-penned by Vandana Shah and Jagriti Shankar
Yes, it is a time of global crisis and all the 1000+ children and their families have been affected by it. Yes, it is not an easy time. Period.
And yet our heart is filled with renewed energies as many friends of Sharana from across the globe have reached out to ask us how the families and communities Sharana supports are doing amid this pandemic, and what is our team able to do to support them during this trying time. Thank you- and keep these coming our way.
As a request from our global friends as well as those across the country- we will put up regular updates from the programs of Sharana on our Website. Here is one of others to follow every few days; a prelude so to say. Feel free to share these widely, as any participation will be appreciated.
The world-wide pandemic has had an unforeseen economic and social effect on each of the 650+ families supported through the programs of Sharana. With reduced to no income, they have continued to take loans from neighbours, pawn shops and even against personal jewellery to manage their daily food and basic expenses. The primary hurdle is the lack of income, considering that most of the parents in the programs of Sharana are daily wage earners.
The adversaries are many and loss of income is just one of them. Most of these families stay in small crowded houses or huts, in slum/unplanned areas with narrow streets. On top of it, many families have to use public taps, and public toilets, which are being shared by most in the community, the fear of catching an infection is always looming over their heads
Following the rules of social distancing itself is a challenge here; however, our awareness efforts are on-going on that front. The social workers are in touch with the families via phone; guiding them on how to follow safe Hygiene Practices and maintaining Social Distancing protocols.
On a very positive note- social distancing has been implemented very strictly in all the common areas like markets and milk booths in and around Puducherry as part of a National level awareness program for Prevention of spreading of the Virus. It’s encouraging to see most people on the roads either wearing a mask or a handkerchief around their nose and mouth and maintaining 2-3 metres from each other. They are also staying home, unless they have to come out to buy essentials, and most often this purchase is done by one member of the household only who practices Good Practices of Hygiene during the same.
One of the moves that the Govt continues to follow since middle/end March is spraying different parts of the city with disinfectant solution every few days. This is probably very effective as a preventive measure and added encouragement for the citizens to stay home during this spraying time. (so that they do not inhale the spray/fumes).
It is very reassuring to see most people follow all lockdown protocol; especially since Positive cases have been found in cities quite close to Puducherry and 6 positive cases are present within the state itself.
Most of the beneficiaries in Sharana come under the jurisdiction of the Puducherry Government. As a first relief measure; the Pondicherry Govt released 2000rs per red Ration card/official Family book(red ration card is for those Below Poverty Line) into the banks of each family.
Tamil Nadu(only a few beneficiaries of Sharana are in Tamil Nadu) has given 1000 rs per person in hand at the Ration Shop. They were also, in some areas, given provisions such as rice, oil, dal/lentils, and sugar for every family.
The social workers say that this relief measure has reassured many people of the Government’s support towards the poor and needy during this time. They were either able to directly receive the material they need most during this time or receive the cash to do the same. But people also feel that this support will be short lived both in Tamil Nadu and Pondy- and material will only last a few days; they worry about what is next.
Most of the families are coping with the reduced income by reducing the food intake. Many beneficiaries told the social workers that instead of cooking twice or thrice like earlier, they are now cooking only once. They manage with the left over for the rest of the day, or manage on tea and biscuits, which is not ideal specially for children as it can very soon make children malnourished, but under the current circumstances they do not seem to have many options..
Most of these children were eating their day meal either at school or Sharana. Now with the schools and Sharana’s programs also closed this has put the family under a lot of financial stress, as mere managing food for the whole family has become a severe challenge.
The social workers suggest that we issue grocery to our beneficiaries – lentils, rice, oil- as this is really the staple at the moment. When money is not there, these are tough to manage. We are working towards taking the support of local authorities to make these distributions possible; we will write more about these on our next updates.