A Shopping Experience

A Shopping Experience

Thirty-year-old Mahalakshmi lives with her husband Rajesh and her two children—five-year-old Pavarthini, a special child (she has cerebral palsy) and her younger son four-year-old Aaron. Rajesh is a tailor who stitches clothes on a piece rate basis; he is the sole bread winner of the family who works in the city outskirts. Mahalakshmi takes care of the household and for the last two years is busy attending a special school nearby with her daughter, for her therapy.

“Though we live in the fishing community, my husband does not go fishing. He works as a tailor. He went to work even during the first lockdown, but the second lockdown shut down all business, and he was left jobless,” said Mahalakshmi. He tried to find local jobs but it was in vain. They were surviving with the support of neighbours and friends and the ration they got from the PDS (Public Distribution System)  in April.

“It also did not last long. As days became months it was quite an ordeal for me to take care of two kids, especially as my elder one needs nutritious food and is also choosy at times. We have been always on the lookout for some help but could not find any as everyone is in the same situation,” says Mahalakshmi.

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.

She recounts how she was fortunate to meet the volunteers from BLESS and Oxfam India during when a list of beneficiaries for the dry ration kits were being drawn. “I explained to them about my family condition. They were kind enough to add me into the beneficiary list, and informed me about the distribution a day in advance.”

The next day she was on time to receive the ration kit and was surprised to see the items that were provided. “I had to run back home to ask my husband to accompany me as I knew that I would not be able to carry all of it on my own. It felt like I went shopping to a grocery store after a long time,” says a smiling Mahalakshmi.

“The most useful item we got was the 20 kg rice which is sufficient enough for us to manage the family for a month. I sincerely thank the organizations for considering a place like ours to distribute the same, as over the past three months there has not been any kind of support provided to us by anyone and we have been in a very difficult situation that words can’t express,” she signs off.

(The author is from our partner NGO BLESS)

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