instrumental in feeding over thousands of people, Mahita Fernandez of ‘feed your neighbour’ intitative is a supermom, head chef to the needy, and now a kids’ activity centre chief
Mahita Fernandez is not your average mom next door. This Bengaluru lass made headlines earlier this year for mobilising around 7,000 volunteers towards feeding the hungry in various pockets across the South Indian city. Called the Feed Your Neighbour (FYN) initiative, Fernandez was instrumental in feeding 1.3 lakh people, who would have otherwise gone hungry. She was recently on Amitabh Bachchan’s talk show, Aaj Ki Raat Hai Zindagi on Star Plus, for the same feat. We spoke to her about what she’s been up to after the roaring success of FYN. “I had a total fangirl moment when I met Mr Bachchan. He spoke to me like I was the hero, which I found so humbling,” enthuses Fernandes.
It was on a cold September night that this young and gorgeous mother of a 7-year-old boy came up with the idea for Feed Your Neighbour. “I went to sleep on an empty stomach and as much as I tried, I couldn’t sleep because I was hungry. And as spoiled as I was, I didn’t want to get out of bed to get something to eat as I was lazy. It was then that I thought of all those millions of people out on the streets who would probably be hungry, simply because they couldn’t afford their dinner. I felt so terrible about myself and wanted to do something that made a difference, even in a very small way,” shares Fernandes.
On one of the days following this epiphany, she came up with a plan and posted a status on Facebook, which went viral. “I just wanted 2,000 volunteers to send five meals a day for 10 days to different distribution points that I had identified. Soon, my house became a central kitchen, because many people couldn’t cook so would send me provisions. We started with 600 meals and on the last day, we served over 12,000,” she proudly recalls. Originally from Bengaluru, Fernandes moved to Chennai for work, where she was a corporate communications professional.
That’s where she met her husband Steve, who runs an event management firm. When their son was born, they decided to move back to Bengaluru. While Fernandes wanted to go back to work, the corporate world did not appeal to her any longer because she wanted to do something that let her spend more time with her son. It was then that she set up Gambolla, a kids activity centre in Central Bengaluru. Closed temporarily, the space is set to open next year.
“I was babysitting my son and two nephews at the time. We couldn’t take them to parks as it was raining continuously. We wanted a safe and clean environment for them. That’s when I thought of building a kids activity centre, which was lacking in the city,” she explains. A self-confessed Harry Potter fan, Fernandes also loves music, dance and animals. Her partner in crime is often her son, whom she takes along with her for long nature walks in Cubbon Park. “It’s so much fun just being close to nature or watching clouds pass by,” she says.
While she’s currently figuring out a way to make FYN more long term and sustainable, Fernandes is also involved in HUG — Humane Universal Good Deeds Network (under whose wings she was instrumental in contributing and rounding up relief material for Chennai’s flood victims), which was started by Madhumita Kalauney, a product manager based in Bengaluru, to help the less fortunate in any way possible, be it food, clothing, books or anything else under the sun....