Our RISE Fellow, Shreya Krishnan and her co-founder Kunal Chugh had to pause the construction on their toilets in Bangalore when the city - and the entire country of India was devastated by COVID in May. Instead of just pausing, they sprung into action to meet the extreme need on the ground, finding ways to support local immunocompromised individuals and families unable to leave their homes. Since the beginning of May, in partnership with RISE, they have supported over 600 individuals with kits consisting of rice, lentils, oil, potatoes, onions, wheat and spices. Read more below about the emergency aid and the impact this has had on local community members.
"Shreya, why did you decide to support people with food aid parcels?"
We have been working with these communities in various capacities since 2017, when we came as Teach-For-India Fellows, so we found that we had established trust and community elders were comfortable sharing and discussing difficulties in their communities with us.
The lockdown in 2020 was abrupt, strict and almost immediately precipitated a food crisis. The hardships faced in the communities that we were working in were communicated to us, so we decided to work on supporting their most pressing needs and supplied food ration kits.
In May of this year when the new lockdown was announced, the communities were better prepared. However, it lasted much longer and most of the incoming aid has been directed to supporting healthcare initiatives. We are among the few organizations that have continued to focus on food security as a COVID-19 response as we know that this is a massive need that will support people who are struggling financially.
"How were communities impacted through the emergency aid?"
The beneficiaries have been extremely thankful and, in some cases, rather emotional. One of the beneficiaries is a retired school teacher in his nineties who said that he was so grateful that there are people who are looking out for him.
Food security plays a large role in people's sense of dignity, and the pandemic has unfortunately increased the number of people who are reliant on begging to survive. We have noticed traders and skilled craftsmen turn up at our distribution centers asking for help for the first time, these are people who usually would not need it.
Plus the impact of food insecurity is felt most acutely by women, due to their perceived gender role as being responsible for the kitchen. This in turn leads to increased domestic stress during periods of food scarcity. Tragically, there has been a massive leap in the amount of domestic abuse and gender-based violence taking place in India as a result of families losing their work and struggling to survive, and women often bear the brunt of this stress.
This shows the extent of how much people are hurting across India right now. With our food rations, we have been able to reach hundreds of individuals who need a bit of help to make ends meet and survive this incredibly difficult time in our country’s history.