As an organisation working with several lakhs of children and young people across 22 geographies, our first response to COVID- 19 was intuitive – focus on keeping our children and young people safe. We put our on ground activities on hold basis government directives, authorised work from home for our staff, and explored virtual means to stay in touch with our children and young people. We used tele calling, Whatsapp, social media to connect with each child and young person on the programme. We informed them about COVID– 19, shared the prevention measures by WHO, educated parents on social distancing and the need to wash and sanitise hands repeatedly. Young people already registered on our Magic Bus Livelihood programme are now being taken through our virtual sessions. Our Livelihood staff reached out to Magic Bus Alumni to mobilise those looking for jobs in their neighbourhoods to be a part of the online training. Word-of-mouth has now replaced the door-to-door mobilisation that we used to do for our Livelihood programmes. We have even reached out and conducted placements with our employment partners. One of our employment partners, HGS is recruiting candidates from the Livelihood programme. Out of the 40 candidates lined up for interview from our Livelihood Centres in Hyderabad, 15 young people were selected. Finally, 11 of them have a job with a CTC salary of 1.5 lakhs per annum..
Alongside keeping our programme running, we have also started off relief work to ensure lakhs of vulnerable families have food to eat, masks, sanitisers and soaps to keep them safe from coronavirus, and awareness about the disease and its symptoms. In carrying out our distribution and awareness-raising work across 22 States of India, our frontline staff has joined the ranks of local law enforcement and government health authorities. Masked and gloved, they continue their work each day, reaching out to more children, young people, and their families. To date, we have distributed food and ration to 52,054 people. In Chennai, field staff pooled in Rs. 15,000 and distributed 120 water cans and 150 face masks among the most vulnerable. In Muzafarnagar, Reliance Foundation helped us distribute 250 ration kits. In Andhra Pradesh, alumni from our Livelihood programme helped government authorities scan the neighbourhoods for foreign returnees. They even helped distribute ration to marginalised families.
While our relief efforts remain grounded on the responsible shoulders of Magic Bus frontline staff and young people, we appeal to each of you reading this blog to help us with your contribution. We still have hundreds of families to reach out to. We want to ensure no one goes hungry during such uncertain times. We want to ensure children, young people and their families remain protected.
COVID- 19 has wreaked havoc in the lives of daily wage workers, rural and urban poor. A UN Report says that 400 million workers in India may sink into poverty as a result of this. One of the fallouts of such a large number of people going under the poverty line is the effect it will have on children’s education and well-being, which in turn will put our country’s future in grave risk. We have to act, and act now. Help us reach out to the most vulnerable and prevent the country from sinking into an economic, social, and generational Dark Age.