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Social Empowerment for Excluded Castes (India)

Update on the COVID-19 outreach activities of the Diocese of Amritsar

Last week we received some encouraging news from our partners in the Diocese of Amritsar, Church of North India, who’ve been at the forefront of community outreach and support during the COVID-19 outbreaks. The second wave has been particularly devastating, pushing the number of deaths over 400,000 in July this year.

Thankfully, our partners report that the situation is improving, but have stressed the need to address the long-term impacts:

“India has seen an improvement in the COVID-19 situation in recent months after going through a crippling second wave. The number of daily new COVID-19 cases has gone down from 400,000 in May 2021 to less than 40,000 in September. However, this pandemic made a crushing impact on the socio cultural and economic fabric of the country. It has highlighted how the absence of physical expression of love and solidarity can be even more devastating than the Coronavirus.”

In a letter to partners, the Diocese of Amritsar sent the below information on the many ways they are addressing the ongoing challenges of COVID-19.

As a UnitingWorld supporter, you’re a partner in this work and we can’t thank you enough for helping make it happen. Please continue to pray for India and the work of our partners there.

 

Caring for COVID-19 patients

At the beginning of this year, all of the Diocesan hospitals were opened to care for COVID-19 patients. Lady Willingdon Hospital in Manali continues to treat COVID patients on a regular basis. The Oxygen generators provided to the hospitals have been helpful in treating non-COVID patients too. This has significantly reduced the burden on hospital staff during the present challenges posed by the pandemic.

 

Vaccination drive

The Diocesan workers and clergy have been encouraging people to get vaccinated. Since there is a general shortage of vaccines in the public health centres, the Socio-Economic Development Programme of the Diocese is teaming up with like-minded organisations and organising vaccination drives in the villages.

 

Microcredit activities

The Dalit communities in Punjab have suffered great economic setbacks during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Diocese is empowering rural women to strengthen their livelihood by encouraging women’s Self-Help Group members to produce saleable items such as face masks, cloth bags, woollens, and pickles.

 

Love in Action” Helpline:

The Diocese of Amritsar has been able to help numerous individuals and families in this time of crisis through the “Love in Action” Helpline. Grocery kits are also being distributed locally to persons in need. The diocesan workers continue to monitor the health of those who had suffered from the Coronavirus infection previously.

Restrictions on mobility and scarcity of resources has pushed many families to the brink of starvation and death. Among them is Meena*, a young mother from Bangalore. One of her two children suffers from multiple disabilities. Meena lives with her parents who are also dependent on her for their daily needs. When she called on the helpline number, she shared about her difficulty in procuring food for the family, in addition to paying for her son’s medical needs. The financial support provided to Meena from the Diocesan COVID-19 Outreach Programme has helped in ensuring her family’s wellbeing and also contributed towards her son’s ongoing treatment.

 

Awareness building on health, hygiene and nutrition

As the country is now gearing up for a possible third wave, there is a renewed emphasis on building awareness among the people regarding health, hygiene and proper nutrition. In Anantnag (Jammu and Kashmir), hospitals visitors are made aware of COVID-19 preventive practices through demonstrations by hospital staff. The Socio-Economic Development Project of the Diocese has been giving trainings on health and nutrition to pregnant and lactating women in rural Punjab. Rural households are also being encouraged to start “kitchen gardens” and grow vegetables and herbs for consumption and increase the overall health of family members. Children studying in the Diocesan Education Project enjoy brushing their teeth and washing their hands during their weekly lessons on oral and hand hygiene.

 

Protection of women and vulnerable groups

Women in disadvantaged positions have been made more vulnerable in the COVID-19 pandemic. The staff of the Jagriti Bhalai Kendra, the Diocesan Community Health Project, have been in regular contact with women who are facing harassment or abuse in the community. They are addressing issues of government pension schemes, domestic abuse, and violence, and are provided with trainings and legal counsel as required. The Diocese of Amritsar has also initiated a series of trainings for all the clergy and Diocesan workers on “Safeguarding”. The trainings focus on protection of women, children and persons with disabilities from abuse and sexual exploitation.

 

Peace-building and leadership programmes

Churches have now opened for physical worship services though various online programmes are also being organised to strengthen the bonds of community. A Harvest Festival was held in Kotgarh, Himachal Pradesh to celebrate the start of the apple harvest season. A youth leadership camp with 19 Diocesan youth was organised in Dalhousie, Himachal Pradesh. The Diocese of Amritsar in partnership with the Sadhu Sundar Singh Global Forum organised an online celebration of the 132nd birth anniversary of the great Indian missionary, Sadhu Sundar Singh. These programmes have boosted the morale of the people during this challenging period and strengthened the sense of unity and fellowship.

 

Challenges:

The major challenge faced by the people at this time is the loss of livelihood and employment opportunities. This has been further impacted by the continued farmers’ agitation. The future of the farming community is uncertain. The whole labour force is anxious as the harvest season begins at the end of this month. The Church expresses solidarity with the farming community for their demand for just wages so that they can support their families for the next few months.

 

The Diocese of Amritsar is grateful for your continued prayers and support. May God bless you and keep you safe.

With prayerful wishes,

The Most Rev. P. K. Samantaroy,
Bishop, Diocese of Amritsar, CNI

 

(Download original letter as a PDF)

 

UnitingWorld is the international aid and partnerships agency of the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA). The Diocese of Amritsar, Church of North India is a UCA partner. Click here to support our work in partnership with the global church.

The Church of North India Diocese of Durgapur have pivoted their ongoing community development work to supporting vulnerable households identified through the project.

Throughout May, 2,000 households in urban slums and rural communities were provided with food packs containing rice, pulses, potato, salt and oil, as well as hygiene supplies that included masks and soap. Our partners are also working on printing materials that promote government-authorised messages on COVID-19. In Amritsar, 4,000 masks have been made and provided to the community and service sectors (many people are working in very populated markets). 562 vulnerable families in have also been provided with emergency food packs that include soap for regular handwashing.

Summary:

  • 2,000 households provided with food and hygiene packs including masks and soap
  • 4,000 masks made and provided to the community and service sectors in Amritsar
  • 562 vulnerable families provided with emergency food and hygiene packs.

Thank you for your support!

Our partners will continue to serve their communities throughout this crisis and beyond.
Donate now to support their work: www.unitingworld.org.au/actnow

In a letter to national and international partners, the Bishop of the Diocese of Amritsar, The Most Rev. P. K. Samantaroy has outlined the impacts of the national 21-day lockdown in India and how the Church of North India (CNI) is responding to the COVID-19 crisis.

 

Dear Friends,

As of the morning of 30 March 2020, over 700,000 people worldwide have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak and 34,000 people have died due to the virus. The staggering numbers are rising every minute.

Not only has the pandemic brought illness and death for many, but preventive measures like curfews and lockdowns are posing other humanitarian concerns such as loss of livelihood, hunger and starvation.

“I fear that hunger may kill many like us before Coronavirus,” said a street vendor in Delhi. His fear and desperation are shared by the majority of the country’s poor who have been the most hit due to the current 21-day nationwide lockdown in India. Most people who work as daily wage labourers live hand-to-mouth and are therefore unable to afford buying food and medical supplies in advance. In Punjab, we are already receiving reports of riot-like situations in the villages.

Realising the urgency of the situation, the Diocese of Amritsar has already constituted a COVID-19 Relief Operation to reach out to the poor and needy. We are working closely with the local congregations and our project workers, as well as the district administration, to identify those in dire need. Food material is being mobilised through local grocery stores and distributed at key centres in Amritsar and the surrounding border villages.

The Church cannot see its people die either of Coronavirus or hunger. I urge you to support this relief effort generously through whatever means is available to you.”

Unless we act urgently and support the weaker sections of society, our world will collapse under the siege of this pandemic. Your help in this hour of need can save a family from hunger, starvation and illness.

May God bless you and keep you safe!

The Most Rev. P. K. Samantaroy
Bishop, Diocese of Amritsar, CNI

 

The Church of North India is running a domestic appeal for funds and in-kind donations of food supplies, and has also asked for international assistance. UnitingWorld has diverted India project funds for this quarter to support their emergency response and will continue to do this into the new financial year on an ongoing basis until the crisis is over.

Key activities for the COVID-19 relief effort:

  • Providing food packages to families connected to CNI’s community development projects, especially for daily wage laborers who are now unable to work.
  • Helping to amplify government messaging on COVID-19, including health and handwashing awareness, prevention measures and information on how and when to get tested.
  • Conducting door-to-door visits (while practicing spatial distancing) to families connected to the project, to ensure they have what they need during lock down.

Please pray for our church partners and support the relief effort as you are able.

Click here to donate.

UnitingWorld partners in India are cooking for vulnerable people during the COVID-19 lockdown

 

UnitingWorld is the international aid and partnerships agency of the Uniting Church in Australia, collaborating for a world free from poverty and injustice. Click here to support our work.

In 2015, the Community Development Programme (CDP) in Sarenga had organised a skills training seminar to train the local youth in repairing drinking water pumps. After receiving this training Marshall Tudu repaired the pumps in his village, thus, solving the drinking water crisis that the village had been facing for a long time. The happy villagers collected Rs. 300INR to pay Tudu for his services. This was the beginning of a new opportunity for Marshal, who so far had been limited to only seasonal farming. He decided to further hone his skills and become a professional water pump repairman. He soon started receiving work from neighbouring villages too after they heard of his skills; in this way he earned Rs. 2500INR at the end of 2015 by repairing eight water pumps in five neighbouring villages. With the extra income, he could support his family better and invest in a toolkit. In the span of a year, from 2016 to June 2017, Marshall has repaired over 14 pumps in 7 villages and earned around Rs. 4200 INR and used this extra income to invest in his farm. “I believe it would have been impossible for me to take care of my family if CDP hadn’t provided me with this training. People now call me “mistri” (repairman) and it makes me feel so proud, when I hear it because it just tells me how valued I am in my community”.