Aug 30, 2021

Family strengthening

Reunited mother and child
Reunited mother and child

We are happy to report that for now the COVID situation in India has stabilized after the devastating second wave earlier this year. While there are still cases being reported, and some restrictions remain in place many are being vaccinated and the pressure on the health systems is manageable. As we are sure it is for you, life has no means returned to normal and we remain concerned about a third wave, the improved situation is a welcome relief to all. We are so grateful for your support, it makes a world of difference when crises like these hit, thank you.

Children belong with their families and, wherever possible, Snehalaya is fully committed to keeping families together. During COVID many families have been extremely vulnerable and have struggled to keep food on the table and also care for and protect their children. We have been reaching out to as many communities as we can to provide support to help families stay safe, healthy and together. When, in March 2020 in response to the COVID pandemic, the government shut down the whole of India there was little time to prepare, especially for low income workers who depend on daily work to feed their families. As many were also isolating in cramped conditions, there were serious impacts on mental health and stress leading to increased quarrels between husband and wife, domestic violence and pressure to reduce the burdens they were facing through child marriages and abandoning or relinquishing their babies.

One family living in a rural village close to Ahmednagar felt all of this. The father with the responsibility of a wife and two children to support shares his story: “I used to work every day and support my family on whatever I could find. One day a storm called lockdown hit us. Of course, this storm, released by the government, hit the whole country but no one seemed to have considered the poor, blind, disabled, orphans and children. Many lost their jobs during the storm and the means of making any money were restricted.” For this family there was no work or income which essentially meant no food. The huge question of how they were going to survive was causing arguments which was affecting the children, including their six-month-old girl.

The father desperately wanted to take care of his daughter but with his own mental condition deteriorating due to the added stress of lockdown restrictions he felt he had no option but to legally hand her over to Snehalaya, where he knew she would be safe with plenty of food, medical and other support. Our Adoption Center Team realised that the mother and father loved their children and had made their heart-breaking decision to put their baby up for adoption based on the helplessness they felt due to the COVID situation. Thinking only of the best interests of their child, who they felt unable to care for at the time, they had made a hasty decision to secure them a better future.

Realising their decision was in response to a temporary crisis, we asked the family to speak with our counselling team. They were able to mediate the arguing couple and help the father through his depression to restore his mental balance. Once the couple was stable and back on track we were able to reverse their decision and legally hand the girl back to her parents. Today, thanks to Snehankur, the family’s life is back to normal and they are a secure happy unit once more. We continue to keep in touch with them and are ready to support them again whenever they need.

Without our support there is no knowing what would have happened to this baby girl and her family and we thank you for your support in ensuring we can be there for this and many more families like them.

Save the Date: GlobalGiving's Little by Little Campaign takes place September 13-17 with all eligible donations up to $50 matched at 50%.

Save the date
Save the date

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Jul 31, 2021

Waves of destruction

10 people were swept away from this COVID center
10 people were swept away from this COVID center

We hope you are keeping safe and health and are experiencing some kind of return to nortmality. Here in Snehalaya, we are still recovering from the second wave of COVID which devastated India. Ahmednagar District, where we operate00 was one of the worst hit with no beds, oxygen or medicines available to our largely rural population of nearly 5 million. From March 2021 a flood of positive cases rendered the existing medical facilities throughout the district overburdened and insufficient. There was been a steep rise in the number of Corona positive patients in the district and at the start of April, Times of India reported it was in the top ten worst affected districts in India with over 1,000 new cases a day and this rose to over 3,000 new cases a day in May.

High unemployment, a severe lack of statutory healthcare, drought, poverty and a large transient population has historically perpetuated many issues for low-income families, most of whom earn their living from agriculture, daily wage or migrant work. Already struggling before the pandemic, many now also face high medical bills, racked up when their family members required treatment for COVID, which, in far too many cases resulted in their death, with added funeral costs further inflating their debts.

Since the end of May the cases started dropping and people started receiving vaccinations. (While vaccinations are now available to over 18s, the demand from the huge population far outweighs the supply and there are many who remain unvaccinated.) With reduced numbers of COVID the country started to breathe a little easier, however it didn’t last long! Last week, the worst floods in 40 years devastated large areas of Maharashtra and while Ahmednagar was not directly affected we leapt into action and currently have staff and volunteer teams in some of the worst hit areas. With a huge death toll and the number of people missing increasing, we are providing emergency supplies and helping with the clean-up operations, often arriving on the scene before the government agencies.

While we are used to responding to disasters, the last year and a half have presented extraordinary challenges. We are proud of our Mission Rahat team who have been at the frontline providing relief, support and a friendly smile to those worst hit. This includes restoring a COVID hospital where patients and equipment were swept away in a flash flood.

Meanwhile we continue our regular operations to those worst affected by the pandemic, lockdowns and floods. Since lockdown was first imposed in March 2020, many of our sex workers have had no or very little income. While we have been able to help with food and emergency financial aid, many are taking our loans from unauthorized lenders, pimps and brother keepers. It is predicted that paying back these loans will keep sex workers all over India in bondage and in some cases may result in them forcing their children into sex work from earlier ages.

As for India’s children, including those living in our shelter, their lives have been equally as disrupted with schools and colleges still closed. Continuing their education through online classes is challenging with limited access to technology and the need to isolate them to prevent the spread of COVID. While we have been working hard to manage their boredom and frustration at restricted movement through activities, the long-term impact of being locked in remains to be seen.

The challenges keep coming but with over 30 years’ experience we are ready to face them head on. It’s well documented that when disaster strikes women and children are vulnerable to exploitation but with your support we aim to continue to always be there for everyone who needs us. Thank you

Our team are literally cleaning the streets
Our team are literally cleaning the streets
Providing essential supplies
Providing essential supplies

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May 24, 2021

COVID update

Educational games on tablets helping girls study
Educational games on tablets helping girls study

I sincerely hope you and your loved ones are staying healthy and safe during this challenging pandemic. As you are no doubt aware, the second wave of COVID is devastating India and we are extremely grateful for your support which will go some way to helping us get through this. Ahmednagar District, where Snehalaya operates is one of the worst hit with no beds, oxygen or medicines available to our largely rural population of nearly 5 million. High unemployment, a severe lack of statutory healthcare, drought, poverty and a large transient population has historically perpetuated many issues for low-income families, most of whom earn their living from agriculture, daily wage or migrant work.

Since March 2021 a flood of positive cases has rendered the current medical facilities throughout the district overburdened and insufficient. There has been a steep rise in the number of Corona positive patients in the district and with lack of vaccinations and testing we are the worst affected district in our stet with over 3,000 new cases still being reported each day. 

With the already overburdened medical facilities throughout the district insufficient, we have established two COVID care centers and are supporting those hardest hit in many ways. You can read more about our COVID relief work at www.snehalaya.org/covid2021.

Your support has never been more vital with more than 700 million girls around the world currently missing school due to lock downs. Here in India all schools and colleges have been closed for most of the last year and school board exams have been cancelled. It is now the summer vacation and the academic year would normally resume on 15 June, however with little improvement in the situation so far this seems unlikely and it is estimated that 10 million Indian girls will never set foot in a classroom again.

We are determined to get all of our children safely back in their classrooms and help them to catch up on their work. In the meantime, we are conducting online classes and educational activities with all of our beneficiaries. By continuing our work with them, we are also able to support their families with food, hygiene, health & financial aid, vastly reducing the impact of the virus in the most vulnerable communities.

We are also reaching out to those in our other local communities where young girls orphaned by COVID are at increased risk from traffickers and we have opened a dedicated shelter for them. Child marriages also continue to rise and to date our Childline team has saved over 100 child brides – nearly 50% of all rescues in our state! With your support, we will ensure that all of these girls receive the support they need to continue their education when safe to do so.

Education can be sweet
Education can be sweet

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