We have now lived through six months of this COVID 19 pandemic. And how our lives have changed! According to government data, there are 1,003,299 active cases of infection and 87,882 deaths to date (MOHFW 21.9.2020), making India the second most-infected country in the world. Looking back to the panic triggered by the virus and the abrupt lockdown in March 2020, we immediately recall the disturbing images of desperate migrant and daily wage labourerstrying to get home from cities because they had no income, jobs, or social safety net for protection. The ‘invisibility’ of these people in government records meant they could not access free ration offered by the State then and that they receive no compensation for their losses/deaths now.
Don Bosco Network integrated the individual efforts of the Don Bosco family across India into the Don Bosco Solidarity COVID 19 Relief campaign which helped partners access and distribute resources to the most vulnerable everywhere, touching 2.9 million lives to date.
With the objective to Save and Sustain, the solidarity efforts focused initially on providing immediate relief in terms of food and preventing the spread of the infection. The network distributed 211,835ration kits across the country to ensure food security to 1,066,927 people. 303,017 migrantswere provided with packaged food on their way home. Besides educating vulnerable people about the infection and its prevention, 521,207 face masks and 104,596 hygiene kits were distributed across India, while 1,550 PPE kits were provided to frontline healthcare workers.
Looking beyond the emergency relief especially after the lockdowns were lifted, Don Bosco Network looked for ways to support migrant and daily wage workers to get back on their feet. Cash for work programmes and skills training equip them to find different ways to earn a living. SMiLE was launched to empower migrants through education about their rights and skills training. Disaster management trainings for women in disaster-prone areas help promote resilience and mitigate damage.
The plight of the children of the migrants and daily wagers has become a focal point. The Don Bosco Network partners are rallying around to support them while their parents find their feet in a terribly difficult economic situation. Don Bosco Network through its partners supported 759 students in Don Bosco schools, who were unable to pay fees due to loss of income/unemployment. In bridging the urban-rural digital divide, its Smart Classroomsproject upgraded 17 rural schools with technology and teacher training, to organise online classes benefitting 13930 rural students. Smart devices were provided for 163 deserving students to access online classes. Covid-19 Safe Schools project aims to prepare Don Bosco schools with everything needed to reopen with a safe environment.
As we complete six months of solidarity efforts amid ever-rising cases of COVID 19, we hope to continue to bring solace and smiles especially to the children of the vulnerable communities we serve.
The Don Bosco Network in India comprises of 11 Planning and Development Organisations (PDOs), each dedicated to the development of the Salesian provinces they serve. The Don Bosco network is spread across 29 states and 354 NGOs, reaching more than 10 lakh people.
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