We hope our letter finds you in good health and your loved ones are safe & well. Through this letter we want to share the work we have done since the COVID 19 crisis hit Mumbai. Those in Mumbai are witness to the loss of jobs, spiralling health, mental fatigue, hospitalizations, and deaths. For those living overseas, the scenes in India are on the front pages so we don’t need to elaborate.
As a team we have been engaged in sporadic philanthropic activities, but COVID 19 galvanized us to act with drive, purpose, and commitment. However, we also recognized our limitations of a wife & husband core team and did not want to over commit and under deliver. Hence, we narrowed our attention towards nutrition and hunger in Mumbai.
Experts highlighted food and nutrition as one of the key factors towards recovery especially in ailing cancer & thalassaemic patients. For instance, underprivileged patients are facing longer recovery times and complications because of the lack of adequate nutrition. Children are denied access to proper food because one or more parent is unwell or has lost a job. This forms our core focus.
Can we as a small team solve this entire problem? Definitely not! Can we make a difference? Definitely yes! This letter is our simple story.
A. THE FIRST LOCKDOWN IN MUMBAI YEAR 2020
We started our efforts during the first lockdown in May 2020. As COVID 19 spread, many of the poor found daily incomes impacted which resulted in food and nutrition at home being sharply curtailed. To meet this challenge, we distributed around 250 ration kits that feeds a family of four. These were given to a ‘basti (shanty)' near our home in Mumbai. All contributions came from our housing lane residents (Darabsha Lane Mumbai). It was a small project with limited funding & reach, but we all witnessed the impact this made on their lives.
As the second wave hit us ferociously, we doubled our efforts. On 30 April 2021, we bulk purchased organic bananas from our farmer networks and distributed them across a cross section of society. The arrangement benefitted local farmers who sold produce in difficult times, as well as the needy (patients & frontline workers, slum/basti residents, recovering cancer patients and their families) who ate nutritious fruits.
This was possible due to the generosity of people like yourselves who supported this effort. Nearly 6,000 bananas were distributed to KEM hospital, Wadia Hospital, Tata Hospital, Sion Hospital, Gadge Maharaj Dharamshala (GMD), Dr. Ernest Borges Memorial Hospital, Shivaji Nagar Basti & PDP Basti.
Our partner organizations that assisted us include “Dharavi Diary” (www.dharavidiary.com) which runs a day care centre in Dharavi and The Cuddles Foundation (www.cuddlesfoundation.org) which helped us distribute boxes across the various hospitals.
- We are planning to repeat our bulk distribution drive of locally sourced organic bananas. Aim is to distribute around 6,000 bananas to various hospitals, medical facilities, and slums. This we hope to accomplish as early as the week commencing May 10th. Each organic banana loom costs around Rs 850 and has around 150 bananas per loom.
- Around May 20th we are planning to distribute a full cooked meal at the GMD for its 400 residents. GMD houses and feeds cancer patients and families that have come to Mumbai to seek cancer treatment. The meal will be cooked at GMD itself.
- We are planning to enhance the banana distribution drive by adding other locally sourced fresh fruits. We hope to conduct this during the week commencing May 17th.
Our plans are being updated as the situation evolves and how much additional funding we can secure. As we write this letter, our near-term activities are:
- Distributing approximately 1,000 basic ration kits across residents of Dharavi and other bastis in Mumbai. A basic ration kit costs around Rs. 1000 per kit.
- Distributing enhanced ration kits costing c. Rs. 3,000 each, to support a family of four. We will target 30 outstation families that are supporting their child’s cancer treatment in Mumbai. Kits will be prepared as per the doctor’s advice, as these children need enhanced nutrition for their recovery.
- Establishment of a communal kitchen in Dharavi to support one full meal, once a day to around 300 to 500 people on an ongoing basis. This is a challenging project and we are planning to work with organizations like Dharavi Diary who have teams on the ground. We aim to provide vegetables and other raw ingredients and periodically check on the kitchen for quality and delivery. We shall be updating you in due course about this initiative.
Funding remains our primary requirement to support these efforts but if you wish to volunteer your time, we would be most glad to hear from you as well. Once again, thank you everyone. Please do carry on contributing however small it may be.
If you wish to know more about these initiatives, please do reach out to us. These are incredibly challenging times for Mumbai and the country, but these times have also shown us the greatness that exists among us demonstrated by the widening support and encouragement we are receiving!