Many may recognise him as the tough cop character from the Kalvanai Kandupidi serial, but beneath actor C Raaj Ganesh's tough exterior, lies a kind, caring heart.

The Penang-based 34-year-old who played the no-nonsense, hardened cop M Thirudevan on the Karthik Shamalan-directed serial, has been quietly providing groceries and other necessities to families affected by the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19, the last few months.

Speaking to Astro Ulagam, Raaj said he experienced first hand, how the pandemic badly affected people, after the tour agency business he runs almost folded during the Movement Control Order (MCO), which saw the country's borders closed.

"I personally know of people who were earning good money, working as engineers and so on, but suddenly fell on tough times after losing jobs or having their pay cut off, during the pandemic.

"I started off by helping these people out, and later, it expanded to getting the list of people who needed help, from my contacts. When I posted on my Facebook asking for people who needed help to reach out, I got dozens of messages in reply," Raaj recalled.

Raaj's venture initially started on a small scale, when he forked out money from his own pocket, and went on assistance providing runs with his friend Jeevithan P Ganasan - the founder of the Food4All NGO.

What started out as almost once-a-month venture has now turned an almost daily venture.

Raaj and his team of about five volunteers provide groceries and other necessities to at least 20 families around Penang, almost every day. The monetary burden of the venture has also now been lightened with sponsors chipping in on the items.

Although initially the venture was focused on the Indian community, it has since spread out to include the other races as well.

This is not Raaj's first attempt at charity. He and his parents used to provide free Math and English tuition to students at an education centre in Bukit Mertajam. Besides these, he also feeds the homeless and helps orphanages.

Asked about the challenges posed in his charitable venture, Raaj said distance was one of them.

"Going to different places and giving assistance may seem like an easy thing to do, but it is not. Getting to one place to another is tiring, and this does not include the waiting that we need to do for the targeted families to collect the assistance.

"Getting through roadblocks during the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) is another challenge, but the cops have been kind so far in letting us through," he said, adding that juggling charity with his acting career, business and family life also poses challenges.

According to Raaj, what he aims to achieve with his charity is not publicity for his deeds.

Instead, he hopes to inspire other people to pay it forward.

"When it comes to helping people, the scale does not matter. If you can help a neighbour, and that person, in turn, goes on to help five more people, that is considered an achievement by itself."

Photo source: Raaj Ganesh