Not all heroes wear capes…

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CHRISTINE MACHADO | NT BUZZ

In a bid to keep the coronavirus at bay, a nation-wide Janata curfew was imposed on March 22. Since then, and in many cases before that, schools have closed, offices have shut down, restaurants pulled down their shutters, grocery stores and other essentials also closed as everybody has been confined to the indoors. And while a list of essential services has since been allowed to operate for a designated time limit, the limited availability of food and restricted movement of food has particularly hit certain sections of society like the elderly ( the high-risk section of society in terms of coronavirus), the poor and homeless, and also those who are from other states and usually have their meals at restaurants. Those who did not stock up on food have also been hit to some extent.

But help is at hand as a few groups and individuals have taken it upon themselves to reach out and deliver groceries, cooked food, medicines, etc.

Among these is Gabrielle Pereira from Salvador do Mundo who is collating a list of names of people who live alone, especially the elderly, who need assistance in North Goa, and is helping them out in getting requested supplies delivered to them. The delivery of the services is free, but people have to pay for the groceries and supplies.

“The idea is for one vulnerable person be out in public rather than more vulnerable people. I am wearing a mask and using sanitisers when delivering these supplies,” says Pereira while reiterating that this is just a small community project on her part. As of now, she has a list of around 15 people. Most of these are people who she knows or are friends of people she knows. But she has had a couple of people that she didn’t know at all requesting assistance. “Yesterday I got a call from someone living in Bastora. He has come from London and is living alone. He does not know anyone in Goa. Having no food, when he tried to go out and buy some, the cops did not allow the vendor to sell to him,” she shares. While most of the deliveries have been close by and she has had her dad’s help in helping her get around, she admits that she is a little worried about the police cooperation when she has to deliver to areas located some distance away but will continue to help out as best as she can.

Meanwhile, Aastha Society in Mapusa that runs the Anand Niketan School for special children has also taken the initiative to distribute free readymade meals to the elderly, needy, and infirm. Presently meal services are available to people from Mapusa, Porvorim, Pernem, and surrounding areas.

Having begun services on March 23 evening, they are delivering packets of fried rice or pulao. “This idea was put out on the group on Saturday. There will be those who are vulnerable and not able to collect required resources themselves and we decided to try and make some arrangements for them,” says a member of the society. As luck would have it they have one member in the society who is a caterer and has taken it upon himself to prepare the food. Another is in the wholesale business of grains. Of course, he adds, there are a lot of pros and cons to this exercise. “Some people wrote to us saying that if we visit houses we could be transmitting the infection to them and the enormity of this infection is such that it is easily transmitted,” he says. To limit the chances of this happening, the members of this society are taking a lot of precautions while distributing food. “We are using masks and rather than distributing in hand, we are leaving these on surfaces instead. We are trying to use packaging material that can be sanitised before use. If we give food packets by hand, we sanitise ourselves. We also request those receiving the packages to sanitise themselves before taking them,” says the society member. On the first day, they received calls mainly from people wanting to know if this was actually happening or was a fake message being circulated around. Since then the calls are gradually increasing. “We have also received calls from people from Vasco and Margao which are far away for us and which we can’t attend to. We are looking at getting in touch with a caterer from that area itself who can perhaps reach out these people,” says the society member.

The society has also been making efforts to reach out to the homeless and the daily wage workers. One of the members visited a construction site close to his house to check if they have enough resources. Another visited a shelter that has been put up near the Mapusa bus stand and distributed 25 food packets. They are also trying to reach out to labour contractors to find out where the labourers are residing at the moment.

“We had people also reaching out to provide us with financial help. Some clubs are ready to help us with food delivery too,” he says adding that they are also looking at getting permission from the police to continue with this food delivery. 

“We don’t know how successful we will be in doing this but we have made a start. Whatever happens, happens, but we are doing it with a good heart,” he says. 

In the medical line himself, the member also puts out a request urging people to follow orders and stay indoors as instructed. “While I am travelling to the hospital, I see people on the roads going even triple seater on the bike. This attitude really hurts us,” he says.

In Bicholim, the Bapuji Welfare Trust headed by Pradosh Amoncar of Amoncar Classic Catering Services Private Limited, Friends of Bicholim and Rishtey Helpline of Abbas Sheikh, and Catering Association of Goa have joined hands to serve the needy and the poor by providing house-to-house delivery of food packets free of cost. This delivery is done by pre-booking. They are also providing essential items like rice, sugar, flour, etc to those in acute need. 

“There are people panicking about the availability of commodities. Also, Amoncar knew that there are a few who take parcels home daily like students who are in Goa from other states. And so we decided to start this service,” says Kalangutkar, adding that they are a group of eight people, with the cooks and families supporting them. 

“With our kitchens at the takeaway now shut down, we have a lot of food that we can provide to people. And there are cases where people may have money but they are living in lodgings where they are not allowed to cook. We can provide them with food,” adds Amonkar. “In fact,” he continues, “We had a call from someone who had only eaten ‘chivda’ and biscuits on Sunday and so we have started giving food to him.”

The group ensures that they take precautions while out on deliveries. “We use packaging material that is sanitised first. Delivery is done by different people in different areas. We wear masks and gloves and keep a distance as much as possible. Once we come back home we change our clothes and take a shower,” says Kalangutkar, adding that while all has been going on well so far, they have received some hurtful comments from some people asking them if they are delivering food items even to migrants. While on the first day, they delivered about 14 packets of food, the second day saw the numbers rising to around 70.

Street Providence, an NGO run by Donald Fernandes who is involved in the rehabilitation of homeless people since 2017 is also doing their part to help out in these difficult times. The organisation has homes in Cavelossim, Margao, Batim, Porvorim, Asnora and Saligao. “Our biggest problem at the moment is in Saligao. We have 12 infirm ladies who are staying in a convent which does not have a cook. The three or four nuns looking after them are not used to cooking for so many people and the cook has not been coming to work. At the moment someone has volunteered to cook them breakfast but the delivery of other meals is a problem,” says Fernandes, while appealing to people to help out by donating especially frozen foods. “Even if these are close to expiry nothing happens to it even for six months after,” he says, adding that he began stocking up on food items two weeks before the curfew call went out as he knew this was coming. With restaurants and shacks also closing down, he has appealed to the owners to share this food with the needy now. 

However, he also points out that those looking to deliver food need to be cautious. “There could be cases of these recipients taking two or three meals from different people at a time. These homeless people may not completely understand the situation at the moment. They live from day to day,” he says.

He also hopes that this exercise of reaching out to people and delivering food will continue. “If everyone gives now, who gives afterwards? It could come to a point where no one is going to help anybody and then things will be difficult,” he says.

Another idea he has to help in reaching out to people who need food and other resources is to have a form of barter system in place. “I have a lot of butter at the moment and I don’t mind exchanging this for some other resources. There could be something like this in place where everybody comes together to share resources,” he says. Further, he appeals to people to help in sharing food with old people and ashrams

in their areas.

Goa Brewing offers free sanitisers

Seeing a lot of panic-buying due to the coronavirus pandemic and the inability to find sanitisers at chemists and other stores, Goa Brewing Company has decided to start an initiative to give free sanitisers. Founder and CEO of Goa Brewing Company, Suraj Shenai says: “We procured from our suppliers the highest quality certified product that was available and started offering 100 millilitres per person for free at our brewery in Sangolda.”

He adds that it is great to see that now that the Government of India and the Goa Government upon understanding the severity of shortage and the potential of the private sector, has given permission to distilleries to produce hand sanitisers. “I think this will help considerably in meeting the demand,” he says.