On Monday, Dil Gorkhali, a young Kathmandu resident involved in trekking business, donated a bowl full of rice to a saffron-clad sadhu. He got himself clicked while making the donation and nominated all his friends to take up the challenge and be “nice and social”.
Gorkhali is just one among the thousands and more who took the Rice Bucket Challenge—a movement aimed at targeting hunger by cooking or buying one bucket of rice and feeding the needy.
Conceptualized by my friend Manjulatha Kalanidhi, a Hyderabad-based journalist, the idea is her Indian twist to the Ice Bucket Challenge, which challenges people to pour one bucket of ice-cold water over themselves or donate $ 100 for research on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) disease.
The simple idea which is doable and much more practical in India, where millions go to bed hungry daily and many others don’t have access to clean water, soon became a movement and till date thousands of kilos of rice have been officially donated.
With celebrities and corporate houses getting involved, the idea is bound to bring about a short term impact in tackling hunger. With global publicity, the challenge has now caught on in other Asian and African countries where hunger and poverty are major issues.
From being one to report on events and personalities, my classmate from journalism college, has now become a celebrity herself giving interviews to media platforms from all over. She has also shown how an idea can be quickly put across in a rapidly shrinking world to bring about positive changes.
With the challenge taking social networking sites by storm it soon took different forms depending on the country or region and the problems faced there. In Nepal many started the Fill the Bucket challenge to fill buckets with essentials and medicines for thousands displaced by last month’s landslides and floods.
In Gaza people have started the Rubble Bucket Challenge of pouring a bucket full of rubble and dirt over themselves to highlight the problems faced due to Israeli airstrikes. On a lighter note, in some US states people have started pouring beer instead of water over themselves.
All this is good to raise awareness and money for diseases and issues but these challenges and movements don’t provide long-term solutions. And in these days of new and more interesting events happening almost daily there is also the fear that something like the Rice Bucket Challenge could fizzle out.
Unlike the Ice Bucket Challenge where details of how much money has been donated worldwide to the ALS Association are available (till date over $ 100 million) there is no way of knowing how much rice has been donated and to how many through the Rice Bucket Challenge.
Besides the original Rice Bucket Challenge community on Facebook dozens of other communities with the same name have cropped up in the past week and with no centralized monitoring exact details of how many people have benefited or much rice have been donated isn’t available.
Since the reach of internet and social networking sites (the medium through which these challenges are going viral) in South Asia is very poor there is a possibility that it is an urban event or related to people with accessibility to internet and hasn’t touched lives of rural poor.
As Nepali journalist/novelist Shiwani Neupane points out the Rice Bucket Challenge or Fill the Bucket will be more effective if these movements spread through phones and not internet—-as over 74% of India’s population has access to mobile phones while internet penetration is less than 13%.
It would also work better if such movements are monitored more effectively to get an idea of the exact outcomes and monetary donations made not only online but through other options like cash collection points or deposits made to special bank accounts.
Such additions would make these challenges more widespread covering all sections of the population. Collaborative efforts with government like distribution of the rice collected through ration shops could be another way of reaching targeted groups better.