It was a dramatic announcement, but absolutely necessary. The Prime Minister of India announced a nationwide lockdown, limiting the movement of the entire 1.3 billion population of India, as a preventive measure against the Covid 19 pandemic.
Total lockdown meant a complete stop to the economy and all business activities. It meant a complete stop to people being able to move freely from one place to another and being locked inside the four walls of your own house.
It sounded like a science fiction movie. A virus that affected animals made an evolutionary leap and infected a human, and in a matter of months spread around the globe, infecting hundreds of thousands of humans, and killing thousands not discriminating if the victims were rich or poor. So there we were, afraid of the world around us, wearing masks and self-quarantined at home.
It actually wasn’t so bad for a week or two. Then, we started hearing stories of people struggling and finding it difficult to have even one square meal a day.
Due to the lockdown, all economic activities came to a standstill and there were lots of people who were left without the ability to work.
Daily wage earners, who barely make enough for each day, were left without any money to support their families. Most of the parents of the children at Jeevodaya are daily wage earners and were now struggling to put food on the table even for one meal.
Looking and hearing their sorrowful stories, we at Bloom India could not remain simply as mere spectators to the situation that was unfolding. We had to venture out and we took the risk upon ourselves. We needed to meet these families in their time of need, but how would we do this?
To be able to go to the grocery stores or help others to get groceries, you needed a special permit from the Government. In addition, you needed to obtain a vehicle permit from the Government to be able to travel by any type of vehicle. Only two people were allowed to be in the vehicle and both had to wear masks and take any other necessary safety precautions.
I applied for an online pass, and at first, it was rejected since the government had already issued a large amount of permits. With the help of a friend who had contacts within the government, I was finally able to obtain a permit.
With the permit in hand, we were able to venture out to meet the families within our school community who were in need. It seemed like these families were living in a state of total despair! With no income for a month, these families were actually starving.
The Bloom India team had a meeting with Principal Gerard to see how we could arrange help as quickly as possible. Since I was the only one with the permit, I picked up our other colleagues and drove to Bloom India Primary School.
With the help of our village volunteers, we were able to identify a list of those from the community who were in need of food provisions. We even had to get permission and cooperation from the local police for distributing the food, because of the COVID protocols for health and safety, as well as the fear of us possibly getting looted from restless outsiders. We were able to get the full support from the police and local authorities when they realized our plan and desire to serve the needs of these struggling families.
We planned the distribution of food meticulously, following all the guidelines of the Government in regards to social distancing; ensuring and maintaining distance, face masks and sanitizing protocols for the health and safety of all the volunteers as well as our families.
We ordered all the food provisions and distributed them on the designated dates. We were overwhelmed to see grandmothers, single mothers and others who had traveled by foot from their homes to receive these provisions for their families.
Our hearts were filled with joy to be able to serve those in need but also seeing the resilience and strength of these mothers and fathers who were willing to go the extra mile to ensure their families were well cared for.
These are mothers and fathers who daily sacrifice to put food on their tables. They consider it nothing less to travel by foot 5 or 6 miles each way at 5am to make sure their children do not have to worry about where their next meal comes from.
Each one had a story of the hardships they especially endured in this season of lockdown. I was glad to play a positive and hopeful role in their story.