How this Pune-based crowdfunding platform is aiding in-kind donations to underserved
Pune resident Smita Chelamchela chased her dreams to have a huge career in the IT sector. After giving over 18 years to the sector, Smita realised that she wanted to help the underserved sections.
After returning to India from the US, Smita started JOSH - Joy of Serving Humanity — a WhatsApp group that helps the less privileged in the best way possible.
“I realised that most of the donors wanted to donate in-kind rather than money. So, we started a unique platform that can help bridge the gap between the rich and the poor,” Smita tells SocialStory.
The core team
She founded JOSHConnect Foundation in 2018 with the support of two other IT professionals, who are serving as senior executives in various corporates.
This e-philanthropic platform aims to serve the underserved sections of India in in-kind donations and help NGOs, corporates, social workers, social and welfare organisations.
So far, the platform has helped many beneficiaries in states, including Maharashtra, Delhi, West Bengal, Assam, Bihar, Punjab, Telangana, Karnataka, and Jammu, among others.
JOSHConnect allows NGOs and individuals to register on the platform and post their in-kind requirements, which after proper due diligence, is approved to become a free campaign to support the needy.
It allows donors to donate essentials to the doorsteps of the needy by running campaigns for various goods — grocery kits, meals, study materials, scholarships, toys, health and hygiene products like reusable sanitary napkins, and livelihood tools like sewing machines, among others.
Ration kit distribution to the underserved.
After the campaign reaches its goal, JOSHConnect orders the items with the vendors and delivers them to the beneficiary with the money raised through the campaign. It shares the pictures and distribution details with donors and the organisations that started the campaign, which can be as easily tracked like on most ecommerce platforms. Besides, the foundation also runs its own campaigns to help underserved sections.
“The items donated are provided at a much lesser price, thanks to the tie-ups with wholesaler and manufacturers, so it becomes easier for us to provide more with a lesser amount of money,” says Smita.
JOSHConnect strictly works on the core principle of ‘no cash’ funding to any NGO or beneficiary. The platform only provides the requested campaign items to avoid the misuse of funds.
“Our team has no paid employees, but only passionate volunteers to serve humanity, keeping operational expenses minimum, and value the donations received,” says Smita.
Campaigns and impact
During the COVID-19 pandemic, JOSHConnect distributed over 5,000 ration kits and masks to the underserved people. It also impacted over 10,000 children through various campaigns conducted with the help of partners and volunteers. The distribution was done with the help of an (undisclosed) NGO partner that works pan-India.
The foundation also distributed over 100,000 sanitary napkins at various events across India, mostly reusable ones to encourage sustainability.
Smita says these reusable napkins help reduce the expenses for a woman for an entire year. In fact, the cost of one reusable pack is less than the 12 packs required for an entire year.
“We also partnered with Nilkamal to provide rolling water wheels to many rural families in Lonwadi, Londhari, Inglewadi villages of Yavatmal district, Maharashtra, to stop them from walking miles carrying heavy pots of water on their head,” says Smita.
It helped over 20 Dabbawalas from Mumbai by partnering with the Hero Group to provide them with brand new cycles.
Distribution of sanitary napkins to the school children
With livelihoods severely impacted during the nationwide lockdown, the foundation also provided tools like sewing machines to women in rural Maharashtra to produce masks.
It empowered small caterers and women without jobs by asking them to cook about 1,500 meals a day, which was served to the homeless across Pune during the lockdown.
“We also helped seven patients pay the medical bills who could not get treated in government hospitals since they were overloaded with patients. Many lives got saved by the timely admission to private hospitals and timely treatment. This saved about six of them, but unfortunately, we lost one patient,” Smita says.
Waterwheel distribution campaign
Besides helping humans, the foundation also catered to the stray dog population, who mainly survive on leftover food and help from feeders. JOSHConnect is aiding people who know how to treat animals and feed them and has helped feed over 1000 stray dogs.
“Through over 50 successful campaigns in over 23 cities, we have helped people with the basic needs and have also empowered 100 people who lost their jobs with some kind of employment,” says Smita.
Challenges and the path ahead
Smita says that one of the major challenges was creating the trust factor around the platform.
“Being a new entrant to this field and having competition from several crowdfunding platforms, it has been difficult to promote JOSHConnect. So, we are trying our best to encourage more people to use the platform and spread the word,” Smita shares.
She adds that JOSHConnect should get more traction in the coming years so that people can have a trusted platform to make in-kind donations.
“We also want to partner with more NGOs and volunteers in more states to have a better reach and impact more people,” Smita concludes.