For most people in today’s time, success and happiness are deeply rooted in materialistic desires. Rare are those people for whom these superficial comforts hold no value and instead, they seek solace and satisfaction in helping others. One such person is the founder of one of India’s most trusted non-profit organisations Goonj. With a Master’s degree in journalism from the reputed Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Anshu Gupta could have done anything with his career, but he chose to serve humanity and uplift the impoverished masses of the nation after leaving his job as a freelance journalist.
Goonj was founded by Anshu and his wife Meenakshi Gupta in 1999 with merely sixty seven clothes that both of them had collected. The idea of starting a non-profit organisation that specifically works to clothe the poor came to him after his encounter with a corpse bearer and his daughter in Delhi, following which he travelled to Uttarkashi to do relief work where he realised the need of proper clothing for disaster-hit victims and poor people.
Goonj initially started in Anshu and Meenakshi’s own home in Sarita Vihar, Delhi however today, it is an organisation spread across 4000 villages in over 23 states and employs almost 1000 people. Through the organisation, Anshu has challenged the existing notions of charity all the while trying to bridge the gap between rich and poor by making discarded clothes of the affluent people as a resource for the poor. “Governments and organisations talk about meeting basic necessities like roti, kapda and makaan, but everyone has ignored the need for clothing. There is a policy for everything except clothing. So we decided to take up this issue,” he said. The non-profit organisation has expanded its work in education, sanitation, women’s health, infrastructure, etc. From things as small as a stapler pin to clothes and industrial generators, Goonj uses anything discarded or unutilized and takes them to far flung rural areas to address the basic needs of the people there.
Over the years, Anshu has been bestowed with numerous prestigious awards and honours for the initiatives and unparalleled efforts he has taken up through Goonj with empathy and compassion in his heart. In addition to this, he is popularly regarded as the Clothing Man for the way he has touched people’s lives through clothes – something which may seem so trivial to us, but is a luxury for many others.