Country hopping, job hopping, and ceaselessly learning from her struggles, Dr Neelima Arya carved for herself a successful career, only to embrace her true calling — service for those in need. “If anyone had to recall who Neelima is, Neelima always wears black, she has a lot of tattoos,” says Dr Arya as she talks about her “signature style”, but there is more to the woman than what meets the eye.
With a career spanning almost two decades, the postgraduate in English Literature dabbled in various fields. In February 2018, however, the social entrepreneur decided to materialise her vision to help those in need and floated Apple Homes for Orphaned Kids, an NGO that she named after her 11-year-old daughter.
She began supporting local NGOs, and decided that it was time to take up a new challenge. Six months ago, she quit her day job and, naturally, not many approved of her ideas. “I was in the quest to do something meaningful. So, I developed five projects which will address all the needs of the society, first of which is ‘Feed the Need’. You won’t know what works and what doesn’t if you don’t try.”
‘Feed the Need’ is an Apple Homes initiative partnered with GHMC to ensure that not a single person goes to bed with an empty stomach. With the first unit set up on January 31, now, Feed the Need has 30 refrigerators placed to store food for the hungry in various parts of the city — a move that was hailed by citizens and bureaucrats alike.
A single mother of two, Neelima lost her parents 18 years ago, but is not one to forget the values she inherited from them. “I grew up watching my parents feed the needy. NGOs are a trend now. True service is not easy, it comes with tremendous effort,” says the 40-year-old whose goal is hunger-free India.
Neelima, who begun Feed the Need in Hyderabad first, says that it is also a way of giving back to the city that laid the foundation to her professional growth. Talking about how the kiosks are picking up in the city, she says active contribution and volunteering has kept the initiative pacing forward.
On June 10, Neelima began the second project from her agenda, one that targets women, and launched the logo for She Need. “Healthy women make a healthy society, which, in turn, makes a happy world. ‘She Need’ will be set up for underprivileged women, those who cannot afford luxury products during their menstrual cycles.”
Claimed to be a first, the She Need kiosk aims to provide sanitary napkins from a vending machine, free of cost, and also have incinerators that can tackle waste generated from disposed pads. “Each machine will have 50 napkins, and any woman who has her menstrual cycle can pick it up on the go. The incinerators are eco-friendly, and will burn used napkins to ashes,” she elaborates. “I am trying to break a taboo. Women no longer need to hide the napkin in black polythene, under their clothing, in newspapers or pockets. It is natural and every woman does have periods. The need of the hour is to promote health and hygiene.”
Targeting women’s colleges, travel stops and women’s workplaces for menial jobs, these She Need kiosks will employ a woman vendor stationed, who will run a rent-free shop as she keeps track of traffic, feedback and creates a livelihood for herself.
Her projects to follow, she says, are for the differently-abled, orphans, farmers and unemployed youth. Quoting Siri Vennela Sitarama Shastri, the entrepreneur signs off, “Dehamundi, praanamundi, netthurundi, sattuvundi, inkem kavali neeku?”