The campaign addresses different aspects of the situation: prevention of the viral infection to the extent possible; sustenance of the most vulnerable people during lockdowns and loss of livelihoods; and promotion of productivity and livelihood in the changed, emerging scenarios. The essence of the campaign is Solidarity— across the world, societies and classes and the main vehicle of solidarity is viral giving of ourselves and resources. The campaign and its logo have been adopted by the international Salesian family to represent all the COVID-19 relief work across the globe.
Don Bosco Network, through its 11 province networks, began COVID-19 relief activities across India, just before the nation-wide lockdown began on 25 March 2020. The emergency prompted swift action through video conferences coordinated by Bosconet, appropriate responses from its partners on the ground, the Planning and Development offices of the 12 SDB provinces of the South Asian region.
Initial preventive interventions included creating awareness about physical distancing, staying indoors, wearing masks, frequent sanitizing/washing, maintaining cleanliness and healthy diets. Since face masks are generally scarce and out of reach for the vulnerable people, Don Bosco partners began to manufacture masks for free distribution. Volunteering their services, the youth from Young-at-Risk centers in INH prepared 11,000 while the women of self-help groups in INK prepared 61,145 masks. ING produced 10,000 masks and INH also distributed 5,000 bottles of sanitiser. 372 medical kits and 1,100 sanitary kits containing soaps, sanitisers, sanitary pads, masks and pamphlets were also distributed to people in need.
The abrupt announcement of the national lockdown led to large-scale distress among vulnerable groups such as migrants, daily wage workers, the poor on the streets, and senior citizens without support, who were suddenly bereft of their livelihood, faced still with living expenses and amenities. Widespread panic resulted with migrant rural labourers opting to walk home instead of starving in cities, jeopardizing their own health and increasing the risk of COVID-19 contagion in semi-urban and rural India.
The Don Bosco Network swung into action, distributing nutrition kits containing a week’s supply of rice, wheat flour, lentils, oil, biscuits, etc. for a family. Families of 14,036 migrants, 1,100 daily wage earners, 380 elderly people, 16,783 others, 74 transgender persons, and 200 Sri Lankan refugees were supported with nutrition kits. Across places, cooked meals are provided to 2,684 people daily. The Don Bosco Network sourced 50,000 kgs of wheat flour and 20,000 kgs of lentils from Zomato Internet Pvt. Ltd. for distribution to people in need. Don Bosco institution premises were offered as quarantine facilities in Kerala. Despite the challenge of maintaining physical distances in overcrowded places in India, the Don Bosco COVID-19 relief workers are careful about prescribed safety protocols during their work.
In desperate situations, people either rise to the occasion or fall short of it. We are witness to the heroism of countless people globally, led by medical caregivers who despite being infected and exhausted, come back on duty to help their patients. In India and elsewhere, we see ordinary folk simply do their bit to help their neighbours and strangers in need. We see the Don Bosco Network – South Asia respond like it always does in such emergencies, reaching out with effective speed to people most in need. Alert and ready, because we know the global war against COVID-19 is not yet won. In India, it’s just begun.
Cheryl Bartholomeusz - Bosconet