Piedmont Couple Raises Awareness and Funds for Flooded Indian Town of Chennai

Deepak Kumar and Kavya Kannamma credit skills they learned through Toastmasters to create, plan, and promote an event which raised thousands of dollars for a city under water.

​​The effect of climate change may still be questionable to some, but it couldn’t be more real to the 4.8 million people impacted by the El Niño which caused historic flooding in the southern states of India last month with the hardest hit being the town of Chennai.

Named one of the “52 Places to Go in 2014” and “a national cultural capital” by the New York Times, Chennai was pummeled by nearly 14 inches of rain in one day, more than double the amount they usually receive in December. Hundreds fell victim to the flood waters and nearly 2 million people were displaced.

People from all walks of life came together to create a substantial impact in the lives of people in need. This is another example of humanity at its best.

Kavya Kannamma

A Piedmont couple, Deepak Kumar and Kavya Kannamma, who were born and raised in Chennai, spoke with their friends and relatives still in the area who were working hours without sleep to save the stranded and provide them with food and basic amenities. Kumar, an electrical design engineer for Analog Devices Inc. and Kannamma, an internal medicine visiting resident and research scholar at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, came up with an idea … ‘Recoup Chennai Recoup,’ a fundraiser in support of Chennai. “We thought the least we could do (from here) for the people severely affected is raise and send funds to enable them rebuild their lives,” stated Kumar. 

Though the two didn’t have experience organizing fundraisers, they had confidence in the skills they acquired through Friendly Toastmasters Club in Greensboro, one of over 15,000 Toastmasters clubs worldwide, which focuses on communication and leadership development of its members. Building awareness and creating a successful event required time management, planning and implementation, compèring, motivating and team building - tools Kumar and Kannamma honed as Toastmasters members.

“Our goal was to raise $5,000, but with overwhelming support from the community, we raised a little more than $6,000. People from all walks of life came together to create a substantial impact in the lives of people in need. This is another example of humanity at its best,” said Kannamma about the event that drew over 100 attendees to Magnolia Manor in Colfax, North Carolina on Saturday, January 9. 

The funds will be sent to Karunalaya Social Service Society, a nonprofit, voluntary organization based in Chennai. Karunalaya is actively engaged in the rescue of the homeless and rehabilitation of the families who lost their homes in the floods. Though not listed as a 501(c)(3), the 20 year history of this grassroots organization has positively impacted the welfare and rehabilitation of street and working children as well disadvantaged women in the city.

“It is an humbling experience to serve people in need. Through this fundraiser, I have discovered the generosity in my friends whom I have known for years and also built deep bonds of friendship with people who were total strangers to me a month ago. I would like to thank God for empowering us all to stand up for this cause,” said Kumar.

About Karunalaya Social Service Society
Karunalaya Social Service Society is a nonprofit, voluntary organization registered in the year 1995 under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act 27 of 1975. Karunalaya was started as a grassroots organization for the welfare and rehabilitation of street and working children of Chennai city. Karunalaya was founded for the care, protection and rehabilitation of runaway, destitute street children, children working in the fishing industry, street youth and empowerment of women in the fishing community, street and pavement dwelling communities. Karunalaya also focuses attention towards the protection of the girl children in the community. For more information, visit their website at karunalaya.in.

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