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Free clothes for the needy in Kerala, thanks to UAE

Inspired by giving nature of UAE, Indian expat launches mobile clothing bank network back home

  • Clothes donation in tribal areas in Wayanad.Image Credit: COURTESY Fazil Musthafa
  • Clothes donation in tribal areas in Wayanad.Image Credit: COURTESY Fazil Musthafa
  • Clothes donation in tribal areas in Wayanad.Image Credit: COURTESY Fazil Musthafa
Gulf News

Dubai: The giving nature of the people of the UAE has inspired Indian expat Fazil Musthafa to launch several community initiatives.

Better known in the community for initiating a children’s campaign to distribute free iftar to workers at labour accommodations and desert farms four years ago, Fazil has now come up with another initiative to benefit the needy back home.

During his last vacation in December, he launched a clothing bank network in the South Indian state of Kerala.

A health care sales executive with Ind-Swift Limited in Dubai, Fazil told Gulf News that he was inspired by the clothes donation boxes he has seen in many communities and buildings here and the initiatives like the Year of Giving and Dubai Cares.

He said it took him about 18 months to execute his plan in three districts in Kerala.

More than the fund and location for setting up the clothing banks, he said what took time to arrange was a dedicated team in each area to take care of the bank and distribution of clothes to the needy.

“My house is in Vadakkancherry in Palakkad. But I felt the need for these banks is more in some other districts. I had to get the support of local residents to manage the banks in their areas.”

Through his social media friends, Fazil said, he managed to get the support of a few good souls who volunteered for the initiative first in Wayanad, Malappuram and Thiruvananthapuram.

While Father Davis Chiramel, the founder of the Kidney Federation of India, offered support to his team in Malappuram, headmasters of a few schools supported the initiative in Wayanad.

The best part of associating with the schools is that the value of giving back to the community could be instilled in the young generation, said Fazil.

“It was amazing to see how the young students of a government school in Sultan Bathery responded to my speech in their assembly in just two days.”

He had just told them that they had to realise that there are many children of their age who could not afford to enjoy the facilities and clothes they had.

Fazil Musthafa - initiative of clothing bank in Kerala.

They were then asked to donate their used clothes in good condition with love by putting in the effort to wash, iron and fold them before depositing them in the clothes box.

“Since I had asked them not to use plastic covers, they neatly packed the clothes in paper covers and filled the 6 feet high box in just two days.”

The clothing bank carries the tag line “Together, change is possible.” Care is taken to ensure a uniform design for the metal boxes which prevents theft and depositing of other items.

“We are keeping the boxes in areas with CCTV surveillance or next to a police station like what we did in Malappuram to prevent misuse of the bank.”

The guidelines for clothes donation and the mobile numbers of two volunteers are given on the box.

“The volunteers would inspect the box every 10-15 days. Their numbers are given so that they can be informed in case the boxes get filled up before that.”

So far, thousands of pairs of clothes categorised as per gender, age and size of beneficiaries, have been distributed to tribal colonies and some old age homes.

“The happiness I saw on the faces of the tribal children was much more than what we see when our kids receive new clothes. I cannot explain the satisfaction you get out of such experiences,” said Fazil.

With three more banks in the pipeline by the month-end, he said the plan is to extend the network across the state.

Eventually, it will become a permanent mobile clothing bank network which will cater to all those who are in need of decent clothes. Orphanages, charity homes, special needs centres and old age homes which require clothes will be served. Clothes will also be donated to victims of natural calamities.

“In future, we can even send the surplus clothes to the needy in our neighbouring states,” said Fazil who has now sought the help of the state government for its support to integrate this initiative in its community welfare programmes.