FORTITUDE- courage in pain or adversity

Fortitude is a non-profit organization founded and run by students based in Pune. One of their founding members Rhea Arora is part of our team here at Locusnine. She has written a blog post about the organisation and how it came to be. Her work and thoughts completely align with ours in the social impact space.

Fortitude. A non-profit organization that is the product of a coping mechanism combined with the will to do better. Actually, it's more than just a non-profit organization, it's a family with a big heart and a dedicated work ethic towards making the world a better place, one good deed at a time. After all, that's what it takes right? One good deed, after another. Founded and run by a group of college students who hail from different spheres of life, their sole aim is to come together and make the world a better place by tackling one social problem a month.

Grief works in mysterious ways. The loss of someone close to you is always incredibly difficult and takes a toll on your mental well-being. This group of friends lost someone very close to their hearts at the tender age of 16. At that age, trying to understand or make sense of death proves to be extremely difficult. A few months after this incident, after multiple conversations about it, they decided that they would like to channel their grief more positively and dedicate some of their time to honouring his memory. Thus, February 2017 marked the beginning of Fortitude.

Fortitude translates to courage in pain or adversity. The name stemmed from them taking the pain from their negative, heart-wrenching experience and using that to rise above and help others. Fortitude started out as a group of 8 friends all bound by the same experience but has grown into a community that holds up to 20 members and over 50 student volunteers.

One of their main ventures is organising blood donation camps. A study published in the journal ‘The Lancet’ says that India has the world’s largest shortage of blood. All the states together battle a shortfall of 41 million units. The demand outstrips the supply by over 400%. Blood donation is one of the simplest and most effective ways to help people. Patients who are anaemic, have bleeding disorders like haemophilia, cancer patients and even pregnant women, all need blood. A cancer patient, on an average, requires at least 100 units of blood. In addition to this, large amounts of blood are required during trauma-induced surgeries which stem from 1,200 road crashes every day.

The reason for this shortage normally comes from people with misconceptions. Reduction in masculinity for men and perceived weakness of women are the main reasons why there is a shortage of donors. But these are simply misconceptions that need to be cleared out. In addition to that, the ban disallowing donors to be paid for their donation also adds to the shortage.

All of the founding members of Fortitude met and established their relationship with each other at The Bishop’s School. The school represents years of friendship and countless memories. On the 15th of August each year, they hold a blood donation drive in association with Jehangir Hospital at the School. Over the past three years, they have seen a rapid increase in their reach and have collected over 300 units of blood collectively.

In addition to this, one of their other initiatives has been to organise informative talks. Topics like women empowerment, self-defence for women, sex education and mental health are constantly shunned and treated as ‘taboo’.This is precisely why the team found it absolutely imperative to host talks conducted by deemed experts in these various fields to spread awareness about the same. One of their first ventures was a talk titled “She Is Strong”. The speakers included a women’s self-defence coach, an established female lawyer as well as a doctor. The audience held young adults from all over the city as well as underprivileged girls sponsored by Lila Poonawala. Their second venture was a talk on mental health and depression. Oftentimes these illnesses are brushed under the carpet in the quest to appear healthy. Acknowledgement of these illnesses and acceptance of forms of healing like therapy is extremely vital. The audience for this venture crossed over 250 people and the venue was absolutely overflowing. The audience heard the opinions of two established psychiatrists and mental health professionals. The third speaker gave her first-hand experience of her struggle with depression and anxiety and her ultimate rise from the ashes.

The members of Fortitude also like to volunteer with underprivileged children and at old age homes. Not only does this bring a smile to so many people but also helps them really unwind and have fun. For the last year, they have partnered with Epiphany School. Every Saturday 2 volunteers from Fortitude conduct English and Math classes for all the students at Epiphany School.

Since all the members are mainly students in various professional courses, it becomes hard for them to dedicate time and energy to a cause of their choice despite wanting to. Another way in which they help is by researching ongoing projects and collection drives held by other organizations and lending a helping hand. Over the past few years, Fortitude has participated in multiple clothes, food, shoes and stationery collection drives. They also organise fundraisers where they sell craft items handmade by their own members. The proceeds from these sales all go to a charity of their choice.

All in all, the members at Fortitude are determined to help in whichever way they can, no matter how small. What started out as a feel-good mechanism has turned into a way of life. They may be bound by grief, but they’re motivated by hope. Hope for a better future and for a better world.

As they all fondly say, “this is for you, ManasP”.

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