Natural hazards can strike at any point of time, and in an Indian context, not only does the country need funds and facilities to rise up to the occasion but also a proper response plan and preparedness to deal with the disasters.
To make the country a safer, disaster resilient place, Rapid Response was founded by Mohamad Farukh, a 35-year-old from Chennai, in August, 2013. The organization has been striving to provide immediate and effective relief for the victims of natural disasters.
Having studied and worked in the UK in the non-profit sector for about seven years, Farukh decided to return to India with a clear purpose of establishing an innovative non-profit organization with a high impact.
Very much aware of the fact that increasing phenomenon of rapid climate change has led to a higher frequency of natural disasters in the country, Farukh decided to give more attention to emergency responses in the country.
“As a country with 1.2 billion people, highly vulnerable for multiple hazards, we lack in expertise and organised civil society response to emergencies. This resulted in establishing Rapid Response in August 2013. Since then we have been responding to all the major emergencies in India,” says Farukh.
Telling us more on why he decided to move towards emergency relief, Farukh says, “Beyond the need of our country, I have a passion for disaster response. I was actively involved as a volunteer for grass root NGOs in Tamil Nadu to raise funds in the UK during the Tsunami in 2004. That was the starting point, which made me turn to disaster management.”
Farukh says that a combination of his passion and the dire need for disaster response agencies in the country has led to the formation of Rapid Response. During this journey, Farukh was selected and trained in Disaster Management by premier institutes like International Institute of Rural Reconstruction, Philippines and Ritsumeikan University in Japan.
The organization has been conducting relief operations in major disaster prone regions across the country. Of the many relief operations conducted, the organization has been a part of the Uttarakhand Flood Relief 2013, Jammu Kashmir Flood Relief 2014, Chennai Floods Relief & Rehabilitation 2015, Marathwada Drought Relief 2016, Assam Flood Relief 2016 and Bihar Flood Relief 2016, to name a few.
Apart from responding to natural disasters, the organization is also closely working with vulnerable communities in India for improving disaster preparedness by conducting various programs such as community managed disaster risk reduction program, comprehensive school safety program for children and SMS based disaster preparedness and early warning system.
In September, 2014, Rapid Response headed to Srinagar for a relief mission in response to the devastating floods in Jammu & Kashmir.
During this period, Farukh and his team learned the hard truth of the affected people out there. Let alone supplies and proper care, the people affected weren’t fortunate even enough to get proper night’s sleep. Farukh says,
“When my team and I reached Srinagar, we learned that the flood had severely damaged the electrical system in the city. There was no proper electricity and heating, and found it extremely difficult to pass through the nights at the hotel. We also witnessed hundreds of women, children and old people were sleeping on the streets of Srinagar without proper clothing/blanket. We were deeply disturbed by those scenes.”
Having decided to do something about it, upon their return from Srinagar, the team conducted a detailed research on migration, homelessness, cities temperature index, and then launched The Blanket Project in 6 Indian Cities. The existing volunteer network and funding opportunities were given due consideration before choosing the six cities namely, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Srinagar and Guwahati.
So far, the organization has distributed 3454 Blankets to 3454 Homeless people in six Indian Cities in two Years. Rapid response is running a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for the Blanket Project.
The organization hopes to expand this project to other cold cities in India in the coming years. Also, other projects and relief operations of the Rapid Response are expanding in all states of the country. Farukh says,
“We are constantly looking for young talents with various skill sets and great opportunities are available with us to make a difference and help the people in crisis.”