Sumanti Sen is an English Literature graduate who believes "there's just one kind of folks. Folks.".
The coronavirus pandemic has left the deprived communities in acute distress. As soon as the lockdown was announced, lakhs of daily wagers, cab drivers, construction workers, waiters and others who work in small businesses wished to return to their homes in rural India.
Factories and establishments were shut and construction activities came to a halt. Many of the workers who wished to return to their homes, began their long journeys home on foot after the sudden shutdown brought the nation to a standstill.
Several people were seen walking along the edges of national highways of several states carrying their luggage on their back. Several migrants even died on their way back home.
Due to the lockdown, migrant labourers, daily wage earners, transgenders, the differently-abled, agricultural labourers, sex workers and orphans among others, have been disproportionately affected. With over 40 crore people estimated to be pushed deeper into poverty in hard-hit India, even one square meal is a struggle for most.
To tackle this challenge, an organization 'Goonj' has lent a helping hand to the needy.
"Under Goonj's 'Rahat COVID' initiative, they are running and supporting Community Kitchens, providing food and Ration Kits to migrant workers on the roads, producing masks and cloth sanitary napkins, and supporting the efforts of many other agencies working on the ground," Meenakshi Gupta, co-founder of Goonj, tells The Logical Indian.
"Goonj's vast network of partner organizations, volunteers, stakeholders and contributors in urban and rural India, built over the last two decades of work, has been activated and intensified," she adds.
Goonj envisions to grow as an idea across regions, economies and countries using urban discard as a tool to alleviate poverty and enhance the dignity of the poor in the world. Address basic but neglected issues of the poor by involving them in evolving their own solutions with dignity and urban material as reward.
Founded by Anshu Gupta, an Indian Social Entrepreneur awarded Magsaysay Award for his work on transforming the culture of giving in India and for highlighting material as a sustainable development resource for the poor, Goonj aims to recognize and value the potential of local resources and traditional wisdom of people. Its focus is concentrated on the receiver's dignity instead of the donor's pride.
Goonj promotes circular economy by ensuring maximum use of each material, and collaborates with partner organizations to increase effectiveness and scale.
Since 1999, Goonj has built a network of communities from urban to village India, channelizing material as a tool to address crucial gaps in rural infrastructure, water, environment, livelihood, education, health, disaster relief and rehabilitation.
Its engagement with both the urban and rural population has galvanized a mass civic participation in addressing basic but neglected issues. Goonj's model of development implemented through its various Initiatives proposes a more inclusive alternative economy where everyone is an equal stakeholder in the process.
In view of the COVID-19 crisis, Goonj shared with The Logical Indian some of the on-ground approaches they took up to escalate their relief work on a pan India level.
Goonj has activated their pan India network and already initiated work in parts of 23 states/UTs, from Delhi to Bihar, Maharashtra to Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, with 250+ partner organizations, besides their own field teams.
"Goonj has reached out to 83,000+ families with over 1.2 million kg of ration through ration kits and community kitchens. They have also channelized 1,26,000+ ready-to-eat meals," Gupta says.
Goonj focuses to help the neglected tribals, people with disabilities, sex workers, transgenders, devadasis etc. struggling for survival amid the coronavirus crisis.
The kits also contain items like soaps and hygiene products, cloth bags, books and toys, among others.
Goonj has produced 2,35,000+ face masks and 83,000+ My Pads (cloth sanitary pads). It has channelized 72,000+ kg of fresh fruits and vegetables directly from farmers. Goonj has been working with local vendors, individuals and organizations to build capacities; on procurement, disbursal and reporting systems, on matching material to local needs and priorities.
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