An on-the-ground report from One Billion Literates Foundation
“Sir, you have given your food kit to everyone else, but I haven’t got anything”, she said; she seemed very young with cheap imitation jewellery on her, but she had a young baby glued to her hip. “I am sorry”, I said. “We will be back day after tomorrow with more food ration kits”. My words of explanation seemed hollow and empty even to myself. I knew my OBLF team and I would definitely be back – but her faith in any official or civic body was long broken. She pleaded again – in the vain hope that we could magically produce one more kit. But we were far too deep in the hinterlands to be able to do anything today. That sight of her following my car as I slowly drove away, is something that I will replay in my mind’s eye for a long time to come.
Today was another day in the field. Not all of the stories ended with heartbreak. True to our strategy, we went deep where no government or civic body reaches. We were guided by our para-teachers who have an intimate understanding of the lay of the land; and we also had the help of an awesome police constable deputed by the Police Chief of the local police station who showed us small shanties into which huddled a couple of dozen men, women and small children; too scared to come out until we showed them the food kits and the masks we had brought with us; and then we had a mini stampede on our hands as we started handing out the masks with everyone eager to get their hands on one with hardly the patience to listen to instructions on how to don the mask correctly and handle it hygienically.
Over the five hours on the field today, we distributed close to thirty food kits – each food kit holding rations for a month for a family of four, and close to five hundred masks; If you try to do the math, it will not add up. In these places, the average family unit is usually higher; quite a bit higher.
Tomorrow will be focused on more procurements and packing into kits; And we will be back the day after, looking for that young lady and her baby on whom we had to sadly turn our backs today.
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