(Maharashtra, India) India categorically went into total lockdown from the 24th March. The Prime Minister announced the total nationwide lockdown with immediate effect catching everyone by total surprise. While in such cases there is natural panic and frantic shopping and the rich and middle class always manage somehow it is poor and the migrant workers who are daily wage earners, who are caught totally unprepared and lost. With no daily work and therefore no daily income millions of migrant workers are stranded in India and many having to walk over 200 kms to their home villages. Some left stranded in the cities with nowhere to go or turn with police and military mistreating them.
In these circumstances, the V. Province of Majella’s Migrant Centre ‘Phaunch’ which means ‘outreach’ immediately sprang into action. Headed by two Redemptorists Frs. Andrew Dantis and Ivon D’Souza and accompanied by a dedicated team of collaborators and other volunteers from the Redemptorist Parish, private donors, the Diocese of Vasai Social Organisation, the local politician and with the help of the police began a food outreach program for the migrant workers. Daily at least 100 to 125 families are being provided with food in different areas where they are outside the city of Mumbai. The food packed and supplied to last till the lockdown is over on the 14th April consists of rice, lentils, oil, soap, washing powder, tea leaves, and other necessary items that are packed and taken by the team daily to the slums where the migrant workers are left abandoned. The local municipal corporator accompanies the Phaunch Team offering the necessary police clearance for this outreach.
Apart from the food outreach program organized by Phaunch center, the team also reaches out through phone calls, SMS to all the Migrant people registered in their center and in the various centers that Phaunch reaches out to. These phone messages and SMS messages give vital information about COVID-19 and its consequences, methods of sanitization and hygiene, encourages people to stay indoors and stay safe and reassures them that the Centre through its dedicated team is there for them should they need any assistance.
Fr. Andrew Dantis, C.Ss.R. the Director of Phaunch affirms, “This is the time that our migrant people need us most, especially when there is no one for them in this horrendous crisis. God is with us and supporting our Redemptorist outreach through help from the Diocese, volunteers who have come forward, local corporators and generous people. Yes, it is fraught with danger but then when we proclaim the Good News, God is always watching over us.” May God continue to be with us in these difficult times to reach out to the poor and the abandoned.
Fr. Ivel Mendanha, C.Ss.R.