Archana (30), has dedicated her life to the cause of the needy and the poor. Initially leading a comfortable life in her childhood, her life took a drastic turn after her father died when she was eight. “My mother, sister, and I shifted to a hut near Villivakkam subway after our relatives cheated us of our property,” Archana said. During her childhood, Archana’s and her family’s biggest worry was where the next meal would come from. To earn some money, Archana participated in kabaddi matches in her school days and won several cash prizes. “I could have good, healthy food only when we had matches as the food was provided by the organizers,” she said.
Desire to serve
Asked about the desire to serve the homeless people Archana said, “My childhood days made me understand the difficulty those people faced even for getting one meal a day. Many did not have food for days and died of hunger. That was when I decided to do something to help them.” Archana initiated her plan to help the people living on pavements in 2017 when she all alone cooked food and distributed it to the needy. Initially, she served around 50 people a day. Once her friends came to know about this, they helped her with cooking and distribution of food. That was when she decided to start Manidham Mathipom (Respect Humanity), a charitable trust, to connect the like-minded people in 2017.
Archana had moral support from her family and friends. However, in the beginning, her mother was not happy with her decision. “My mother wanted me to look after the welfare of my family because of the trauma we had faced in our childhood. But on August 15, 2018, when my mother saw me hoist the National Flag at Queen Mary’s College, Chennai, her eyes filled with tears,” she added. Archana has a post graduate degree in Geography from Queen Mary’s College. She runs a mobile phone retail shop and is the sole breadwinner of her family. Awards and recognition She has received various awards and recognitions for her service. The first award she received for providing a helping hand to the poor was the ‘Kalvi Vallal Kalasalingam Award’ where she was named ‘Annathanaselvi’ (Goddess of food) on August 24, 2018.
Asked about the kind of people she distributes food to, Archana said that she does not provide food to everyone on the pavements. "We majorly focus on physically challenged and aged people who find it extremely difficult to earn their living," she added. The Manidham Mathipom Trust receives donations and charity from various people not only from Tamil Nadu but also from a few people living abroad. To let her donors know where exactly their donation is going, she uploads videos on her social media pages. The videos have information regarding the groceries used and how many people the food is distributed to on a daily basis.
During the lockdown
Archana was one among the many people who were given special permission to serve the community during the COVID-19 lockdown. Her next step is to provide a helping hand in educating children from lower- or no-income families. With loads of hard work, Archana has achieved her dream of opening a home for girl children and helping them achieve their dreams.