CNEWA Canada

Stories From the Field: ‘Reaching the Unreached’ in India with COVID-19 Relief

We received the following report this week from the Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Sagar in India. It describes some of the urgent help its social service society has been able to provide those in need, thanks to CNEWA’s COVID-19 Emergency Fund.

After India was declared on lockdown, the Catholic Diocese of Sagar in Madhya Pradesh — through its social wing, Manav Vikas Social Service Society (M.V.S.S.) — became a beacon of hope for the homeless and hopeless. M.V.S.S. and its centers, along with affiliated groups, have put people before everything else during this crisis.

The nature and scale of the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic is unparalleled. In such a scenario, we have no past experiences to draw from to try and find solutions. Manav Vikas, Sagar, having deep connection with the rural community, was a natural partner for us in this endeavor. There is nobody better placed than the organization and its director, Rev. Thomas Philip, who understands the concerns of the people and engages closely with suffering communities. Around 12 worldwide organizations were urged to contribute to the response efforts. Communities from all the centers were asked to engage with M.V.S.S. in relief and response efforts and designate state and district officers to coordinate with them. Our mission was to serve some 100,000 homeless and destitute people. The goal was to leverage the strength and reach of M.V.S.S. and its sub centers in identifying areas for action and avoid duplicity of efforts.

Taking this into consideration, Father Thomas Philip has been working daily to reach the unreached by providing cooked food packets through community kitchens, along with ration kits to the migrants and slum dwellers. He is also working to connect rural villages by raising awareness about hygiene and proper living conditions, seeing that masks are distributed and ensuring that all in need receive food — especially the elderly, sick and destitute. 

The response was heart-warming. Communities have been actively setting up kitchens, creating awareness about prevention and physical distancing, and providing shelter to the homeless and the daily wage workers. They are also supporting government efforts in setting up health camps and assigning volunteers to deliver services to the elderly, persons with disabilities, children, and others.  

M.V.S.S., Sagar has served wholeheartedly — reaching out to 197,530 deprived and destitute people directly with the support of staff. Manav Vikas received strong support from its subcenters located in 356 villages of Sagar, Guna, Ashoknagar, Vidhisha and Raisen districts. With the support we received, we could provide them with dry ration kits, cooked food packets, distributed masks and sanitizers etc. These were mainly provided to the migrants, the vulnerable, hospital care takers, health workers, street vendors, street dwellers, sweepers, garbage pickers, auto drivers, abandoned elderly, and others in the rural community. These include 1,500 elderly; 1,400 TB-affected families; 5,300 deprived and destitute women; 8,300 daily wage laborers; 7,500 migrants and 11,000 rural people. The team has distributed sanitizers to 1,560 families and masks to over 10,500 people. M.V.S.S. has also played a crucial role in providing cooked food packets and refreshments to 1,500 migrants and passengers at national highways, junctions and hospitals.

Father Thomas said, “Until three months ago, not a single mask was available in our working area. Today, we have 56 tailoring centers where 1,500 masks are made every day.   Over 160,000 masks have already been distributed.”

The team effort involves support from field coordinators and field workers, along with the office staff and over 350 volunteers who have taken up the work.

We are grateful to CNEWA for the timely support. Manav Vikas is now gathering strength to provide sustainable livelihood options for the migrants, along with educational support to the children and the starving families, as things seem to worsen day by day.

Manav Vikas serves in more than 350 villages of five districts (Sagar, Guna, Ashoknagar, Vidisha and Raisen) of Madhya Pradesh. There are more than 36,000 people who benefit from their programs every year. There are some 10,000 families who are refugees and migrants staying in the outskirts of the district. These families are mainly daily wage workers. M.V.S.S. also work in 15 slums of Sagar and Ashoknagar district, where daily wage laborers dwell. 

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