The morning of November 17, 2015, was just another day for most of the world. But for Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu in India, it was a day they wished had never dawned.
After lashing rain, nearly the entire city of Chennai was submerged. All across the city, life came to a standstill. Within a week, the death toll climbed to more than 250, and financial loss surpassed US$150 billion. Chennaites were desperate for help. The reality on the ground was dire: People were not getting enough food, the affected areas were in very bad shape, and no transportation could access them.
At Mathrubhumi Printing & Publishing, we decided to distribute food by rickshaws, and we initially distributed more than 3,000 packets in just three days. But we realised this was not enough from our end and decided to launch a large-scale flood relief operation.
Mathrubhumi, the most formidable media force in the state of Kerala, launched Chennaikkoru Kaithangu (A Caring Hand for Chennai). This multi-phase relief mission sought readers’ support to help tide the people of Chennai over the cataclysmic event. Our appeal to readers was the humanitarian mission, with the purpose of coming to the aid of our fellow human beings in their darkest hour.
The noble initiative supplied basic amenities and medical support to inhabitants of Chennai. The objectives of the campaign were:
- Distributing food and medical support to flood-affected areas.
- Playing an intermediary role in the collection and distribution of materials and donations received from readers and supporters to flood victims.
- Building the brand love of Mathrubhumi through its committed social mission.
Our readers’ loyalty and support were great, and included people of all castes, creeds and religions; organisations, both big and small; domestic labourers; students; captains of industry and business people; film and sports stars; and others. Famed cricketer S. Sreesanth was one among the thousands of kind-hearted people who lent their active support. The entire Malayalee society of Kerala poured their hearts and souls into raising aid through Mathrubhumi.
But it didn’t stop there. Through social media networks, our readers helped us further in reaching out to their relatives and friends. Even school children came forward with their piggy banks, donating their collected money for the relief mission.
Our readers, in a unified display of altruism, overwhelmed us by their response. They deluged our offices with packaged water, biscuits, medicine, rice, candles, blankets, baby food, sanitary pads, and cash money. Within a week, personnel from all 10 units of Mathrubhumi were actively involved in this massive operation.
That week, these Caring Hand for Chennai gifts were loaded by our staff onto city-owned trucks and privately owned commercial trucks that were loaned by owners. Four loads were transported with the help of Indian Railways. Boats were even used to distribute more than 1,100 tons of aid across 700 points in the city. The total contributions amounting to 2.73 crores rupees — equivalent to more than US$27 million — was later handed over to the prime minister’s relief fund.
An unsung hero of the initiative was Srinivasan K. Swamy, president of International Advertising Association, who threw open his residence in Chennai to our volunteers.
The campaign was supported and promoted by all Mathrubhumi divisions including the print newspaper, television news channel, radio station FM 94.3, and online at mathrubhumi.com.
We followed up with two additional phases of the initiative. The first was the Sahodarikku Sasneham (To Sister with Love) campaign, which addressed specific needs of women and girls. We organised packets that include two items of under-clothing, a nightgown, and sanitary pads. The public was invited to sponsor these packets at a cost of 250 rupees each (less than US$4). We promoted this initiative across our daily newspaper, TV and radio channels, and Web site.
In the third phase of our operation, a three-member medical delegation was flown to Chennai, courtesy of Mathrubhumi, to meet with the Health Minister of Tamil Nadu and senior officials.
Based on their feedback, we assembled a medical mission headed by doctors and health professionals of the Calicut Medical College, who were sent to Chennai with more medicines. A free medical camp was organised in association with Apollo Hospital, which served more than 1,000 flood victims.
After having served the interests of the Malayalee people for nine decades, we at Mathrubhumi were humbled by the ocean of trust our readers put in us to face this disaster together.