mumbai chapter of ‘YouthFeedIndia’, a pan-India initiative to counter the turbulence of the COVID-19 virus.
The Mumbai episode of Youth Feed India, in collaboration with 28 NGOs and 150 youthful, driven individuals, undertook a massive venture to supply coronavirus relief kits and essential supplies (inclusive of pulses, rice, grains and other cooking necessities) to the most stricken communities. Between the months of April to July, Youth Feed India pursued an awe-inspiring mission; raising over INR 50 lakhs within Mumbai (and over 4 crores across India), coupled with a provision exceeding 200,000 hot meals, and the deliverance of 10,000+ emergency kits, the organization played a distinctively vital part towards the sustainability of several thousand people.
In conversation with Nabeel Shah, a leading persona at the forefront of the organization, TheVibe embraced the spirit of change, humility, and ‘the potential to help’. Nabeel, who has ‘always been socially driven’, hails from a liberal Muslim, yet traditional family; as a considerable minority, he pays thanks to the importance of acting in a manner which channels ‘humanity’- a message which was embedded within him from a young age and continually carried forth onto his later years.
Throughout his years of schooling at The Doon School, he was often familiarised with the ‘principle of privilege’ alongside the urgency to ‘uphold the weakest parts of society’ within the modern age of today. Nabeel has undoubtedly encountered several phases in his life which redefined his perceptions and generic outlook, yet, his principles have never strayed from his innate sense of ‘resilience, culture, and togetherness’. His pursuit of an economics and sociology degree at the Franklin & Marshall college within the USA, paired with his solo integration into the digitised world as he chose to embark on an alternative career path, have shaped him into a driven and ‘impact-oriented’ being who has collectively taught himself (and navigated) through the workings of society and the job market alike.
Today, he is grateful for his employment at Smarten Spaces, a Microsoft partner startup, which readily provided him with the space and time to to commit elsewhere at Youth Feed India, followed by their continued support for the work Nabeel is doing at SevaKonnect; a recently launched initiative striving to pair the underprivileged with a need for resources, to those who can provide for the same, within similar localities. The vision nestles on the pillars of creating a ‘tangible channel’ to enhance visibility, participation, and facilitation within an aspirational ‘sustainable neighborhood ecosystem’. Undeniably, it is inspired by the 150 dedicated changemakers who actively raised awareness during the Youth Feed India initiative; Nabeel is an adamant believer in wedding the miracles of innovation to the procurement of sustainability, and has always searched for ‘something to move’ him while aiding ‘folks who didn’t have any outreach whatsoever’.
Whilst earlier braving the most prevalent challenges as an integral part of Youth Feed India, Nabeel and his co founders were left to obtain permits, stay afloat amongst the tides of paranoia and fear, remain mindful of people’s personal lives, factor in their own diverse schedules and factors, and perhaps the most strenuous of them all, a spectacle of logistical problems and the burdening cost of the logistics themselves. Despite the afflictions, Youth Feed India remained persistent in their mission, alongside grassroots NGOs such as Rainbow Foundation and Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao, coupled with larger ones such as Yuva, Helping Hands, Rotary Club, Save the Children and Pride India. Safa India, another dedicated and constant NGO, overshadowed the technical aspects (and outreach) as Youth Feed India’s principle partner.
The NGOs, along with the members of Youth Feed India, tirelessly catered to the requisites of the ailing communities; LGBTQA+, migrant workers, underprivileged families, sex workers and single mothers- their efforts sprawled across the aching sectors of Mumbai. Nabeel expresses how in a country such as ours, ‘the majority of people are unaware of what a pandemic even is’ and yet, he is affirmative that activism and social awareness must always eclipse factors such as one’s social status, sexuality, religion, and other secondary aspects in times such as these. Nabeel questions the audience, ‘What will you lose?’ As someone who has ‘realized the privileges we have’ early on, he continues to ‘aspire to be more self-aware while contemplating whether enough is being done’.
Youth Feed India, along with the country, were successfully able to ‘see the change for themselves’. Notable editorials, namely Times Now, News Ex, The Hindu and Mumbai Mirror (trailed by news channels and online features across the country) covered this remarkable Pan- India movement and hailed their diligence and conscientiousness.
‘This is India, this is the youth’, says Nabeel. He speaks of an incident where he entered a temple to deliver the essential goods after an exhausting night of laborious tasks where his driver and he singularly moved 8 tonnes of supplies. Yet, upon entering the place of worship after completion of his task, and in presence of those that were to utilize these goods, he said a prayer to Allah and commented- ‘This is beautiful’. To him, the most rewarding aspect has been the garnering of ‘confidence’ which has led him to comprehend that ‘there is no challenge you can’t apply yourself to and overcome’. The experience allowed him to exploit a ‘whole new side of responsibility’, whilst permitting him to ‘grow with like minded individuals’ as part of the largest volunteer led initiative within India.
Regardless of ‘knowing our necessities would be taken care of’ Nabeel committed to the betterment of others for he ‘wanted to do something in life which had a sizable impact’ upon him. He realizes he ‘doesn’t have the answers to all the questions’, but is hopeful where it concerns ‘development and strengthening one’s community’.
Youth Feed India’s work is as inspirational as it is fundamental and moving; they have depicted how the notions of unity, adaptability and collective assiduousness can uplift communities even under the most obliterating of adversities. When asked how members of our present society can act in a more proactive manner, Nabeel stresses upon the importance of ‘understanding the gaps in community building’ in order to realize the central impositions. Moreover, ‘it is always easy to donate money, support local businesses, and align with social causes’. Our sense of fellowship must persistently remain a guiding light into the days to come; after all, ‘Bombay is a mashup of so many beautiful cultures and communities’, he concludes.