Anoop G. and Rekha Das buy happiness and sell smiles. The Kozhikode-based couple are the brains behind the social service platform, Arm of Joy, which began as a charitable trust in 2015, The trust is celebrating two years of its glorious journey on January 28. Read excerpts from Onmanorama's interview with Anoop and Rekha, trustees of Arm of Joy.
The birth of Arm of Joy
Two years ago, when Anoop and Rekha decided to celebrate their wedding anniversary, neither parties nor sumptuous feast struck their mind. As a pair, they always wanted to see help the needy in whatever way they could. So, when their little son Madhav was about to turn two, the couple decided to celebrate it with a difference. It was then that a simple idea struck Anoop.
He sent an e-mail to his friends on behalf of Madhav, requesting old books. The aim was to set up a library at Boys’ Home, Vellimadukunnu. Anoop got an overwhelming response to his mail. Old friends from school, colleagues, email friends and a thousand others sent books. With those books, the couple managed to set up a library at Boys’ Home. This marked the inception of Arm of joy, a name derived from the first letters of Anoop, Rekha and Madhav.
The aim behind Arm of Joy
People often want to do quality social service. But rarely do they get time to engage in such activities due to hectic personal and work schedules, says Anoop. Sometimes, though people are ready to give money to service organizations, they may not be sure of the way the money is spent. Arm of Joy is a humble attempt to spread smiles, staying away from the tag line of charity or social service.
What's unique about Arm of Joy?
Arm of Joy does not have volunteers nor other participants. Both Anoop and Rekha visit places in Kozhikode after their regular office hours to reach out to those in need. “We identify orphanages, special schools, and women care centers in and around Kozhikode. The money people give us is used to buy various things for these centers.
“We do not serve people based on the amount of cash. On a larger scale, our dream is to connect with more people and help them in a way that ideally meets their requirements. Credibility is the greatest factor in social service,” says Anoop.
“What we do is a match up with the requirements at these places with the resources we have. We make sure that we spend the money we receive in the best way people,” he adds.
The best gift
At an old age home in West Hill, Kozhikode, Arm of Joy managed to capture a special smile. When Rs 5000 was received by Arm of Joy, they got a photographer with them and visited the old age home. After having spent some time with them, back home, they got few clicks framed and gifted it to the residents there. “Most of the residents had never even seen a printed photograph of theirs. The essence of a gift does not lie in its value, but the way it can touch hearts," says Anoop.
Other activities by Arm of Joy include setting up a convenient tree shade for 27 girls at Free Birds Home, renewing cable TV subscriptions at poor homes, taking children to watch blockbuster movie Pulimurugan, getting radio sets to residents of poor homes, setting up shoe-rack for boys of Free Home and a lot more.
New face for a sex-trafficking victim
At Mahila Mandiram in Kozhikode, Anoop had met an artist from Bangladesh, who was a sex-trafficking victim. She gifted Anoop poems penned by her in Bangla. Last November, Anoop managed to translate the poems into Malayalam and released it as a book.
Along with the book release, an exhibition of her paintings was conducted at the Art Gallery. Returning to Bangladesh, she gave interviews to national media and confidently projected herself as a successful woman. Today, she is a journalist with a Bangladeshi newspaper. “To give confidence to someone like her and to highlight her in the brightest way possible was the best thing we did in two years," he says.
More hopes and smiles await tomorrow
Now two years into the business of cultivating smiles, Arm of Joy shows an ideal way to be happy – sharing. Anyone can participate in this platform of social service. Anoop says the trust has received donations worth Rs 30 lakh in such a short span. All details of expenditure by Arm of Joy are clearly mentioned on their website.
“We don't believe in campaigns or promotions. Neither do we have volunteers. But luckily, till date, we have never faced a situation where we couldn't manage an activity,” Anoop says with a smile. Arm of Joy can be reached via their Facebook page and the official website.