Activities like Lego kept our kids entertained
Thank you for all your support which is helping our beneficiaries in so many different ways. It’s because of you we are able to help so many people through so many different challenges. As we continue to recover from COVID, Joyce, our CEO of Snehalaya UK who was ‘locked in’ at our Indian projects during the pandemic reflects on her experience.
I am fortunate to have been able to live in Snehalaya’s Rehab Center since 2016. Living in India and at Snehalaya is always interesting and often a little bonkers as I adapt to Indian culture and social issues. However, little could I predict the bizzare turns COVID would bring. I was as shocked as everyone else when Ahmednagar, where the majority of our projects are based, went into lockdown two days before the state officially called for people to stay indoors. I watched in disbelief as videos of the police sweeping through the city on a March afternoon, closing shops and businesses along their way, emerged on my social media.
I live in Snehalaya’s Rehabilitation Center, alongside 200 children, around 50 women and their children seeking shelter and around 50 employees. It is also home to our head office where many staff from our other projects visit on daily basis along with supporters and visitors wishing to donate or learn more about our work.
Many of those I live alongside are HIV+ and at the time we were terrified about how the Corona virus would affect them. Fearing for the safety of all we immediately closed our Rehab Center to all but residents and essential staff were given the option to go home to their families or stay locked in with our beneficiaries. I am incredibly grateful to those staff who chose to stay with us, moving in with no idea how long they would be there and while some moved in with their families, others ‘temporarily’ left theirs with relatives, unsure when they would see them again.
I feel incredibly lucky to have been in lockdown with around 300 people, especially when I speak with those living alone at the time. Still it was scary. No-one knew how long we would be locked in for and who would survive if the pandemic spread into our sanctuary. The 50 or so staff who had stayed included caregivers, maintenance crew, drivers and kitchen staff. As we heard tragic stories from the outside world it was vital we keep our beneficiaries safe, calm and entertained.
As schools and colleges moved classes online we had to juggle 12 year groups attending a range of different institutions with limited numbers of computers available. Our own English medium school teachers stepped in offering classes to all children to help keep them on track. Our kitchen also struggled with reduced staff so we recruited older children interested in catering to help out.
As boredom set in and everyone started to go a little stir crazy we were kept busy delivering a program of daily activities, including a very popular Zumba class that I am still running today. We were also fortunate to have a large number of volunteers offering online sessions covering a whole range of activities and subjects. Everyone was missing their friends and families and we were also concerned about our staff’s wellbeing so set aside rooms for them to spend relaxation time.
We had to develop emergency plans and quarantine areas for anyone displaying symptoms and every sneeze and cough set our pulses racing. We were fortunate in the first lockdown to have not one single case in our Rehab Center. We weren’t quite so lucky in the second wave and despite our best efforts around 50% of our Rehab Center staff and beneficiaries tested positive. This created a new issue with different levels of quarantine required, no mean feat with so many people in one space. Regular testing and moving patients between many areas set aside for the different stages of infection filled our days. Again we were lucky with no serious cases to manage, something I am incredibly grateful for considering the horror stories we were hearing from elsewhere.
Being locked in meant I couldn’t physically help with the amazing COVID relief Snehalaya undertook in the community. However, daily updates, photos and videos from our project teams told of distributing food and essentials including ART medication and roadside assistance to the 40,000 migrant workers passing a few hundred meters from where we were locked in. I was truly humbled to play my small part in such devastating circumstances and wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else preferring to stay and do my bit to protect my Snehalaya family.
The contributions and encouragement we received from supporters like you meant we knew we weren’t alone and had the food and materials not only for our own needs but to ensure starvation didn’t become the biggest killer. We are still dealing with the knock on effect and are grateful to know that in a time when the whole world was experiencing such an unprecedented time you were right there with us.
SAVE THE DATE
Giving Tuesday, 29 November, is a fantastic opportunity to stretch your support even further. Thanks to GlobalGiving any donations made that day will earn us our share of US$1 million in match funding. Since 2015 we have raised thousands in bonus funding that helps fund committed teachers and students like Yasmeen and Ram. Look out for reminders from us nearer the time.
Coming soon #Givingtuesday