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In Karachi, 'Robin Hood Army' borrows from the rich to feed the poor

Updated Feb 24, 2015 04:34pm

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Robin Hood Army volunteers at Cantt Station Karachi. Photo: Twitter
Robin Hood Army volunteers at Cantt Station Karachi. Photo: Twitter

This past Sunday, a group of young people gathered at Karachi's Cantt Station with a purpose - to distribute packets of food from a prominent restaurant chain to people who needed it most.

These young people were 'Robin Hood Army' volunteers. 'Robin Hood Army' is a social initiative that aims to take surplus food items from well-to-do eateries and distribute them amongst the country's more needy folk.

Here, the organisers describe their effort in their own words:

1. Who came up with the idea in India and how did you decide to bring it to Karachi?

Delhi-based Neel Ghose and Anand Sinha began this novel initiative in June 2014. The idea is modeled after a similar organization called 'Re-food' in Portugal that works towards elimination of both hunger and food waste in the country. Neel Ghose volunteered at this organization and was so inspired by the concept that he decided to replicate the model in India.

Pictured: Organisers and volunteers in Karachi. Photo: Instagram
Pictured: Organisers and volunteers in Karachi. Photo: Instagram

Neel Ghose and Sarah Afridi, who have been friends since their days at the London School of Economics, decided to bring the cause to Pakistan and chose the day of the India-Pakistan World Cup match on Sunday to start the new chapter in Karachi.

The core team in Karachi consists of six people - Sarah Afridi, Sarfaraz Abid, Anaam Afridi, Mahnoor Abid, Anam Rafiq and Summaya Ayaz.

The demographics of Pakistan and India are very similar. Poverty is a widespread issue. According to the FAO, 40 percent of children in Pakistan are malnourished and underweight due to lack of access to adequate food. And this is not because there isn't enough; Pakistan is the 8th largest food producing country, however, 50 percent of the population is food insecure. With the massive income inequality that persists, RHA is a brilliant movement. We collect leftover or extra food from restaurants and distribute it to the homeless and hungry in the locality.

2. How did the name Robin Hood Army come about?

The catchy name has been derived from the fictional English hero, Robin Hood, who robbed the rich and distributed the booty among the poor. Our initiative is an attempt to show "how individuals can make a difference in the society if they want to." The Robin Hood Army works to get surplus food from restaurants across to the less fortunate.

3. How many volunteers does RHA have?

RHA currently has 400 volunteers across 11 cities.

4. How do you plan to raise funds for this program? Is corporate funding an option?

The beauty of the RHA cause is that it involves redistribution – so we don’t necessarily need funding. Although the team currently funds some of the food out of their own pocket, the aim, however, is to get as many restaurants on board as possible to donate surplus food.

5. How do you plan to structure the project – Will this be carried out every night? Do you have certain spots where you set up food for the homeless? Also, Are you coordinating with the team in India on the program structure or working independently?

Food distributed by Robin Hood Army. – Photo: Instagram
Food distributed by Robin Hood Army. – Photo: Instagram

The model is simple – to create self-sustained communities across the cities. The distributions are currently held only once a week (mostly Sundays) given that most of us are employed in full time jobs. We are currently working on bringing restaurants on board and structuring the teams to spread out across various areas on Karachi. We have a lot of help from our Indian counterparts and have a call every couple of days to discuss operational issues.

6. How many people does RHA program manage to feed on a given day?

RHA Karachi has only had 2 distributions so far – we started from a 100 people and went up to 250 in our second distribution.

7. What areas are you catering to and how do you reach out to people living in those areas?

Scouting – which is what we call identifying clusters of people who are either homeless, underpaid or just hungry with limited access to quality food, is done a few days in advance of distribution. The core team meets regularly during the week to work out the details on each distribution. We are constantly on the lookout of new areas and welcome recommendations from volunteers.

8. Have you spoken to these people? What is their reaction to this program?

The idea of feeding the less fortunate is not novel to Pakistan. Most of the people just think of this as falling under the umbrella of practices (such as Sadqah and Niaz) that already exist. They are, however, quite happy about us bringing food. Food spreads happiness and everyone can use a little happiness.

9. Are you in talks with restaurateurs? If yes, who have you spoken do and what feedback have you received? If no, who do you plan to reach out to?

We are in the process of reaching out to restaurants. Nando‘s has been the first restaurant to get on board. We have also had Ginsoy and The White Biryani contact us for our next distribution. In addition, a small café being run by an individual in Clifton and a restaurant, Spice in Gulshan, also offered to donate surplus food for our cause.

10. Is this project Karachi-based or do you plan to expand it to other cities as well?

The Lahore chapter is slated to begin in about 2 weeks.

11. How do you plan to create awareness about this program? Do you think social media plays an important role here?

Social media has been key in raising awareness about the program. We have a Facebook page, a Twitter account and we are also on Instagram. Social media helps us provide restaurants some form of accountability as well – so they know what cause they are donating food to.

12. How has the response been so far?

Overwhelming!

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Comments (83) Closed



riaz Feb 24, 2015 04:18pm

Bravo!!

Abrar Nazir Feb 24, 2015 04:19pm
  1. How has the response been so far?

Overwhelming!

Yes, carry on and make more positives other than this as well.

rizwan Feb 24, 2015 04:25pm

Good!

SHOAIB Feb 24, 2015 04:27pm

WELL DONE GOD BLESS YOU

Taimur Feb 24, 2015 04:31pm

I think the idea was implemented even before 2013 by "Thali" who started it from Islamabad and Rawalpindi

MG Feb 24, 2015 04:34pm

Good work. Keep the momentum.

Saqlain Altaf Naseeb Feb 24, 2015 04:36pm

Awesome Idea being floated by young folks, this effort should be highlighted on government level and all relevant restaurants should contribute instead of disposing off their surplus food.

sak Feb 24, 2015 04:40pm

These people should volunteer to educate people how to read and write or help in school system.

Adnan Feb 24, 2015 04:49pm

If need any help financial or motivational don't hesitate to contact me

ishrat salim Feb 24, 2015 05:02pm

May Allah swt give you all success in this project & earn the duas & prayers from the poor...

kind-hearted Feb 24, 2015 05:17pm

Like the deed but not the name... we have characters in our Islamic/Pakistan history which can be used instead.

jj Feb 24, 2015 05:27pm

The same way MQM started.

Zahid Feb 24, 2015 05:32pm

Mashallah, keep up th ehard work. This program needs more awareness though via media.

KHADAGG CHAUDARY Feb 24, 2015 05:34pm

KEEP IT UP GUYS AND MAKE PEOPLE HAPPY......

public Feb 24, 2015 05:36pm

The ugly the bad and at last some good.Well done boys and girls. It will catch up. I know original Karachiites.

Abhishek Tomar Feb 24, 2015 05:48pm

Good work but please teach them fishing instead of giving a fish every day!

Amer RAO - Toronto Feb 24, 2015 05:52pm

Excellent job, Together we can make a Difference :)

khanm Feb 24, 2015 06:03pm

who are they going to sue if ones gets sick...to preserved the food properly is the key thing .....

saeeds Feb 24, 2015 06:26pm

Robin Hood was thief and law breaker and that the last thing we should Glorify. A good decent person never beg and spread his hand . Before giving charity ask these people how many kids they have and answer should be many. When they produce children they should feed them also. I agree Some people deserve these kind of charity both majority in Pakistan and third world they are begging because they are addict to it.

Tayyaba Feb 24, 2015 06:27pm

Now that are youth have risen ,Pakistan will definitely see a big change ,shaabaash bacho

Billa Feb 24, 2015 06:27pm

Not to shoot their idea here but I guess giving food is far more easier than say arranging children education, women rights awareness, polio awareness, telling people about organized religion or skills(any) development. And what's up with name, specially considering the current state of our country - why it has be an Army? I expect more from a LSE graduate. Cheers

public Feb 24, 2015 06:27pm

People of Lahore are more afflicted with stuff like Laptops ,over heads and underpasses. Such culture is alien in Punjab because of a very 'affluent' society. People are well fed from all the stuff thrown out by restaurants and shadi halls.

ash Feb 24, 2015 06:46pm

This is not going to help in longer term. We need different ideas to curb the poverty.

Rakesh KUmar Sain Feb 24, 2015 07:06pm

We proud on this Army. A real service to humanity. God bless them our well whsihes are with them.

Seedoo Feb 24, 2015 07:14pm

Great job! I hope this a great success and it spreads throughout the country. No one should go to bed hungry

Abdul Rahman Feb 24, 2015 07:44pm

Instead of hard work, ingenuity and dignity promote hand out. Story of Pak govt and its people. Learn people there is no such thing as free lunch. Short sighted goal

debadutta Feb 24, 2015 07:46pm

Good to see youngsters from both India and Pakistan working together to defeat the common enemy HUNGER.

syed wasim haider Feb 24, 2015 07:51pm

A very good effort; hope many young people will follow this good deed. If possible they can contact Marriage Hall and convince the families of bride and b'groom to gift at least one "deg" of biryani or qorma or even the left over food for this purpose. In Jeddah some group of students are collecting the extra food from marriage hall and keep them in a big freezer and next day they distribute to the needy people.

khurshid Khan Khel Feb 24, 2015 07:55pm

great work, anything that can help others is nice.

Syed Ahmed, Canada. Feb 24, 2015 08:05pm

'Robin Hood Army' volunteers may consider collecting surplus food fro Marriage Halls, Hotels besides restaurants, and even from "Dastarkhwan" of Nawaz Sharif who is very fond of eating many sumptuous dishes.

dawn Feb 24, 2015 08:07pm

A brilliant effort. But 'Robin Hood Family'? We cant even have our name for such a thoughful cause?

Ali-Indian Feb 24, 2015 08:14pm

Is there anything you folks dont copy from India... anyways.... good things from all places should be copied :)

sam Feb 24, 2015 08:18pm

@Ali-Indian Realy my friend! Do not choose to jibe, provoke at such noble causes. I am Indian.

dewgrass11 Feb 24, 2015 08:37pm

Nice job.. good ray of hope for poor who are starving.. weldone robin hood army.. hope u continue this.

Anwar Siddique Feb 24, 2015 08:40pm

Great things happen when you mix cultures. This is one of the few uplifting and hopeful stories.

rabz Feb 24, 2015 08:48pm

Welldone That's what I call today's pakistan! Keep it up

Shahzad Ahmed Feb 24, 2015 09:08pm

The young people who have taken this initiatives are true heroes. They may not be getting a standing ovation in a stadium full of fans, but I am certain anyone who reads this story and everyone part of this program must believe that they are our unsung heroes. Take a bow you deserve it!

Sarwat Feb 24, 2015 09:47pm

Good job guys!!

sam shafi Feb 24, 2015 10:26pm

Thi is not even a BandAid for a country of 180 million but a good start.

Bijli Feb 24, 2015 10:38pm

May Allah reward you for your time and efforts. You have made the entire nation proud of you and strengthened the belief that Pakistan will come out of its troubles soon to be a shining example in the region and in the world.

Jamal Feb 24, 2015 10:46pm

This is a wrong idea. Teach a person how to catch a fish, do not feed them fish. At one point these people being fed will realize that since they are being fed, why bother working?

Shah Feb 24, 2015 10:50pm

National Assembly and Provintial Assembly members are still starving. Kindly feed them.

Ashar Feb 24, 2015 10:54pm

Shaadi halls sell their surplus foods to cheap restaurants and cart based foods stalls who sell it the next day as fresh fair. Also, restaurants in Pakistan and not monitored for food freshness, handling or hygiene and therefore re-use and re-stock left over food for other guests. I wonder which restaurant will say they have 'surplus' food in Pakistan as all that 'scrap' food is sold for scrap prices to cover additional costs and fed to the rich and poor alike!

Surrayya Feb 24, 2015 11:36pm

I feel proud on you guys! Keep it up.

Ajaya K Dutt Feb 25, 2015 12:11am

Good Job. Keep it up. and Thanks to you from someone who is too busy with daily routine.

MK Feb 25, 2015 12:19am

Great job guys Allah rewards you Inshalla and keep up the good work

Syed Ganga Din Feb 25, 2015 12:20am

Actually equal distribution of wealth WILL eliminate almost all of the ills plaguing Pakistan today.

kamkasein Feb 25, 2015 01:26am

The question that should have been asked

"Do you have min quality standards on what you would accept from the donating restaurant."

While a very good and applaudable program, one of the hard part of this effort is to make sure the hungry don't end up sick or dead after eating some absolute rubbish. In a nutsheel food quality should be good enough to be safe.

Shahzad Feb 25, 2015 01:51am

Bravo. So impressed to see that these young folks are conscious of their surroundings and feel a sense of responsibility. May Allah bless them and all others to do the good work.

Shahid Akbar, USA Feb 25, 2015 02:01am

Good thinking but please make sure that the food is preserved and distributed properly. We don't want another breaking news- many people got sick or died after eating the food.

BRR Feb 25, 2015 04:58am

@sak How about you volunteering to do that?

BRR Feb 25, 2015 04:59am

@ishrat salim

rather silly - doing this to earn duas or whatever from the poor. do it to help humanity - that should be reward enough.

Melbourne Feb 25, 2015 05:00am

good job just keep it going dont fizz out in few months

BRR Feb 25, 2015 05:01am

@kind-hearted

What a trivial criticism - look at the substance - poverty elimination, not a stupid name - who cares if it is called XXX. The thought counts.

BRR Feb 25, 2015 05:04am

@MK

I am tired of pakistanis commenting about rewards, dua, Allah rewarding etc. Why is it not enough to help anther human being, being human ourselves - without all this dua and rewards getting into the scene - some people help not because they want such rewards or expect them.

Taimur Malik Feb 25, 2015 05:35am

This is very good initiative guys, I think we need to take inspiration from Edhi Sahab who has been feeding poor and hungry in Karachi through his Apna ghar and other centers all over Karachi. He is real professional and covers the big number of peoples...

Pakistani Feb 25, 2015 07:46am

Feeding the hungry is encouraged in Islam. However, showing it as a following of Robin Hood or Indian organization does not even portray that a single Muslim in Pakistan is doing it even though they are. All hungry people regardless of who they are should be fed and it is a noble act but please don't be so shy or modern to ignore your own identity. These days the western media jumps on the stories of evil Muslims. Please show them Muslims care for other humans as well. Wishing you success

Datta Feb 25, 2015 07:48am

@saeeds Aagree with you to a point. There is no free lunch in this world, atleast nothing should be perceived to be free. And yes the matter of family planning is extremely important, perhaps the single most program that lack of which is inextricably tied to poverty and malnutrion and this awareness has to be imparted along with this free food jumboree. The difference between Portugal and South Asia is just that - the depth of education, and in Paksitans case especially also the quality of that education in the larger sense.

However I do not agree when you say that charity cannnot be accepted by"decent' people - individual circumstances, government apathy, lack of skills and several other factors do count in a person's life and those of us who are lucky to be born in families which have provided us with everything cannot pass such judgement on why some should beg and some should not.

Abdullah Yousuf Feb 25, 2015 08:03am

Very noble initiative,God bless you.Plz keep it up.Keep in touch with the Marriage Halls,and 5-Star Hotels,4-Star Hotels.,as well as Philantropists.once again I appreciate your job.

Azmeen Feb 25, 2015 09:08am

Congratulations RHA. You are doing a great job. May Allah bless you and the restaurants' owners/managers who are joining your cause.

TanBhartiyaMay Feb 25, 2015 09:11am

Some good cause by the youth of both the Nations! :-)

B R Chawla Feb 25, 2015 09:13am

Apart from restaurants you can take marriage and other functions on board. Dedicate a phone number which can be dialled for collections of surplus food that otherwise goes waste. This can then be delivered to orphanages and such other deserving spots. Logistics such as collecting vans with freezers etc can be worked out. It is laudable, however, that a beginning has been made.

abc Feb 25, 2015 09:24am

beautiful efforts, appreciated. May Allah add you in chosen people.

Adventurer Feb 25, 2015 09:42am

@jj

MQM does things only for a purpose.
This group is not affiliated to any political group & in future they may be approached by various groups to bank on its popularity.

Adventurer Feb 25, 2015 09:44am

India and Pakistan together can do a lot - but its the governments, the army and ISI etc who does not want to.

ABM Feb 25, 2015 09:55am

Great work guys, keep it up!!!

Syed Irfan Ali Feb 25, 2015 10:04am

Amazing!!!!!! It always gives me so much pain when I see sheer wastage of food everywhere in hotels, restaurants and airlines. It's such a good idea that was in my mind for so many years. Today after reading it that youngsters of my own city have initiated it. I am proud of you guys.... keep it up RHA. God bless you all and spread it to the whole country.

Indian bhai Feb 25, 2015 10:06am

I liked this idea.. Good going pakistan..

Salih Feb 25, 2015 10:33am

These shining stars of our society. keep it up young stars. You don't worry there will be thousand more to help you and join you in this Nobel cause.

Nobleman Feb 25, 2015 11:24am

I agree and appreciate this cause, but how long will they be supplying surplus food to these people? we have then those areas where people like us who live in their comfort zones cannot even dream to go, like thar etc. where people die everyday not from guns or bombs but from hunger. I wonder if anyone of us ever come up with something which will help them earning their own bread and butter by working. Getting food with no efforts will make them all un-productive good for no reason.

Abassin Feb 25, 2015 11:25am

@public /and you had to throw in a monkey's wrench in a good and worthwhile initiative by these young people. What is this thing about being well fed Punjabis and their lack of philanthropy? You must be living in a cave, or in denial not to see, the-good, people do all over the country regardless of their ethnicity. And last, but not the least-would you care to explain this gem of yours "People are well fed from all the stuff thrown out by restaurants and shadi halls"!!!

munir Ahmed Feb 25, 2015 11:47am

If Muslims individually and Muslim countries will take care of human basic needs Allah (swt) will take care of them. It is tradition of Allah (swt) whoever takes care for His Creation, even if it's for an animal Allah (swt) rewards it, whereas man is representative of Allah (swt) on earth, we all are equally responsible for it. May Allah (swt) open our hearts to understand our purpose of being Created.

syed dawar izhar Feb 25, 2015 11:51am

GOOD JOB,,,,,, Great effort,,,, you guys deserve a hat's off May ALLAH give me power to be with you....

saeed Feb 25, 2015 12:36pm

You guys need to provide free food at schools which will make attendace good at schools and other benefit will be the rise of literacy rate in our country. Keep it up. May Allah bless you. Ameen!

Observer Feb 25, 2015 12:49pm

Great going... noble idea ....

Ali S Feb 25, 2015 12:50pm

Excellent effort. I have a suggestion: collect left-over food from weddings and distribute it among the poor. For some reason, there's always a glut of food at weddings in this country.

Ali-Indian Feb 25, 2015 01:01pm

@sam dude I am not mocking !! I am a Bangalorean this initiative of collecting leftover food from 3 star restaurant and 5 start restaurants .... way back in 2005 now its done online

mustafa Feb 25, 2015 01:29pm

@saeeds its a shameful comment. there are people who are less fortunate than you. you can educate them but now they need food. Instead of complaining perhaps we should help.

Samir Feb 25, 2015 02:30pm

@Billa we should be happy that few people are doing some thing extra . Have you done anything ? They have taken one part where they are trying to provied food, you can take the other cause.

suresh nagre Feb 25, 2015 03:23pm

Dear sir Nice job u please provide me your num than i will join u

shazada Feb 26, 2015 09:59am

This is a good effort.can you tell me that how we can work volunteerly in our cities .as food shelter and cloth are the basic need of a human

Ahmed Feb 26, 2015 12:46pm

@saeeds Agreed!

niaz hussain Feb 26, 2015 09:51pm

good god bless you