Author: Salesian Missions

Publication Date: May 17, 2021

Persistence Amid Despair in India

A devastating COVID-19 wave is surging across India—leaving death, destitution and despair in its wake. Each day, an estimated 350,000 people become infected, and around 4,000 deaths are reported. Too often, people are dying simply because there aren’t enough oxygen tanks or hospital beds to go around. Those who manage to evade the virus face a concurrent crisis: skyrocketing unemployment that’s driving a heartbreaking rise in poverty and food insecurity, especially among children.

“It’s a really grave situation that has affected all walks of life, affecting the marginalized population the worst—homeless people and those living in slums; migrant workers; people with disabilities; and others,” explains Father Biju Michael, economer of the Salesian province in New Delhi. “People are struggling to find the means to survive.”

“Families desperately need food and medicine,” adds Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “More than that, they need the comfort of knowing that someone cares. Our missionaries have been serving that need since the pandemic first emerged last year, and have only intensified their efforts amid this latest wave.”

Despite their own challenges, our missionaries have lost relatives, friends, program staff members, and even fellow Salesians to COVID-19 but their commitment to support the people supersedes all else. Almost immediately, Salesian communities throughout India began devising and delivering emergency aid for thousands of beneficiaries. With loyal friends like you by their side, our missionaries throughout the country are doing whatever they can to assist vulnerable families with nowhere else to turn.

In Bangalore, for example, staff and volunteers at the Salesian-run Bangalore Rural Educational and Development Society (BREADS) are bringing prepared meals directly to people who are sick and under quarantine, and are collecting and distributing preventive health care supplies including face masks, hand sanitizer, and personal protective equipment. Father Anil D’sa, a missionary who heads the Indian Catholic Youth Movement, has also organized a group of 50 dedicated and energetic youth who volunteer as frontline “COVID Warriors” in Bangalore’s overburdened hospitals. Experienced health care providers have specifically trained these young men and women to deliver food and medicine to in-patients on both the general wards and in intensive care, easing the strain on exhausted nurses and bringing joy and connection to the sick. Missionaries in Bangalore are also providing financial assistance to families who can’t afford their medical bills, and they are planning to open a COVID-19 care center in the Lingarajapuram slums. In Kerala and Karnataka alone, 40 different Salesian communities have already assisted well over 200,000 people with food, grants and supplies during this most recent crisis.

In Hyderabad, the Salesian-run Bosco Seva Kendra has launched an ambitious relief program to help address this unprecedented crisis. Missionaries hope to provide at least:

  • 5,000 vulnerable families of four (on average) with staples to prepare hearty meals
  • 2,000 families with health and hygiene kits including face masks, hand sanitizers and soap
  • 1,500 families with medical and nutritional support including thermometers, inhalers, vitamins and energy drinks
  • and 1,000 new and expecting mothers with formula, diapers and bottles

“After a very strenuous year-long battle, we are confronted with a second wave, which is proving to be deadlier than the first,” says Father Thathireddy Vijaya Bhaskar, Hyderabad’s provincial. “It is time for us to roll up our sleeves again and respond to this emergency and work toward alleviating the insurmountable pain and loss.”

As of the end of April, the 31 Salesian communities comprising the province had already provided 720,000 people with critical relief.

And in New Delhi, Fr. Biju reports that “every phone call we receive is a desperate call for help.” Missionaries throughout India hope to provide food rations to 10,000 families in need by the end of May. They have also set up an online counseling program, staffed by professional psychologists, that has already assisted more than 300 people suffering from trauma and loss, and are working to provide financial assistance to the most vulnerable of those families. Similar psychological assistance is available for doctors and other front-line health care providers who are working in physically and psychologically demanding conditions in Kolkata.

“Our Salesians in India could not do this critical work without help from our generous friends,” says Fr. Gus. “Your loyalty and belief in our mission lifts their spirits and resolve when our missionaries are exhausted and stretched thin. I have no doubt that we have saved countless lives as a result … and I pray that we can continue to make this important difference in India and throughout the world as long as this pandemic persists.”

If you would like to support our dedicated COVID-19 Emergency Aid for India relief fund, you may do so here.

Our mission brings critical emergency support to vulnerable people in crisis in India, and around the globe. What’s your mission?

Learn more about our work in India.

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