A Pleasant Surprise

A Pleasant Surprise

Twenty-eight year old Amul lives with her mother and her grandmother (both are widowed), along with her husband Sakthivel, and her two kids Shanmugapriya (who studies in class 4) and Aarish (in class 1). They live in the fishermen colony located in Dumil Kuppam in Chennai. Both her mother and grandmother are fish vendors, while she earns her living by making crafts items for a wholesale dealer; her husband is a painter by profession.

“Our family is a large family and we are into different professions and used to manage the family with the incomes that we collectively earned on a daily basis. I have been taking care of my mom and my grandmother also as we live as a joint family, and life was manageable until the pandemic hit us,” says Amul.

It was a great blow to families like hers, as there were more hungry mouths to feed and none of them were able to find any job — the fish selling stopped as fishermen stopped going to sea, there was no demand for her arts and crafts, and her husband could not find any paint job as he was unable to leave the slums where they lived and there was no job within the slums.

“We all managed with the ration provided by the state during April but that too disappeared quickly. Later it was with the support of friends and neighbours that we managed our food requirements. But it became more difficult after subsequent lockdowns were announced. We could not seek help from our neighbours either since we are all in the same condition,” says Amul.

It was around this time when a group of volunteers visited from Oxfam India and BLESS in these areas to draw up a list of names of the most marginalised and vulnerable families for distribution. “I was a bit skeptical in the beginning as there were many groups which had come in the last three months to make lists but never came back. When they came back and informed us about the distribution, I was sure it would be some small help. But when I went to the distribution site, it was a great surprise for me when I saw what was on display. The volunteer explained to me that we would receive all these items,” says Amul.

As part of the response, Oxfam India has been reaching out to some of the most marginalised communities across 14 states. And with ample support from its donors it has been distributing cooked food, dry ration, hygiene and safety kits, and distributing cash to the poorest households.

Barclays is one of them. With Barclays support, Oxfam India has reached out to 11550 people in five states — Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. They include people with disabilities, women-led households, waste pickers, domestic workers, transgenders, tea garden workers, migrant and informal sector workers, riot-affected families, daily wagers, and street vendors.

In Chennai alone, we  have reached out to 1550 households with food and hygiene kit which included 20 kgs of Rice, 3 kgs of pulses, 10 kgs of flour, a packet of haldi and chili powder each, a litre of refined oil, a kg of salt, sugar and soy bean. The kit also includes five units of masks, and six units of bathing soap, washing soap and sanitary napkins each.

“Every thing that we got was from a reputed brand and was of top quality. I did not expect this at all. I am so thankful to all the three organizations who have been generous with their support at this juncture. We can sustain this ration for a month. This means a lot to us,” Amul signed off.

(The author is from our partner NGO BLESS in Chennai)

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