Overcoming the odds in India

Despite the challenges thrown up by the global pandemic, our team in India is working around the clock to make sure children can still enjoy Mary’s Meals.

Back to all stories | Posted on 04/16/21 in NewsBlog

In India, we’ve been focused on distributing food to communities in Jharkhand while schools remain closed. We spoke to Father Joshy and Father Siby, from our partner BREAD, to learn more about the impact of Mary’s Meals. 

What challenges have the communities faced during Covid-19 and since the schools closed?

The communities never expected a complete lockdown giving no one any time to plan. Many lost their source of income overnight and were stranded. Fear and anxiety affected many of the villagers. Many men are migrant workers and travel for work across different regions. When travel restrictions were implemented many were held up away from home for weeks without work and even food. Those who tried to get back to their villages had to pay a big amount for the travel. There were stories of people walking for days to reach home or cycling more than 1200 kms.  

Hunger, poverty and unemployment were other major issues. Coupled with these, the closure of schools aggravated the situation by barring children from regular school and depriving them of both education and meals. Perhaps the greatest challenge was to keep hope alive for all in the communities and to address the hunger situation. 

What obstacles have your team overcome to set up community distributions? 

It was pleasing to overcome the difficulties of planning and addressing the situation, especially providing dry rations to many locations in Jharkhand. Permission from the civil authorities in the first distribution time (April – June 2020) was another challenge. Reaching remote areas with food, distributing to the children while following the Covid-19 protocols, and monitoring the distribution were all happily surmounted.

What has the reaction from the community been to the distributions? 

Food distribution to entire families in the communities was unexpected, a big blessing, and brought smiles to their faces. To ensure social distancing, parents and children arrived at their time schedule and received their rations with lots of joy. They washed their hands, moved in line, collected their provisions and then walked away ... the joy on their faces was a beauty to see. Everyone was happy with the rice and lentils and the soap meant a lot to them. 

What difference did community distributions make to these communities during such a difficult time?  

The greatest challenge and fear of the pandemic is hunger. So the community distribution played a vital role in keeping students and their families healthy and hunger free. People without work were able to manage food for their families by providing their children lunch at home.  

What are your hopes for 2021 and the future?   

We hope that normalcy may come back gradually. Schools may open in the second half of the year allowing a return to the Mary's Meals feeding programs. But the impact of this pandemic is going to linger on in the minds of people, especially in the children, for a long time. They have been out of school and study for almost one academic year. In case of continued lockdown, community food distributions will continue.