Geeta Venkadakrishnan, Director of HOPE Kolkata Foundation, our implementing partner in Kolkata, has sent us this heartbreaking and heartfelt observation from the frontline in Kolkata.
The COVID-19 pandemic has left none in peace and the world around us seems to have come to a standstill.
I just wish that one fine morning I wake up and hear the virus is gone out of the world, especially when I think of the people living on the street and slum, are the worst sufferers. I am continuously receiving phone calls from the areas we work in and the people living on the streets and slums are earnestly requesting us to help them with food rations. They require the food urgently, as most of them are daily wage earners and some of them beg on the streets.
Till now we have distributed food packages to more than 1000 families from 29th March 2020 till 11th April 2020. Families thanked us, expressing, they can at least use this for a week or two and asked if I would come again. I could see the worry in their eyes as they pleaded with us to promise we would return, to hold their hands in such times of distress and help them by distributing more food packs.
On one such day, after the distribution of groceries, while coming back home I met a few people living on the street who are daily labourers, maidservant, ragpicker, scrap seller, and construction labourers. Some of them usually go to their village during the weekend. But could not go home as there are no train services and so they are staying in the street connected slums. I had tears in my eyes as they said: “Some of us will die due to hunger, some of us will live to suffer as we are poor”. One of them said they have a small thatched house where 8 of them live in, some stay in the plastic sheets. Girls expressed that they do not have sanitary napkins and have no money to buy them. One five-month pregnant mother had not eaten for two days as there was no food. Few elderly people had no access to treatment and are suffering from hazards such as skin disease, fractures and have no access to general medical treatment. They were waiting for medical teams to set up a clinic in their areas. The miserable plight of these people made me feel a lump in my throat and I had just one prayer in my mind, may their misery come to an end soon.
Most of the slums in Kolkata and urban areas have one room with 5 to 6 members. how will they do social distancing? Most of them used to beg near temples, gurudwara, churches, and mosques and some sell incense sticks and flowers to earn their living. Now they have no one to sell their items to. On few days they receive food from gurudwara volunteers, other kind souls and on the other days they don’t, which leaves them with no other option but to sleep with an empty stomach.
It is really painful to hear all this when some of us are privileged enough and are isolated in our houses with our families, having access to all basic amenities and have access to three to four square meals a day.
Yes, it is a question of saving lives and preventing starvation. Let us come forward and stand for those who do not have even one square meal a day. Let us make a difference in the lives of these under-served people. We must always remember that by living only for ourselves, we are merely existing. Our life gets a meaning when we start to lead a part of it for others, by helping those who are not as fortunate as we are. Their good wishes and prayers definitely make our lives much happier and brighter. Please come forward to contribute buy helping us to provide food packs. HOPE is working at the ground level to ensure people do not suffer.