Thursday, April 24, 2008

The decline and fall of Helplines

Jessica Roy has more than 450 friends on her Facebook profile; and her cellphone contact list is brimming with numbers in abundance. But when Jessica is distressed, she logs off the Internet, and calls a helpline. Jessica is not alone, across the city, denizens are finding isolation in a crowded digital age increasingly difficult to handle, and Mumbai's helplines are offering them an ear.

Helplines have morphed into multi-media one-stops, offering information, counselling or customer service via telephone, e-mail and their website. But these days it seems like Mumbai's helplines need a helpline that will listen to their travails.

Recently, some the city's best-known and oldest helplines announced that they would be shutting down amid rising rents and a lack of funds.

Farrokh Jijini of the Samaritan helpline explains the problem: "It's important to have a good location for the helplines. The volunteers should also be OK with the location. There should be sufficient space to meet the demands of the professional unit."

"Location is very important. It should be positioned in such a way, that there is accessibility," says Shobha Murthy, trustee of Aarambh, which is a support centre for children and women living in slums in Navi Mumbai.

Apart from the location, any volunteer or NGO requires sufficient funds to carry out its mission. But funds seem to be drying up in the Mumbai heat. A lack of funds initiates a domino effect, which affects other areas of the helpline.

According to Shibani Sachdeva, executive director of United Way Mumbai, a lack of volunteers and high rental costs are playing a significant role in the demise of the helpline.

"Unfortunately, most corporates who have the funds are not willing to support helplines," says Sachdeva, "And even if they do, their decision-making process often takes a year."

Many helplines have answered the clarion of the digital revolution, but their problems are rooted in the real world, rather than the virtual one. And in the bustle of the economic boom, Mumbai seems indifferent to the death of the numbers that helped so many people, for so long.

By Brinda Majithia

Source: http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?newsid=1161115

HELP : Corporate's HELP them. HELP LINES are LIFE LINES for many less fortunate people.We also intend to start one for the Cause of Elderly - Any Funders?????

Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

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