Whether it is a pandemic or your normal life, food is an essential component that no one can compromise on. Even today, there still exist a number of people who cannot afford a single meal a day. Nevertheless, hope never dies, as they say. There are a lot of individuals who have shouldered it upon themselves to feed the needy.
Rachel Lydi Levlin from Chennai is a counselling psychologist who does relationship counselling and is a life coach too. In addition to this, she is also a corporate trainer. Eight years ago, Lydi started an initiative to provide meals to the homeless and those who can't afford to buy food.
"Last year, this was all new to us. Although I have been involved in this initiative of providing meals to the homeless for the past 8 years, helping COVID-19 infected patients for sure was something different. I was working in a Medical University in Mahabalipuram and when the lockdown first happened in March, I was extremely concerned about the people on the roads. That's when I started making meals at home. I made food for 300 people and that's how it all began," said Dr Lydi to The Logical Indian.
A different thought
Lydi also asked her boss if she can use the university as a place where they could gather materials and make the packets as they were running out of place. With the help of her husband and a few friends, she started making meals for 300 people two times a day. Lunch and dinner packets were made by them, and 300 ml water bottles were also given to all the people.
"I also started collecting bedspreads and clothes for the people living on roads. We have conducted campaigns on the roads highlighting the importance of wearing a mask and using sanitisers. We did awareness camps on hygiene practices to keep COVID-19 at bay, in both rural and urban areas. We also supplied masks and sanitisers at a few places. In addition to this, we also visited an old age home and provided food there as well," added Lydi.
Lydi has now cut down the number to 200 people. She also doesn't plan on making this a foundation or an NGO. Several people have asked them whether they can donate money or whether it is a trust. Nevertheless, they have decided to do this all by themselves with the sole motive of helping those on the streets.
When asked about her work schedule, a few of her friends stay along with her family at her home. The team has 2 cars, and they pack all the food and start off their day. Double-masks and gloves are worn throughout the day and when they come back home, they have a good wash and they sanitize themselves.
"Several NGOs have gone forward and given their share of help to provide meals and other items of the daily requirement to COVID-19 infected patients. However, my focus is on those people who do not have access to food at all. These people do not have roofs on their head, are devoid of ration cards and lack a personal identity. We do provide food to COVID-19 infected patients as well, however my vision is to improve the lives of people on the roads, who are completely helpless," added Lydi.
When Lydi went to the Periyamet region of Chennai near the Central Railway Station, she witnessed that there was an ever-increasing number of homeless people with their families. These people also shelter dogs and some people also lived near the mosque in the nearby area. "Whenever we passed through that area, the people there always used to await our car. A little girl called Nisha would come next to my car and would wait for me to bring a few toys and clothes for her. Being a mother of two daughters, it sure was painful to see how they lived there. However, Nisha was never unhappy. She was always filled with content and never did she have a tear in her eye. I think the deeper life lessons are the ones that we find on the roads," said Lydi.
When asked about what they provide for lunch and dinner, the team provides a variety of rice to the people. Sometimes, lunch and dinner are given together. Soggy food like Bisi Bele Bath, a spicy rice-based dish that found its origins in the state of Karnataka is made by them along with potato fry or any other vegetable-based side dish. Boiled eggs are also provided sometimes. The rice dish could be either tomato rice, tamarind rice, lemon rice or veg biryani.
When asked about the transportation of food, Lydi also informed that they travel in the nearby areas with the help of an e-pass. Chennai is under lockdown till May 26 and if all the precautions are followed, there is no trouble in travelling. Different areas are handled each day, and they work based on a schedule. Central Railway Station, Periyamet, Mahabalipuram, Alwarpet are some of the areas in which food is delivered. In case food is left, few packets are also delivered to the nearby mosques and temples. Thiruporur is an area that is 30-35 km away from Chennai. The Irula community of this region is also given food along with information on the importance of following safety protocols during the pandemic.
"The little we have, we share. This is the motto I follow in my life. I do not expect anyone to help us with funds. However, I always have a portion of my income that I use to help people from such communities who are in dire circumstances. I have done this previously during floods and during other natural calamities as well. I do not want to register this initiative as a trust. This is what I want to do individually," mentioned Lydi.
In addition to this, Lydi also has a group on Facebook called 'Lean On' of which she is the admin. She has 2,500 members in her group and encourages people in the group to be watchful of their surroundings. "There are a lot of people who need our help, and we must look out for them," she added.
"My whole soul has always been connected to people on the roads. I do not like to fancy things. A lot of people told me to buy my own house, but I am happy with the fact that I have a rented place. When you sit down to ask these people about their stories, it's magical and extravagant! It's important to be watchful of people in your locality. There are a lot of people who aren't in a good condition. Donate how much ever you can. Think small and you will surely end up doing bigger and better," said Lydi.
Also Read: 'Khush Rahiye': Boy Writes Special Message On Meal Boxes For COVID Patients