Viva India has a life skills mentoring programme for girls called ‘Flourish’. Along with Flourish we do child protection training for over 10,000 children and teachers. When education centres closed in mid-March, as social distancing measures came into effect, Viva’s Flourish mentoring and child protection programmes came to an abrupt halt.
The Viva India team continued to be in touch and monitor the situation of children benefitting from the Viva programmes. The girls we mentor are mostly of migrant families living in slums. Some families returned to villages; those remaining we asked how they were coping with the lockdown?
In the hope that Geeti would have better education in the city, her parents sent her from a village in Bihar to live with her maternal grandmother and aunt in Delhi. Geeti, a 9 year old girl, has been worried that her grandmother, who works as a house helper, cannot go to work during the lockdown and doesn’t have money to buy essentials for their household.
Ruqaiya, a 12 year old, has 3 siblings. Her father is a rickshaw puller who cannot go out to earn for his family of six.
Komal’s father has been seriously ill and in hospital so there has been no income in the family for a while.
Safiyya, a migrant from Uttarakhand, says, “The earning from making cardboard boxes is no more.” Safiyya, single parent to an 8 year old boy, was working in a cardboard carton manufacturing factory.
Ram Lavani, a mother of 3 children, tailored dresses before the lockdown. She has no work orders. Ram Levani is drawing from her meagre savings to purchase daily food for the family.
Two thirds of the migrant families we met are struggling for food and hygiene essentials.
With the situation getting desperate for children, we prayed to the Lord to lead us in these uncertain times. The Lord reassured us with these verses from Isaiah 58:10-12 (GNT):
If you give food to the hungry and satisfy those who are in need, then the darkness around you will turn to the brightness of noon. And I will always guide you and satisfy you with good things. I will keep you strong and well. You will be like a garden that has plenty of water, like a spring of water that never goes dry. Your people will rebuild what has long been in ruins, building again on the old foundations. You will be known as the people who rebuilt the walls, who restored the ruined houses.
In April, we received unexpected donations from friends and relief supplies from local businesses. As a result of these donations, Viva India partner network members and coordinators applied to district authorities for permission to distribute relief from the city authorities. Some partner network teams were issued two week permissions to distribute relief, while others had to contend with a day pass. Partner network teams in Bangalore, Patna and Hyderabad were able to distribute food supplies, health and hygiene products, and the Delhi team facilitated cash transfers for families on the margins. So far, a total of 728 children and adults in 198 families have benefitted from the Viva India Covid relief effort. The beneficiaries are factory workers, roadside tailors, rickshaw pullers, house helpers etc. Eleven of these families have children with special needs.
The Ranchi and Shillong partner networks are preparing to provide relief to families of 111 children living in slums and on the streets. On 14th April the Indian Prime Minister extended the lockdown for another three weeks. We fear that many more daily wage migrant families in cities will need food and hygiene essentials. We also know that, while the focus of the government and relief agencies is on feeding the poor, the increasing domestic violence and calls to child helpline services are going unnoticed and, more often than not, they remain unaddressed. Many field workers are worried about the safety of children. Earlier this week it was reported on the news that a mother, after a domestic altercation with her husband, threw her five children into the river Ganges.
To address the emotional wellbeing of children and parents, the Viva team is putting together a programme that will help the Flourish mentors to counsel children and parents over the phone. The programme is an amalgamation of Viva Flourish sessions, child protection training and Covid safety guidelines. To make this programme available to many thousands of children and families, Viva is discussing partnership options with other agencies providing relief in India. Viva’s response is particularly significant now, as real collective action brings about holistic change for children on a larger scale than any one organisation could achieve on their own.
Despite restriction of movement and very limited finances to do relief work, we have seen God’s grace and the goodness of His people to provide for the hungry and destitute. We pray for the safety of children and the emotional wellbeing of their parents as Viva changes more children’s lives more effectively. As we work to release children from poverty and abuse, do remember us and the children we serve in your prayers.