India – Unaccompanied minors, migrants, the elderly and homeless: Salesian support during pandemic forgets nobody

07 April 2020

(ANS – Hyderabad) – The whole country is in lockdown; numerous daily migrant labourers are stuck in the city with no work; the homeless face problems to survive and run pillar to post to have at least a single meal a day. They eagerly wait for someone to help them to earn their bread, trying hard to cope with life itself and fill their bellies. In such a situation, in the Hyderabad Province, Salesian institutions and young people who grew up in the Salesian spirit have set out to work as Samaritans for the many in need. Starting with their “own”, the many children staying at the Don Bosco Nava Jeevan facilities.

In a context of a generalized emergency such as the present one, the Salesians, as per their charism, are first of all concerned about young people, especially the poorest, most alone and disadvantaged. Their care is the first initiative that is being carried out.

The Don Bosco Navajeevan (New Life) homes are the abodes providing shelter and rehabilitation for street children and the Young at Risk. There are 7 homes/Child Care Institutions (CCI) with 18 sub-centres of which 3 are exclusively for girls in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh viz., Don Bosco Navajeevan-Warangal, Ekalavya Centre-PARA (Rajahmundry), Surakshitha Home for girls-Ravulapalem, Navajeevan Bala Bhavan-Vijayawada, Don Bosco Navajeevan-Hyderabad, Don Bosco Navajeevan-Vizag and Don Bosco Navajeevan-Kurnool. Although there are about 1050 children in 7 of the above CCIs, most of them have been sent to their parents/guardians/close relatives due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. However, there are about 200 of them in the CCIs. Therefore, during the lockdown period, the children are kept occupied with the instructions of Dos and Don’ts to prevent Corona Virus and the sessions on health and hygiene.

1.  Social Distancing: The Children are taught to maintain enough social distance in all the common areas, such as the Dining Room, Dormitory, Study Room, Gardening, and while performing curricular and extracurricular activities. All the staff members are actively involved in shifts to maintain social distance to avoid close contact (1meter or 3 feet) and discipline among the children.  

2.  Health & Hygiene: Hand Washing, Wearing Masks. The reality of Covid-19 has taught us to wash our hands at regular intervals for 20 seconds with soap/sanitizers and water and to wear masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. To facilitate these health tips, the CCIs/homes have in-house nurses to follow the children in medical emergencies.

3.  Stay at Home: Staying at home can save lives to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. Hence, the children are kept occupied through the following curricular and extracurricular activities.

4.  Curricular Activities:  Basic education, Orientation on life-coping skills, Study Hours, Grammar & Spoken English.

5.  Extracurricular Activities: Yoga & Meditation, Drawing & Painting, Creative Sessions, Dance & Singing, Computer Classes, Tailoring, Making Handicrafts, Gardening and the sessions team building.

6.  Directives from Women and Child Department: The staff and children are updated with the directives of the Guidelines of Women and Child Department and the program coordinators keenly follow them up.

7.  Ecological Awareness: Sessions are given on Environmental awareness to understand the fragility of our environment and the importance of its protection in keeping the places and the campus clean, time spent in gardening.

The Salesian personal accompaniment is appreciated for the utmost service they render to the Young at Risk. This consistent follow up bears fruits in fighting against Covid-19.

But the global battle against the advance of COVID-19 has motivated the Salesians to take one step further, aware that, as Jesus said "every time you have done these things to one of these younger brothers of mine, you have done so to me. "

This is why the "Bosco Seva Kendra" (BSK), the Planning and Development Office of the Salesian Province of Hyderabad (INH), in collaboration with several centers of the DBNJ, has launched specific support initiatives for the marginalized population.

On the day of Canonization of Don Bosco on 1 April, DBNJ Bala Bhavan, which works with street children and rag-pickers, provided aid consisting of provisions, including rice - 5kg,  dal - 1kg,  and oil – 1kg, to 110 poor people of Yanadhi community and have proved that they can be with them in this time of crisis at Beemanavaripalem in Chittinagar of Vijayawada and migrant families  at AIIMs, Mangalagiri. Besides, they have planned to give 100 daily meals to beggars, stranded truck drivers.

And on the same day DBNJ, Vishakhapatnam (Vizag) reached Lorrypeta where the migrants and slum dwellers stay to share the joy with the Provisions Kit, Fruits and Masks stitched by the staff of Navajeevan. The Salesians and the Staff went house to house to speak and bring awareness about the deadly Coronavirus and measures to be taken by all. Together with DBNJ, students of Surkasha Bridge School have visited the houses at Lorrypeta. It was easy to speak to all of them about Covid-19 as the children of the locality guided the staff. There was a good collaboration of the young people and elders too in the distribution of Masks, Fruit and, later, Provisions Kits to each household. People expressed their gratitude for the constant support and care extended to them and the children. It was a boundless joy of sharing in the struggles of the poor and needy migrants and slum dwellers. It was felt that Don Bosco was present with the Poorest of the Poor. Special thanks to the staff of DBNJ, Vizag for the initiative and dedication in spending time and serving the needy amidst lockdown period.

Moreover, the youth vowed ‘We pledge Fight Corona’ campaign to help thwart and manage the spread of Covid-19. The Don Bosco Youth, under the guidance of Fr B Rayappa, the Parish Priest stood with Fr Bellamkonda Sudhakar, the Executive Director in BSK, to pack in distributing Food and Health Safety Kits to Migrant Labourers, Orphan Children to communities with the greatest need. The entire day, April 3, the youth packed about 350 kits for the distribution for the next day in specified areas. Mr Anthic Joseph, a youth coordinator from the Parish, along with youth Salesians, have accompanied them to voluntarily help in this process. The Food and Health Safety Kits will be shared to people who need it the most - including people who are part of our everyday life, such as our house helps, security guards, drivers and vegetable vendors, among others.

“In the fight against Coronavirus spread in India, we are appealing to fellow CSOs and CSRs in the city to take sufficient precautions to fight this disastrous disease,” stated Fr Sudhakar. As the number of confirmed coronavirus Covid-19 cases in India continues to rise, particularly in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, it is advised that people should frequently and thoroughly wash their hands with soap and water. Consequently, the youth promised that they would join in partnership in educating everyone on the importance of developing a habit of personal hygiene while avoiding transmission of the virus from one to another.


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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