Yasmeen Maqbool, an all-time softie is the Features Editor of Filmfare ME, Salt ‘n’ Peppa and Femina ME. Her passion lies in telling stories about people who do what they do because it matters.
While travel for most might mean some sightseeing, gorging on exotic food, experiencing foreign cultures, shopping and posting selfies, Anjaly Thomas believes in being the hardcore traveller and backpacker who adds a purpose to her trips to not so glamorous or popular tourist destinations – and that is what essentially makes her a “happy person”. Donating food, medicines, clothing, school bags and other essentials while travelling to any destination is what her initiative Travel and Relief (TAR) is all about.
The lawyer turned journalist turned backpacker turned author turned philanthropist explains it simply, “It really works on a simple principle. You give what you can, give whom you want to and how much you want to. You don’t really need to spend months or weeks and invest all your money. It is easy to mix a bit of relief work with your travel. If you are in a certain country on a holiday, you are one of the fortunate few with spare cash, and sharing a bit of that isn’t going to break your bank.”
Growing up believing that one should do what one can do best, Anjaly understood well in time that trotting the globe to obscure places to know of real people while experiencing their environment, she would see a side of life that wouldn’t have been possible had she walked the regular path. And thanks to living those experiences, TAR was born.
She believes that if travelling doesn’t change you or your perspective – then it’s quite wasted. “To me, travelling is more about experiencing real people, real experiences and incidents. Off-the-tourist track, travels opened my eyes to the hardship of everyday living for many communities, but the final push came in Istanbul. A cold winter evening incident that involved a 50-year-old, homeless woman who sold me her coat to help tide through till a job came along, became the final push. I am glad to have evolved in a way that I am able to deconstruct any preconceived notions about people or situations and adopt to something new and still be able to empathise.”
Being an advocate for change, Anjaly quotes Malcom Gladwell (author of Tipping Point), “If you feel the same about something that you felt 15 years ago, you are a fossil.”
BUSINESS OF PASSION
TAR is an initiative that encourages travellers to help out the needy in the country you are traveling to – this could be through volunteering for short or long durations at children’s homes or old age homes or slums or merely adding a something extra in your luggage when travelling to impoverished countries and giving it away to any random needy person you come across – the extra-something could include anything – a bar of soap, stationary, clothes, medicines…anything that could come in handy and not burden the donor.
Travel and Relief works on a two-fold mission: Directly involved in providing aid by taking up specific campaigns and bringing together different causes under one umbrella, thereby helping donors find the right cause to get involved with.
HOW TAR WORKS
1) Dedicated TAR members take up a cause/campaign and work to raise funds and awareness involving general public through various means.
2) Volunteers help is collecting, sorting and packing materials that get sent to various destinations, either through cargo or through volunteer carriers.
3) “Carriers” are people who travel light, but who volunteer to take relief materials with them and handover to TAR representatives in the destination country or drop it off at appointed places themselves.
Secondly, TAR aims to be the one stop for people looking for a cause to take up. Donors are connected with organisations/charities/causes by listing them on the website.
HOW TO BE A PART OF IT?
Being a TAR volunteer is easy. It does not involve huge amounts of money or time. All it requires is a little thought. Being a relief traveller is as easy as carrying an extra piece of clothing in your baggage, or a bar of soap, or a packet of fever tablets – anything that someone in the destination country will find useful.
Remember that a little thought can go a long way in changing a person’s life. Be that person.
If you would like to be a part of growing cause and believe in doing your share for the community, sign up!
For the last few years, Anjaly has, taken up campaigns for east Africa, namely Uganda and Kenya. All the relief efforts included volunteering at orphanages, supply of food, medicines, school bags, clothes at orphanages and special needs centres, old age homes and slums, including Kibera in Kenya (near Nairobi) and Bwaise in Uganda (near Kampala). TAR’s current focus is on eastern Africa, India and Nepal.
A womancentric programme
emBRAce is a Travel And Relief (TAR) initiative to support and sensitize women especially those living in the poorer areas around the world and helping change their lives for better.
Wearing a brassiere helps boost a woman’s confidence, specifically of those who have been victims of social crimes. In many parts of Africa women go without it because they cannot afford to buy them – hence become susceptible to social crime.
Through emBRAce Anjaly aims to provide this essential lingerie to women who cannot afford them and thus boost their morale and social standing.
The aim of this initiative
Wearing a brassiere raises the social status of women in their communities, which in turn helps reduce the instance of abuse and molestation, and helps stop the spread of disease.
How you can help?
By donating your inner wear. (Please ensure that your lingerie is in good condition before you bring them in to donate.)
It’s a project through which TAR will identify 10 women (through a local body) and help them set up small business so they become self dependent and thus keep off the streets and be able to look after their families. At the end of a certain time frame, they will be required to return the capital which will be given to the next set of women.
A child sponsorship programme
Not everyone can travel to distant lands to personally help those in need. This is an opportunity to extend your hand to a child who really needs your assistance to go to school.
#thelearningcurve programme is giving the children of ACCP (Agape Community Centre) in Uganda, a chance to fulfill their dreams through quality education and practical material aid. This programme helps pay the school fees for children whose only other option would be government schools, which may not prepare them adequately for their future.
Anjaly Thomas always travels alone. She prefers the backpacking style of travel because it allows her to blend in! “I sleep in cheap dorms, steal toilet papers like every other penny pinching backpacker, share jokes and have a lot of fun. I have been cheated, I have been held at gun point, gone hungry, chased by knife-weilding kids – but hey, when I think back, those are what made my travels memorable.”
Anjali believes that if travelling doesn’t change you or your perspective – then it’s quite wasted. Being an advocate for change, Anjaly quotes Malcom Gladwell (author of Tipping Point), “If you feel the same about something that you felt 15 years ago, you are a fossil.”