Happy Diwali from our family to yours
Diwali is celebrated of the victory of good over evil and the transition from darkness into light. The past eight months have been challenging for us as an organisation responsible for thousands of beneficiaries and over 300 staff. The lockdown in India highlighted even more vulnerable women and children in need and we have provided emergency support in extreme circumstances and seen an increase in demand for our existing services.
I am incredibly grateful to our Snehalaya family, including staff, beneficiaries, volunteers and supporters like yourself, for rising to the challenges COVID 19 has brought. As we celebrate our festival of light with the end of the pandemic hopefully in sight, we would like to share some of our positive news and highlights from the past few months to show the impact that we have made together.
With very few of the poorest families highly dependent on their daily wage and no savings for situations like this, this funding has literally kept starvation at bay. Thanks to many of our staff and volunteers living in the communities we serve, we have been able to identify and help families of daily wage workers facing starvation. Working in partnership with them, NGO partners and allied systems we are able to distributed cooked meals and essential supplies to those in need.so far, we have provided over 10,000 food and hygiene parcels to those with the greatest need to keep starvation at bay.
We were also able to provide emergency financial aid to 1,909 daily wage workers, including families living in our slums, sex workers, transgender, MSM, farmers, pensioners, people living with HIV and others struggling during lockdown. Used to existing on less than US$2 a day, the US$40-65 we were able to give them helped them to stock up on essential such as rice and flour and in some cases, the families, realising that such financial aid is not reliable or sustainable, chose to buy extra provisions to start their own food stalls. This will not only see them through the current crisis but will provides a foundation to build on once life returns to ‘normal’.
Due to the risks and restrictions of Corona virus many of our sex workers were unable to work to earn their living in their usual way. As we already have a program to retrain and support them into alternative careers we are really pleased to report that since the start of lockdown a total of 38 of our female sex workers have started new jobs and businesses, hopefully leaving the world of prostitution behind them for good!
While our emergency work continues we also have nearly 15,000 beneficiaries who still need our regular support. This includes women and children living in our shelter homes, slum dwellers, sex workers and women experiencing domestic and other violence. It is anticipated that there has been a huge increase in domestic violence but we are also worried for the girls being married off in child marriages or forced in domestic servitude and at risk of not returning to school once lock down ends.
Fortunately, all of our projects remain active, including our Childline and women’s helplines which offer lifelines and emergency rescue and support to vulnerable women and children. Country-wide restrictions on a maximum of 50 people who can attend a wedding has reduced the average price of a marriage ceremony, which over 500 guests normally attend, from around US$1000 to US$200. While this is good news for lower income families who are taking advantage of the opportunity to maximise their small savings, it has also unfortunately significantly increased the number of child marriages taking place. Fortunately, our Childline team has leaped into action, locating and rescuing 67 child brides so far and our other projects are supporting the rescued girls in a range of other ways.
With our children locked in, we have focused on developing their skills and have recently opened a new school library, beauty training parlour and skills development workshop where our beneficiaries can enhance their education and learn vocational skills.
On top of this, it has been a year of significant milestone for our Snehalaya English Medium School with 100% pass rate for our first ever students to sit for 10 Std exams. This included our incredible Heena who was top girl despite being diagnosed with cancer just weeks before her exams. We have also recently refurbished our school library and are looking forward to this year's 10th Std repeating this year's batch's success.
Times may be extra tough for us all at the moment but, since day one, Snehalya has always tackled the challenges facing our beneficiaries head on, and we are managing the pandemic in the same way rising to the challenges and continuing our mission to work for the most vulnerable in our society. It’s thanks to your support that we can continue to evolve our services to provide practical support to those who need it most. We will beat this together and I am as always truly grateful that we are in this together, thank you.
Let Diwali continue to light up our lives as we hopefully move towards brighter days. On behalf of our whole Snehalaya family, I wish you and your loved ones a very happy Diwali.
Our new school library is a hit
COVID 19 won't stop our celebrations