Living in lockdown in Patripul, India, a family with seven children planned to poison themselves to prevent a slow death from starvation.
They had used up every single rupee they had left, and when the husband went out to beg for money, he was beaten by the police. Then Global Care’s local partners arrived at their door with a food parcel.
They wept with joy. ‘God has sent you to us’, they cried. What an amazing opportunity to reach out to this desperate family. As Dalits, the lowest of the low in the ancient Hindu caste system, families like this know their lives are worth less than nothing in wider society.
Global Care’s local Christian partners instead demonstrated that their lives are in fact precious, and there is a God who loves and provides for them.
Global Care’s partners run two education centres in the Patripul slum, in Kalyan, near Mumbai, attended by the three youngest children of this family, and dozens of other vulnerable Dalit families. The extended lockdown, which is particularly strict in India’s urban centres, is brutally harsh for families like these.
Simon George, director of GCare India, says: “People are not allowed outside their homes, except to get food. If people go outside, the police will punish them. It is hard for everyone but it is even worse for Dalit families. They are so low down in society that their lives are in real danger.
“The families we work with earn money one day to spend the next day. If they don’t earn money today, they can’t buy food tomorrow. If they don’t work, they don’t eat. It really is as simple as that.”
Although the Indian government is providing some rations for poor families affected by lockdown, people need the right paperwork to qualify. As many of these families are not documented, they cannot apply. Instead, they starve.
Global Care has funded three rounds of food parcels for 60 of the most vulnerable families connected to the GCare Centres, as lockdown has now been extended twice. Each parcel is meant to last for two weeks, but the families make it stretch to three.
Food insecurity is not the only challenge they face. Along with the impossibility of ‘isolation’ in a single-room shanty dwelling, access to water for ‘hand-hygiene’ is another crucial issue, as there is no running water in the slum. Finally of course, there is the threat of the virus itself.
One bread-winning father with two children at one of Global Care’s centres here has already died of coronavirus. An asthmatic, he caught the virus while working as a driver, and succumbed at home during lockdown two weeks ago. He leaves a widow and four children aged under seven.
“It is impossible to know what the future holds,” says Simon. “No-one can really say when all this will end. Global Care is the only charity working in this area and there is no other help reaching these families.”
In recognition of the work of the GCare team in Patripul, their Muslim landlord recently refunded the entire rent for April. ‘I cannot accept the rent from you, when I have seen what you are doing to help the vulnerable people here,” he said. “May God bless you.”
“These families have nothing but we are doing something great in their lives,” says Simon. “”We are giving them hope.”
India is one of ten countries on four continents where Global Care is feeding families going hungry in lockdown, and helping protect vulnerable communities from the coronavirus. We are using our Children At Risk funds. You can donate below, or find out more about our work here