Jul 21, 2020

Supporting Kolkata's most Vulnerable through COVID-19

Distributing food parcels
Distributing food parcels

I last reported on this project on 24th March just as country after country around the world was going into lockdown, including India. 
Overnight, India's informal economy was forced to a halt. The daily labourers, rickshaw drivers, street vendors, domestic helpers, beggars and ragpickers found themselves unable to earn the daily wage that fed themselves and their families. Starvation was only days away for many. Vast numbers of migrant workers lost their jobs in the city and headed home to their villages, many on foot as public transport stopped. The news media reported tragic tales of people collapsing and dying on marathon journeys. 

Tiljala SHED's target beneficiaries are exactly such people. Swiftly Tiljala SHED's staff was reduced to the few who lived close enough to reach the target communities and an emergency office was set up in T SHED's Beauty Training Parlour.  We could no longer run this livelihood programme but instead we needed to ensure all these beneficiaries and their families were well and able to eat. 

Donations began to roll in from local philanthropic groups. Sacks of rice, lentils, flour, onions, biscuits, masks, gloves, hand sanitiser. We set up fundraising pages  at GiveIndia and here on GlobalGiving. Support began to roll in and our amazing staff rolled up their sleeves and got to work. Since early April Tiljala SHED has distributed food aid to well over 30,000 people. The team is exhausted but they are doing an incredible job. Crowds of destitute people line to alley way beside the emergency office begging for help. Staff take names, distribute coupons, purchase vast quantities of supplies, package it for individual families and then distribute. All through the hottest time of year, through Ramadan and now through the monsoon.

And when this is all over, we need to regroup, and most importantly to get these families back in their feet they will desperately need the microloans from this project, so that they can start up their businesses again, buy stock, repair rickshaws etc.

Tiljala SHED itself is also going to need institutional support: our immediate crisis is the vehicle. Our 12 year old van is finally worn out. Without it we cannot bring the aid to people who still desperately need it, so please consider today a donation towards replacing the van. We also still badly need donations for emergency food relief

Thank you

Providing emergency food relief in COVID19
Providing emergency food relief in COVID19

Links:

Jul 6, 2020

News from January and survival during COVID19 Lockdown

Girls and their parents at our January meeting
Girls and their parents at our January meeting

It seems like a very long time ago, but when I was in Kolkata in January I met up with almost all the sponsored girls on this programme. What struck me most of all was how confident the girls have become. They all spoke English with me and were able to tell me about school and what they hope to do with their education. I was so proud of them. Their living conditions are very difficult especially for those who need to study.

I was concerned that Zainab’s attendance at school was very poor, as low as 30%.  We have set 85% minimum attendance as a qualification to remain on the programme. This seems to me fair – as there are many girls desperate to have the opportunity in life that our donors have given Zainab and co.  So Shreya, Aamna and I tried to understand from Zainab and her mother what the problem was. The family of 5 lives in a single room. So Zainab only gets to sleep at 11 when her parents go to bed. Her school day begins at 6 am – and she had been struggling to wake up in time, and felt exhausted all day. She’s a teenager and her body just wasn’t able to cope. Her mother was very co-operative and said that they would try to make changes in the family routine so that Zainab could get enough sleep and be fresh for school. They agreed to come back into the office a week later to report on how things were working out. Mother and daughter duly returned. Zainab looked 100% better. She had attended school each day and was getting enough sleep. She loves school and wants to do well in life, but the family had slipped into a routine that made schooling difficult for Zainab. Very few of these girls have literate parents so it is sometimes down to the programme staff, Shreya and Aamna, to provide the mentoring, guidance and sometimes firmness to keep the girls on track.

Since my January visit the world has changed for all of us. India’s lockdown began in mid March so there has been no school or college for any of the girls. Many of their families have suffered terrible hardship as their parents cannot work.

Shreya and Aamna have kept in touch with all the families and have ensured that all got food rations as part of Tiljala SHED’s emergency food distributions.

But India’s pandemic is far from abating. Kolkata is not as hard hit as other large cities, but there is still no regular education available. Your donations will be needed more than ever once the girls are back at school and college. Meanwhile, we are doing our best to get as many of them joining online classes as possible. Sofia, for instance, has no access to the internet but three times a week she is able to join online classes on a friend’s phone. Ayesha has been attending online classes but is now able to go along to tuition classes. Gradually things are opening up. We are working with each girl to ensure she's getting whatever help is available to her.

January Meeting
January Meeting
January Meeting
January Meeting
One of the mothers receiving food rations
One of the mothers receiving food rations
May 12, 2020

Relieving Hunger during COVID-19 Lockdown

Receiving food rations
Receiving food rations

This project has for the last 5 years successfully provided emergency food rations and medical care to some of Kolkata’s most vulnerable families at times of crisis. Thanks to our generous donors our staff have been able to step in to relieve distress when help is most needed.

In India’s current COVID-19 lockdown, almost every family in ALL our target communities is hungry. Our beneficiaries across all our projects are mostly daily wage earners. So if a rickshaw driver cannot go out onto the streets to work, he earns nothing and cannot feed his family. A ragpicker, who depends on daily outings to collect paper, plastic bottle, aluminium cans, cardboard which she then sells to a dealer, cannot earn money if she is swept from the street by police enforcing the lockdown. Factories are closed; begging is impossible. Those who had small savings have used up their resources. Everyone is desperate.

But thanks to your generosity, there are some funds available to help out. Our team has been working tirelessly to purchase, to repackage and then to distribute food rations to almost 2000 families so far. Donations have come from individuals like you as well as other sources. But after this week, we don’t know where the funds for the next round of distributions will come from. The lockdown continues and so does the hunger.

Shafkat and his team of volunteers are working under the most terrible conditions in temperatures above 30 deg C. They are wearing full PPE and ALSO are fasting as it is Ramadan, so they cannot even drink water. During Saturday’s distribution one of the volunteers fainted and others felt dizzy and unwell. But they are determined to continue this work as long as there are hungry families and donors to provide the funds. So please show your support for some of India’s most vulnerable and hungry communities as well as solidarity with our volunteers on the front line and make a special donation today. Rs7500 (USD100, GBP80) buys ration packs for 4 families (of approx 6 people) for a month.

2000 ration packs distributed so far
2000 ration packs distributed so far
Tiljala SHED team in full PPE
Tiljala SHED team in full PPE
Team photo
Team photo
Packaging the rations ahead of distribution
Packaging the rations ahead of distribution
Ration Pack for one family of six
Ration Pack for one family of six
 
WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.