Making room for vulnerable migrant families at Christmas
For migrant families, being constantly uprooted is a sad fact of life. And so it is for the families of around 49 children from various villages and small towns of Uttar Pradesh, who had migrated to the metropolis- Delhi, to eke out a living. They lived in makeshift homes in a settlement in the Palam area. They were evicted from there a couple of years ago and their homes were razed to the ground by the Corporation authorities. Most families left the city to go elsewhere but the families of these 49 children stayed back, living under the Palam flyover in Delhi, continuing to eke out a living from their petty jobs.
Don Bosco Network has been actively involved with the children of these families as they had no access to education, proper nutrition, and sanitation. It supported the families in legally contesting the way they were evicted, and their homes destroyed. It continued to conduct supplementary education and recreational activities for the children, getting them into local government schools and trying to keep them there. The COVID 19 pandemic was a huge challenge as the migrants’ living conditions were incompatible with the requirements of physical distancing and frequent sanitisation. With the lockdowns, they lost all means of earning their already-scanty incomes. Don Bosco Network provided ration kits, awareness sessions on COVID 19 precautions, and resumed educational activities for the children as the situation permitted, with as much precaution as possible.
In cold, foggy December 2020, the Corporation authorities and Police again ordered the families to move as precaution against the spread of the Corona virus among the Delhi citizens. The adults decided to go back to their native places in Uttar Pradesh this time, where they have no resources either. The children lose whatever education they were getting and are at risk of dropping out of school permanently as their parents are more preoccupied with their survival than anything else. The stark reality is that such vulnerable migrant families have very little choice. Their children have none.
And so, in response to this sad situation, Don Bosco Network anticipated its usual Christmas celebration with these children and their families to 11 December to cheer them up before they left. In keeping with COVID protocols, unfortunately, they could not have games and other events. Children and their families in batches of ten, were offered refreshments and given gift hampers: sweets and balloons, packed lunches, ration kits, blankets, mufflers, and scarves; to help them tide over this period of crisis in their lives.
At Christmas time, the story of these families being forced by the State to move during winter without backup resources, is a poignant reminder of how Joseph and a pregnant Mary were forced to travel to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born in a stable because there was no room in the inn. Again, the question is asked, “Is there room in the inn for us?” The State and we, as a responsive society, need to answer.
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.