Reethu, a story teller, a person often found between the pages of a book or contemplating the nuances of life.
In the wake of the coronavirus lockdown, the poor and marginalised communities are the worst-hit. With many losing their jobs, they are struggling to make ends meet. Their only source of respite even for a daily meal are the government and the NGOs.
In these trying times, Pune-based NGO Centre For Youth Development And Activities(CYDA) has been relentlessly reaching out to the needy and helping them with ration and hygiene kits through their 'No One Shall Go Hungry Campaign.'
Founded in 1999, CYDA is a youth development organisation working toward the holistic development of youth by addressing the issues of livelihood, education and health for the past two decades. Led by youth from across India, it focuses on core principles of gender equity, human rights, plurality, participation, accountability and transparency.
"During the lockdown, we got a lot of requests to reach out to the underprivileged community and the vulnerable categories like the transgenders, sex workers, migrants, etc. Thus, we got together an initiative under which some civil society organisations, corporates, individuals came together and we started the 'No One Shall Go Hungry' campaign. Our focus was the most vulnerable sections - those people who do not have ration cards and any kind of support system," Sinjini Mookherjee, Director, CYDA tells The Logical Indian.
"While everyone is facing issues, in the urban areas there are certain communities which are specially in need. For example the migrants. And Maharashtra is a place where a lot of people come to work from the other states. So, migrants were our focus. Then, we were also getting requests to support the Kinnar community, sex workers, orphans, and the homeless," she adds.
CYDA spearheads the Pune Citizens Initiative, a group of volunteers, organisations, and corporates that help to ensure the basic needs of the underprivileged families.
"In a pandemic situation like this, it is not possible for only one organisation to work. So, a collaborative effort is extremely essential. So, we all came together and decided to work on this," says Mookherjee.
CYDA is supported Pune City Police, Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation(PCMC) Administration, NGOs, CSRs, citizens, staff, and volunteers.
Till date, CYDA has distributed 8,294 ration kits to support 33,000 people in the last 42 days of lockdown among migrants and vulnerable communities in various parts of Maharashtra including Pune, Nandurbar, Nashik, Indapur, and Jamkhed.
These kits contain rice, atta, cooking oil, spices, tea powder, dal, sugar/jaggery and basic hygiene products like soap and toothpaste.
The NGO is also supporting the frontline workers by providing them with sanitisers and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
"We are also trying to support the police by giving them sanitisers. We have given sanitisers to Indapur police and Pune police. We have also given PPE kits to the PCMC Hospital," says Mookherjee.
Till date, they have distributed 1,225 sanitizer bottles to Pune City Police and Indapur Rural Police. The team works closely with the police to reach out to the communities. Most requests for essentials also come from the police.
With Pune being a hotspot for COVID-19, CYDA recognised the immense pressure on the government healthcare system, as it needs more than 300 PPEs per day to protect the health workers. They handed over 3,025 PPE kits to Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) for the doctors and health workers of hospitals where COVID-19 patients are under treatment.
They also conduct awareness drives on COVID-19, educating 55,000 people in rural areas of Nandurbar.
"We are trying to give them awareness about handwashing and about how to maintain sanitation and hygiene during this period. While we have access to information, those in the vulnerable sections do not have access to proper information and knowledge as to how to keep themselves safe during this period," explains Mookherjee.
Talking about the next phase of their work, Mookherjee says, "In the next phase, one of the things we feel important is to work on the livelihood aspect. We are also trying to facilitate transport for the migrants who are trying to go back to their hometowns."
"Once the lockdown gets over, I think the areas we need to work on our livelihood and awareness about coronavirus. Because, COVID-19 is going to remain with us for some months. So, in the communities, especially in urban slums where people live in close proximities, it is so important to get the correct information to them about what are the preventive measures that they can take," she adds.
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