Community flooded, rescue became job one

When torrential rainfall caused four days of major flooding in Chennai, India, Ford employees didn’t hesitate to lend a helping hand.

“We had never experienced floods like this before,” recalled Saravana Iyyappan, senior analyst, Launch Mix and Rates, Ford India. “We had only heard stories from our parents of the flood in 1984 that was similar, although not as disastrous as this one.”

Saravana and D. Praveen Kumar, analyst, Launch Mix and Rates, Ford India, learned they weren’t the only ones volunteering their time and resources to rescue people in their community. Initially, they lent a hand to fellow Ford colleagues who had reached out for help. It wasn’t long before they learned that the problem was much worse than they knew.

“It was two to three sleepless nights of rescue efforts,” said Saravana. “We also arranged flood relief materials for the poor and needy who lost their homes. Some container vehicles were also delivered for these people to live in temporarily.”

Located off the Bay of Bengal, the area is known as the Detroit of South Asia because of its automobile industry. Praveen traveled to industrial areas with polluted floodwaters, as well as a low-lying slum. With the help of local fishermen and their boats, Praveen was able to rescue 12 people. Not stopping there, Praveen rallied fellow employees to help take more people to safety, and even donated funds to further help his community.

Saravana successfully supported the rescue of 11 families. He also coordinated the delivery of flood relief materials to those in need, including candles, matches, mosquito coils, food, milk and blankets.

The duo, together with their Ford colleagues and community members, were able to help more than 150 people through three days of rescue operations.

“Most of the people were strangers to us during the rescue,” said Saravana. “But they genuinely expressed their gratitude as they were transported to safety, with smiles on their faces and tears in their eyes.”

During the relief efforts, building trust among the communities was critical. “The moment we mentioned that we work at Ford, people trusted us,” said Saravana. “There was no better symbol or identity to carry with us on our rescue operations than the Blue Oval on our shirts.”

This year, Ford Asia Pacific held the Small but Mighty Employee contest, giving employees the opportunity to nominate a peer whose actions truly exemplified the small by mighty spirit. Praveen was nominated by Saravana, and was named Ford’s Small but Mighty champion in India for his contribution to the Chennai flood relief efforts.​

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