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AYUDH: Winter clothing drive for the poor in India 

A volunteer puts a coat on a little girl
An AYUDH volunteer in Ahmedabad prepares a little girl for the coming cold.

Key Points

  • AYUDH India initiated the ‘AYUDHians Spreading Warmth and Smiles’ (ASWAS) program, aiming to provide winter relief to the less fortunate by collecting and distributing gently used winter clothing. AYUDH is our international youth movement.
  • Over 600 AYUDH volunteers conducted collection drives in five different states, gathering items such as blankets, jackets, sweaters, scarves, gloves, and winter caps. They then distributed them to the homeless, old age homes, orphanages, and other people in need.
  • The initiative extended beyond local neighbourhoods with volunteers giving items to impoverished villagers in Maharashtra, Odisha, Kolkata, and Delhi. 

Feature article by AYUDH Team India 

Awaken Youth Unite for Dharma (AYUDH) is our international youth movement dedicated to building a peaceful and sustainable world. 

 “Children, do you know what expectations Amma has from you? You should be like the sun, not like a firefly. Fireflies make light merely for their own needs. Don’t be like that. Selflessness is all you should ever wish for. You should be the ones who raise their hands to help others, even at the moment of your death.” says Amma.  

Inspired by her words and faith, AYUDH India decided to initiate a comprehensive winter relief program for the less fortunate called ‘AYUDHians Spreading Warmth and Smiles’ (ASWAS). Our aim is to turn the chill of the cold weather months into the warmth of compassion.  

Winter, for many of us, is just a change in season; but for some it’s a battle for survival. As the temperature drops, many homeless and underprivileged families find themselves struggling to stay warm due to lack of proper winter clothing. As part of ASWAS, we are actively collecting gently used donated clothes which can significantly benefit those who lack the means to stay warm. 

The drive was conducted in different states of India: Gujarat, Maharashtra, Odisha, West Bengal, as well as in Delhi, where temperature can go down below 7°C. Every year, the country’s capital experiences weather that kills hundreds of homeless people and leaves tens of thousands of others shivering on the streets. 

Drishti Keshri, an AYUDHian from Kolkata, said, “It is a lesson for us, we cry over small things and don’t care what we have in abundance. While distributing the clothes constantly one thing was coming to my mind—our problems are not as big as theirs. In one place they did not even believe at first that we had come to give them winter clothes. They were so happy after seeing these gifts. I wish to do the same in future.” 

Over 600 dedicated AYUDH volunteers in Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Bhubaneswar, and Delhi successfully executed the collection drives in their respective cities. The items were mostly blankets, jackets, sweaters, scarves, gloves, and winter caps. The collection process spanned several weeks gathering donations from various locations.  

Subsequently, we sorted the items and the good ones were given to the poor in our neighbourhoods, as well as orphanages and old age homes. We also delivered some of the boxes to impoverished villages in Maharashtra, Odisha, Kolkata and Delhi where winter is tough. The villagers don’t even have enough money to buy woollen items to keep their family warm. 

When AYUDH volunteers from Kolkata and Mumbai reached out to old age homes, they found these homes were not just ordinary homes. Residents were in fragile health conditions, requiring special care and attention. Among them were not only elderly people, but also young people with disabilities who had been abandoned by their parents. Witnessing the pain and challenges faced by these individuals was a poignant experience, emphasising the critical importance of their compassionate outreach.   

Aishwarya Palav in Kolkata, a System Engineer in Emerson Electric Co, remarked, “It was an experience with mixed feelings, I was sad to see the suffering mental state of the old people waiting to have even just a single gaze of their loved ones. They were lonely, sick, and abandoned by their own children. It was tough to see this side of society. I tried to feel their pain and serve them.” 

Imagine the joy on a child’s face as they receive a cozy blanket, a shield against the biting wind. It is so strange to see how our extras could become the only thing of survival for others. Amma has always inspired her children saying, “If it is someone’s karma to suffer, consider it your dharma to help him.”  

Let’s stand together, not just to offer temporary relief, but to build a future where no one has to face the winter’s harshness alone. As we embrace the coziness of our own winter experiences, let us also extend our hands in compassion to those in need.  

Guiding her children Amma says, “What the world needs are servants, not leaders. Everyone’s wish is to become a leader. We have enough leaders who are not real leaders. Let us become a real servant instead. That is the only way to become a real leader.” 

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