It is over 10 days ago when Easter Giri and some of her friends noticed that some people were staying under the Dhobikhola bridge near the Om Hospital in Chabahil. They did not take a longer time to assume that they were stranded there due to the ongoing lockdown imposed to control the coronavirus outbreak in the country. Perhaps they were the homeless who used to manage their basic needs by doing some menial labour other times, but the lockdown deprived them of this possibility, they concluded.
“They are deprived of the ration being distributed locally because they do not have their citizenship certificates,” Giri reveals her finding, “So, we started feeding them at least once a day.”
The Giri-led NGO, Inner Voice Nepal, has also gone to Shivapuri and Tokha areas to distribute the food. The organisation claims it serves about 60 people a day with basic meals.
Serving the needy
With the nationwide lockdown in effect, people’s normal life has been affected severely. Offices, schools, and public transportation have all come to a halt. With that, many had lost their means of living. The most hard-hit are the daily wage workers and the underprivileged who can neither earn money nor get the relief due to different reasons. But, some good samaritans like Giri have felt the need and started initiatives to feed the hungry and needy ones.
One such initiative was started by Guna Raj Pyakurel and his friends in Sinamangal of Kathmandu. “Our initiative, at first, was an awareness campaign regarding the coronavirus and its preventive measures. But since the sixth day of the lockdown, we have been feeding the hungry, many daily wage workers, and squatters in the Pashupati area, Chabahil and some areas of Bhaktapur, with an average of 350 people every day.”
Another similar effort is the Hamro Sano Prayas campaign initiated by Min Bahadur Bham and Pukar Bam in collaboration with cooks of Ageno restaurant. The campaign has been joined by many celebrities and leaders to help and reach out to many as possible. “We have allocated Lagankhel as one of the points from where, daily in the evening, we are feeding about 200 people including those who are there to look after their kin admitted to the Patan Hospital,” shares Ashraya Raj Baral, one of the field workers for the campaign. The food is distributed at Lazimpat and Ranibari areas too.
In addition, the Hamro Sano Prayas campaigners have also started feeding 22 families who have been stranded in Gothatar for two weeks.
The food packets for Hamro Sano Prayas campaign are prepared in Jhamsikhel-based Ageno restaurant, from where the volunteers pick up the food and are delivered to the distribution points by the volunteers.
Similarly, Pyakurel with seven others gather in Sinamangal and prepare food for distribution on their own. Then, the volunteers carry the food to different places for distribution. Meanwhile, a team of three including Giri are the ones who make the food every day for the people staying under the Dhobikhola bridge. Their food packets are picked up by a separate team from their organisations to distribute.
While Inner Voice Nepal and Hamro Sano Prayas campaigners have been distributing different food items, the youth leaders of the Subharambha Club, led by Pyakurel, have been distributing biryani since day 1 of their campaign.
“Biryani is easy to make and easy to pack. There is no worry about the rice being soiled by the curry or turning smelly. The team also does not have to cook anything separately. So every day, we gather and we have our own responsibilities, from cutting to cooking and packing the food,” Pyakurel says, “Everything goes together and we can just simply serve them. It is easier for people too. Plus, it is high in nutrition and is a balanced diet for all.”
Pyakurel also adds that his experience of feeding and volunteering people of Chennai in 2015 confirmed that biryani was the right choice for today as well.
More than food
Besides serving the food, some of such initiatives have also made efforts to address additional, more complex issues.
The Kupondole-based office of Inner Voice Nepal had recently got registered to work in the field of mental health. But, the lockdown suddenly shut all of its operations at once. Coping with the new situation, the organisation resorted to online counselling for those battling mental health issues.
Meanwhile, Pyakurel also does not just feed the people. With his team from the Subharambha Youth Club, he is also feeding the stray dogs and taking responsibility to sanitise the vehicles coming into their community.
Similarly, Hamro Sano Prayas is collaborating and helping other organisations and campaigners to feed those who have been suffering in this time of need.
Of course, the people, who are struggling with hunger, still have to adhere to the government’s directive to avoid any risk of infection. But, precautions are costly. They need masks and sanitiser. The volunteers are distributing them also.
All the teams who have been on the field every day to fill the hungry stomachs selflessly have received tremendous support from the people of all walks of life. Pyakurel also has had some notable donors supporting his campaign from both personal and organisational levels.
The team’s primary platform to reach out to the people and donors alike has been social media. Virtual mediums and their networks have not just given them money but also huge donations of food supplies.
Baral for Hamro Sano Prayas iterates, “We do not take monetary support. Instead, we ask the donors to strictly donate in kind. However, we are getting support from beyond our national border as well. In such cases, we collect the money and convert that into goods.”
For any kind of expenses, from the delivery to the making, the teams are managing them either from the donated funds or from their own pockets.
Finally, the biggest support, the groups unanimously claim, has been the volunteers who have made themselves available to support the needy.