Your discarded clothes can make a difference!

New Delhi, June 16 (IANS) Don’t chuck your old worn out clothes into the dustbin; give them to an NGO instead. You’ll be surprised to find your tattered jeans being refashioned into a school bag, your old T-shirt into ladies’ inner wear and old saris into skipping ropes, and even sanitary napkins.

NGO Goonj (www.goonj.org) has been collecting old clothes from city dwellers and turning them into useful products for the needy. Goonj, whose volunteers are spread out across 21 states, also collects old books, newspapers and magazines, copy books, toys and even plastic bottles.

‘Several men and women in remote villages have no proper clothing, which is a basic dignity of a human being,’ Anushu Gupta, founder of Goonj, told IANS.

Over 100,000 homeless people live on the national capital’s streets alone. Of them, at least 40,000 are women who don’t have even a shelter to turn to, says Gupta.

The organisation has a force of 300 volunteers that works through a network of over 150 grassroots organisations to provide clothes and other basic amenities to millions in the far-flung villages.

Before the annual floods and the onset of winter, Goonj gets busy – sending out appeals to people for old clothes, blankets and even medicines that can be used.

Gupta, who has worked among the disaster-hit and poor and needy, speaks of the difficult situation faced by rural women.

Many of the women die, he says, of infection and diseases due to lack of hygienic pieces of cloth to use during their menstrual period.

During winters, ‘hundreds of homeless people die, even in Delhi, during winter. They don’t own blankets’, he said

‘Goonj not only provides clothing to the poor but turns the trash into usable products and help the needy. The rubbish given by many is transformed into useful products,’ Sushil Mishra, a volunteer of the organisation, told IANS.

Goonj, which began with just 67 pieces of cloth in 1998, today sends out 50 tonnes of cloth material across the country every month.

‘Our demand is simple. We ask people to give any unused material lying in their homes, or office, which they don’t feel like throwing away but don’t need any more,’ said Gupta.

The NGO collects paper that is unused on one side, good quality plastic bottles, and distributes it to people in rural areas.

Wearable clothes are sent directly to villages, while the worn out ones are washed, ironed and transformed into quilts and sanitary napkins for village women.

Goonj’s movement ‘Cloth for Work’ has helped many unemployed youth in villages.

‘Our movement, Cloth for Work, has encouraged villagers to address their own development issues. In return for their labour we give them clothes, as motivation not as charity,’ Mishra said.

As part of such an initiative, residents of a Madhya Pradesh village, Salidhana, dug a well for the village, and in return they got clothes and ration items.

In Bihar’s Madhepura district, residents built a bamboo bridge over a river where earlier 13 children had drowned while crossing the river on their way to school.

The NGO also collects school stationery items, old books, bags and shoes from children belonging to well-off families in cities and distributes them among needy students in villages.

‘So, next time you discard your tattered clothes, think of a person who lives in a remote village and send them to Goonj,’ says a volunteer.

For those who are keen to contribute with clothes and sundry items can contact 26972351 or email to mailgoonj@gmail.com.

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