Emergency Food and Medicine for Kolkata's Poorest

by Tiljala Society for Human and Educational Development
Emergency Food and Medicine for Kolkata's Poorest
Emergency Food and Medicine for Kolkata's Poorest
Emergency Food and Medicine for Kolkata's Poorest
Emergency Food and Medicine for Kolkata's Poorest
Emergency Food and Medicine for Kolkata's Poorest
Emergency Food and Medicine for Kolkata's Poorest
Emergency Food and Medicine for Kolkata's Poorest
Emergency Food and Medicine for Kolkata's Poorest
Emergency Food and Medicine for Kolkata's Poorest
Emergency Food and Medicine for Kolkata's Poorest
Emergency Food and Medicine for Kolkata's Poorest
Emergency Food and Medicine for Kolkata's Poorest
Emergency Food and Medicine for Kolkata's Poorest
Emergency Food and Medicine for Kolkata's Poorest
Sukhjan
Sukhjan

Sukhjan’s desperate story is not unusual in Kolkata’s slums and squatter camps. Born into a large family in a village outside Kolkata, the first disaster came with the death of her father, the family’s breadwinner. Her mother took the family to Kolkata where they now live in an illegal shelter beside the Topsia canal. Sukhjan’s older brother married her off to an alcoholic drug addict who beat and starved her until  the girl’s mother could bear her daughter’s pain no more and persuaded her to leave the husband’s home and return to her family. By this time she had conceived a son, now 9 years old. 

Sukhjan is illiterate, was married off as a child and works as a maidservant for just Rs2000 per month (£20, USD26).  Her husband continues to visit her, demanding money and abusing her. She borrows money from neighbours to give to him. She called the police once and the husband was jailed for a week but was soon back to his old ways. 

Tiljala SHED’s staff are very concerned about Sukhjan and her son.  We are able to help her by bringing her son into our Education Centres every day after school for academic support as well as to enable us to keep him safe and off the streets. We also provide Sukhjan with material support – dry rations (rice, dal, tea, flour), blankets, tarpaulins (for shelter) and clothes. 

Our long term goal is to keep her son in education and to encourage him to pass his board exams so that he can earn a decent living and look after his mother in future. But in the short term, your generosity means that we can offer her emergency support. 

Thank you as ever for providing some of Kolkata’s most vulnerable people with rays of hope.  All the beneficiaries and all the staff at Tiljala SHED are so grateful that you make this programme possible.  

 About the programme

The Emergency Food and Medicine Programme differs from Tiljala SHED's other activities in that it provides emergency relief to families and individuals in crisis. Our other programmes focus on long term goals of empowerment and development. A committee, run by Parveen our programme co-ordinator, decide how the funds are spent. Sometimes the help is medical - covering expenses for medical treatment and frequently it is about helping a family through difficult times by providing food rations. This programme is vital in helping us to keep our Education Programme on track. When a family falls on hard times (and this has been so much worse during the pandemic) the children are often taken out of school as the expenses associated with schooling (uniforms, books, shoes) can no longer be borne. This may be a short term solution, but it is a disaster in the long term as education and literacy is the absolute best route out of this extreme poverty. So we prioritise the families where there is risk of children dropping out. It is working well and we are proud that we have youngsters completing school and aspiring to higher education.

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Sana with her parents
Sana with her parents

Sana is about 13 years old. She lives with her parents and two siblings. She is deaf and dumb and has suffered from severe mental and physical disabilities since birth. Her parents, Altaf and Sony, love her dearly and work hard to keep her fed and comfortable. They live in a small one room house in the slum and Altaf works as a rickshaw driver to earn around 300 – 400 rupees a day (£3 - £4). He pays Rs1500 rent per month and Sana’s medication costs them Rs3000 per month. This is a family living on the edge. Last month Sana broke her arms and the subsequent medical bills threw the family into crisis. They approached Tiljala SHED for help. Md Alamgir, Tiljala SHED’s founder, went to visit the family and found them to be a loving and devoted family “The whole family, especially the mother, is devoted to her care only to help her survive with identity and dignity” he wrote to me. As a disabled person Sana is entitled to government support. In order to receive benefits she must have a bank account and to open a bank account she needs an Aadhar Card (an ID card). But to get an Aadhar card she needs to provide biometric information – fingerprints and iris. The family have taken Sana along on several occasions to obtain these but it has proved impossible because of her disabilities.  They now have to seek legal help to ensure Sana can apply for the benefits she needs.

For the ultra-poor and illiterate like Sana’s family, asserting their rights and entitlements can feel like an impossible mountain to climb, but Tiljala SHED is there to help. Our staff are ready to help Sana’s family both by providing temporary food and medical assistance, but also to help her apply for benefits.  The other day I had this report from Md Alamgir “We have visited Sana’s house. We gave her emergency food and medicines and collected all necessary documents required for government benefit.”   This will take time, but meanwhile Tiljala SHED is there to support the family with temporary food and medicine. Thanks to your generosity there is support available to the most vulnerable families in times of crisis.

You can cover the medication costs for a person like Sana for £25 per month

Thank you as ever for your generosity.

Delivery of food rations
Delivery of food rations
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Collecting food rations
Collecting food rations

This programme was set up in 2015 to provide emergency food rations and medicines for especially vulnerable people in our target areas. 

Almost everyone in the canal side or railway squatter camps of central Kolkata depends on a daily wage from casual factory work, rag picking (collecting, sorting and selling waste), rickshaw driving, fruit and vegetable selling and other informal activities. Few families are able to cope with an emergency like a hospitalisation or other medical expenses. If the main earner in a family dies or becomes unable to earn, the family goes hungry. There is then the temptation to pull children out of education so that they can work.

This programme has provided the interim support for families in crisis. And your generosity has enabled our staff to come to the rescue of hundreds of families and individuals over the years. But we never expected a crisis like COVID 19 - when every single family in our target areas suddenly needed help. In 2020, thanks to the amazing generosity of our donors, we were able to provide food rations to 5000 families in need. And again this spring, when the the delta variant tore through India,  we have been able to do the same.  Another 5000 ration packs have been distributed so far this year.

We have focused particularly on the families whose children are in our education programme - as it is especially important that youngsters stay in education and don’t let the COVID crisis drive them into child labour or into early marriage.

So we want to thank you once again for your generosity and your loyalty to this important cause.

 

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The elderly need our ongoing support
The elderly need our ongoing support

This project, thanks to our donors, has enabled Tiljala SHED to provide essential support to our vulnerable beneficiaries particularly over the last terrible year.  When India's lockdown in March 2020 left so many people unable to work, when cyclone Amphan tore through our communities, destroying homes and causing floods, when a cooking fire in Topsia left 160 families homeless once again, when individual medical emergencies arose, when our elderly were hungry and needed medical care, this project was able to provide the funds. Your donations have contributed to the distribution of  emergency food parcels to 35,000 people in central Kolkata and other parts of West Bengal.

And for all this we are deeply grateful.

But we have to ask yet again. COVID 19, as you know, is surging through every part of India and through every section of society.  The hospitals are overwhelmed and people cannot find oxygen or hospital beds for their sick relatives. Once again those who work in the informal economy are unable to earn a daily wage, are afraid to go out and are confused about vaccinations. Many believed that COVID was a disease of the middle - wealthier- classes. They have heard rumours that the vaccines are dangerous.

But Tiljala SHED's staff are trusted and well known in these most marginalised communities. Our job now is to educate, to ensure that everyone comes forward for vaccination, to find out who is hungry and unable to work, to find the right medical aid for those whom are sick. And at the same time our staff need to remain safe, maintain social distance, to get vaccinated and to keep their own families safe.

So we have to ask you again to help us. We needs funds for emergency subsistence rations. We need funds for emergency medical care. We need to pay our staff who so valiantly go out into the frontline to support and educate.  Please consider another donation today - however small- to help those most in need.

Thank you.

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Distributing food parcels
Distributing food parcels

More than ever before, your donations have been essential over the last 9 months of the coronavirus pandemic.  Because of you, we at Tiljala SHED were able to mobilise instantly to bring much needed food parcels to thousands of destitute families who found themselves hungry.  

When India locked down in March 2020, millions of daily labourers found themselves immediately out of work. There was no work for rickshaw drivers, street vendors, domestic servants. Beggars and rag pickers weren't even allowed to go onto the streets to try to make enough money to eat.  So we found crowds of desperate people outside our offices asking for help.

A handful of Tiljala SHED's staff, who lived close by, were able to begin to take names, hand out coupons and arrange for individuals to return, masked and distanced, to collect food rations for their families.  We then purchased sacks of rice, lentils, potatoes, onions, oil and other basics. Our staff packed the goods through the night and then distributed the packages day after day. We took relief to different parts of Kolkata where the need was greatest and even mounted an expedition out to the Sundarbans to distribute food relief to families who had had suffered the double catastrophe of COVID lockdown and Cyclone Amphan which has swept away their homes.

In all you helped us to feed over 35,000 people in 2020.  And just when things seemed to be getting better, another disaster struck. On 10th November, fire swept through the Topsia Canalside Squatter community, leaving nearly 200 families homeless. Many lost all their possessions either through the fire or by throwing their belongings into the canal in the hope of saving them later.  Until today we continue our relief efforts for these families.

Your donations have enabled us to provide the necessary relief quickly and efficiently to many thousands of families. You have certainly saved lives and livelihoods. Please continue to help us as the crisis is by no means over - and even when life returns to normal, there are always families and individuals who need emergency relief.

Thank you

Distribution in the Sundarbans
Distribution in the Sundarbans
The Tiljala SHED Team
The Tiljala SHED Team
Homeless after the Topsia fire
Homeless after the Topsia fire

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Organization Information

Tiljala Society for Human and Educational Development

Location: Kolkata, West Bengal - India
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @TiljalaSHED
Project Leader:
Jane Manson
Kolkata, 700017, India
$60,288 raised of $80,000 goal
 
499 donations
$19,712 to go
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