Archer Rahul Banerjee has embarked on a journey across West Bengal to help the people of his state bounce back from Cyclone Amphan.
The cyclone had hit eastern India and some parts of Bangladesh over a week ago, leaving some dead and scores homeless, with the heavy rainfall leading to severe water-logging and loss of electricity.
The natural disaster added to the already ongoing crisis due to COVID-19 and Rahul Banerjee’s priority was to help provide essential items to people from the remote villages.
“The people there had lost their homes and could not buy food. So, I decided to pool some funds and drive down to provide tarpaulin and dry food items,” the archer told the Olympic Channel.
Rahul Banerjee first took the initiative with his fashion designer friend Abhishek Roy and later enlisted two of his close friends, tattoo artist Niloy Das and dancer Priyam Middey, to help with the process.
The two were more than willing to lend a hand and after the first trip, they realized that the preceding lockdown to curb the coronavirus pandemic meant that medicines were in short supply.
“Not many of them were practising social distancing. So, we also decided to distribute masks – we must have donated around 1,500 so far – along with basic medicines like cough syrup,” added Rahul Banerjee. “We also gave some sanitary napkins to help the women.”
The archer, who recently became a father, has been travelling for the better part of a week and has dropped his wife and child off at his in-laws’ home in Kolkata, where he is based.
His posts on social media also helped Rahul Banerjee in getting a lot of donations from around the country and even abroad, with the funds helping them provide a mini-truck of supplies instead of just his own car.
“The situation is dire in some places and the locals have been a big help, taking us on their motorcycles wherever a car could not enter,” the London 2012 Olympian said. “Those efforts have helped us reach a lot more people.”
The next step for Rahul Banerjee in his relief work is to set-up community kitchens in a few towns with the help of volunteers and panchayat heads while he continues to be on the road.
“We must have distributed 900 packets so far, and our target is to double that number, possibly reach 2,000 soon,” the 33-year-old signed off.