These Odisha Robin Hoods Are On A ‘No Hunger Mission’

Bhubaneswar: Thousands of homeless people in the capital city go to sleep every night with an empty stomach and a hopeful heart praying for a better tomorrow. They spend most of their time longingly looking at extravagant food items in people’s hands that are thrown into the dustbin half-eaten.

To change this scenario, a group of volunteers have joined hands under the name of ‘Robin Hood Army’ and have pledged to collect surplus food from restaurants and distribute them among the needy. The worldwide movement of Robin Hood Army opened shop in Odisha under the leadership of Sumeet Sahoo and VM Aditya on May 27 this year.

Over the course of 2 months, the group has organized 10 Sunday drives and at least 6 ad-hoc initiatives. The army of more than hundred passionate youths has been successful in bringing smiles to faces of over 3,800 under-privileged people in Bhubaneswar.

The folklore behind the English outlaw Robin Hood says ‘robbed from the rich and gave to the poor’. But, this Robin Hood Army doesn’t steal. They have a very efficient modus operandi. The army of volunteers is divided into three groups- Restaurant partner team, Target location identification team, and social media team.

The first team is responsible for locating hotels and eateries that are willing to contribute to the cause. The second team detects locations within the city limits where under-privileged people reside who can be beneficiaries of the drive. And the final team takes up the charge of promoting the group’s activities on social media to attract more volunteers towards the cause.

In an exclusive chat with OMMCOM NEWS, Sahoo revealed the inspiration behind the noble step. He said, “I had observed the hunger problem in several busy streets of this city. To fight this, I teamed up with my friend VM Aditya and we contacted the National Expansion Team of Robin Hood Army and pitched them the idea of a Bhubaneswar Chapter.”

After observing the army’s work for three drives, the National Expansion Team finalised the setting up of the Bhubaneswar edition. For the first outing of the army, they teamed up with Odia Dalma as the restaurant partner and distributed food among 30 homeless people living on Master Canteen pavement.

“We are extremely particular about the quality of the food. We are not providing exotic food to them. It may be simple ‘Bhata-Dalma’ but we ensure that it is tasty and up to mark. Before collecting the food, we ask one of our volunteers to taste whatever the restaurant has provided,” he added.

The army also ensures that plastics are not used in the food distribution process. The volunteers attired in green t-shirts wear transparent gloves and also clean up the place after having served happiness. Till date, this group of volunteers have conducted drives at Unit-6, Sailashree Vihar, Master Canteen, Gokhibaba Leprosy Colony, Railway Station and a few other orphanages.

Expanding into other activities, the group has also conducted dance competitions and education awareness talks along with the food drives at some of these places. The army plans to slowly take up the education theme in all their drives so that the volunteers can interact with the children and teach them the importance of realizing their dreams.

Apart from the weekly planned Sunday drives, the Robins also get to work if they receive a call late in the night from a local restaurant or a function hall informing them of surplus food. “It has happened several times that we have received calls at one or two in the night. Once, Kalyan Mandap contacted us about left-over food from a function. Our Robins from that area immediately gathered and initiated the food collection process,” he added.

Home-makers also play a very important role in this army. They actively inform the Robins of additional food and sometimes even prepare freshly cooked meals for the drives.

“We don’t accept monetary donations. We don’t have any political affiliation. We simply believe that there are a lot of mouths to be fed but very little is being done. So, we are countering this logistical problem,” Sahoo explained.

A feather in the group’s cap was added on July 14 when they served food to 1,500 people on the occasion of Zomato’s 10th anniversary. The restaurant search and discovery service, Zomato, provided food partners for the mega-drive in which 50 volunteers participated.

Planning to go even bigger on the eve of Independence Day, the Robin Hood Army is organizing a mega-drive with a target to feed 5000 people on August 15.

Rosaleen Jena, who manages and overlooks all the drives in Bhubaneswar shared a heart-warming experience with OMMCOM NEWS. “The kids in some of the orphanages love us so much in the first visit that they get disappointed when we don’t visit them every day. They even call us some days to ask why we didn’t come on that particular day. That is when we know, we are doing something right. We are bringing a change.”