COVID 19 outbreak has caught all of us unawares. In a bid to contain the spread of CORONA VIRUS the government has decided on total lockdowns, self-quarantine and forced isolation. We are witnessing uncertainty at best and insanity at worst. The feelings are mixed. It has changed our lives. Our mental and social wellbeing are affected. Confirmed cases of virus infected are rising rapidly.
The worst affected by the present crisis in India are the poor, informal sector workers (daily wagers), farmers etc as they do not get adequate food for survival. The situation will become worse in the coming days, weeks and months as we do not have adequate health measures to support the infected patients. There is another phenomenon that we witness in India is the reverse migration that takes place where in people (mostly informal sector workers) in large numbers from cities moving back to their own villages for safety and survival in spite of country wide forced lockdown and isolation. This will worsen the crisis as many may be carriers of the virus spreading the infection in their villages too.
At this time of world crisis, we as Divine Word Missionaries need to be proactive in reaching out to the needy in whatever way possible. There are many doctors, nurses and volunteers all over the world who risk their lives to save lives of infected patients. It’s a wake-up call for all of us to do our best.
Emails were sent to all Provincials, JPIC coordinators and VIVAT India executive team and urged them to take proactive measures to stand with the poor and the marginalized who will be the most affected during this time of crisis knowing the fact that anything that we do by exposing ourselves to the public will invite great risk to our own lives.
India witnessed the seriousness of the Covid 19 pandemic crisis much later than many other countries. We in Indore city in the State of Madhya Pradesh through Janvikas Society (NGO run by Divine Word Missionaries) had prepared the people living in the slums with whom we work (waste pickers and domestic workers) through conducting awareness programs. Women belonging to Self Help Groups, Youth from Youth Clubs and Children from Children’s Parliament took initiative to spread the awareness in their own locality.
Women who were trained in tailoring helped us to prepare masks for people.
We have created a city level network of NGOs and through this network we are collecting grocery items and reaching out to the needy by providing food. There are some companies under CSR initiatives (Corporate Social Responsibility) have come forward to supply food materials. We are helping them to reach the materials to the beneficiaries through our volunteers. A letter has been drafted jointly with the members of NGO network and sent to the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh seeking assistance for the unorganized sector workers and the homeless.
Alliance of Indian Waste Pickers (AIW) is a network of 35 NGOs working with waste pickers in different cities in India. Janvikas is one of the founding members of AIW. AIW members have written a joint letter to Mr. Modi, the Prime Minister of India raising the concerns of waste pickers at this time of crisis.
“What would Jesus do if he were here….?” Let’s be proactive and reach out to the poor and the marginalized at this time of crisis.
By: Fr. Roy Thomas SVD
JPIC Coordinator, India Sub Zone.