The COVID-19 outbreak, and the subsequent lockdown, have propelled India into an unprecedented humanitarian and health crisis. The government, both at the central and the state level, is trying to mitigate the disastrous impact of the lockdown on the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people, but the challenge is unique. By initial estimates, 12.2 crore Indians have lost their jobs since the lockdown began, and the domino effect of it has yet to develop.
In such trying times, some NGOs have risen to the challenge, and have intervened on an urgent basis to provide relief to a large number of distressed people despite having numerous difficulties – financial and logistical.
One such NGO is the Pardada–Pardadi Education Society (PPES) which has done exemplary work with limited resources in Uttar Pradesh.
Reaching Out to 1.5 lakh People in Distress
Speaking exclusively to Spark.Live, the CEO of PPES, Ms. Renuka said, ‘After the outbreak of COVID-19, we first decided to understand the need of the community. For that, we immediately started an SMS service and a toll-free calling service so that anybody who has any kind of need – related to ration, intervention in case they are facing oppression at home, or not getting services from the government – could call us.’
It was quickly realized, that livelihood opportunities needed to be created – particularly for women – as in a time of crisis, women are especially vulnerable. With that goal in mind, the existing production center of the foundation, named iVillage in Anupshahar, started to produce face masks by employing 200 women. Within this short period, they have produced 1.7 lakh face masks.
However, with most people losing their jobs, the immediate concern was to provide relief by distributing ration. Ms. Renuka added, ‘We identified the most vulnerable families and our volunteers started to distribute ration. We also provided our school building in Anupshahar as a quarantine center because the village lacks the quality infrastructure to house people.’
So far, with targeted intervention in 120 villages in and around Anupshahar, almost 1.5 lakh lives have been touched by the tireless volunteers of PPES.
The Road Ahead
Ms. Renuka concedes that the future is fraught with bigger challenges.
For someone closely working with women and girls of the region, Ms. Renuka realizes that vanishing means of livelihood have a more sordid impact on women – their health, education, and physical well-being become the immediate casualty. Subsequently, she has directed her NGO’s resources to help such women. ‘As an organization, we have always believed that development can only be achieved if women and girls are economically and socially empowered. Even during this time, that remains a big goal. We need to make all women economically independent. So, our immediate aim now is to raise funds for the 5000 women who are associated with our self-help group and give them a revolving sum of at least Rs 20,000.’
The ripple effect of this can be enormous.
It has been reported that illegal money lenders in villages are thriving in COVID–19 afflicted India, charging steep interest rates. Ms. Renuka says that a direct cash transfer of Rs 20,000 can save many families from falling into this vicious circle of a debt trap.
PPES has also readied a mobile health clinic that can reach remote villages and are exploring possibilities to deploy it once necessary permissions are obtained from the authorities.
Striking an optimistic note, Ms. Renuka said, ‘The world is going through difficult times and the long term impact of this is unknown, however, we here at PPES are very positive that together, we can push through this and see a new dawn.’
How Can You Help?
Organizations such as PPES are doing extraordinary work under extremely difficult circumstances. Their work can transform lakhs of Indian lives which are currently under duress.
They are seeking to raise funds for their various programs and direct cash transfers. If you wish to donate, a link to their donation page is provided below. All donations made to PPES are tax-deductible under Section 80G of the I-T Act.
Also, the self-help group of PPES is making face masks that are washable, cheap, and the entire proceeds raised from the sales go to the vulnerable communities supported by the NGO. If you are an individual or a corporate organization looking to procure masks, you can place a bulk order with them.