by Father Blany Pinto for BISMumbai

The Salesians of Don Bosco managing the Don Bosco Apostolic School/Aspirantate High School and Junior College, situated at New Tungarli Road, in Lonavla, around 83 kms from Mumbai and 68 kms on the way to Pune, have adopted 03 villages during COVID-19. The idea for this village adoption is not just delivery of essential provision kits to tide over the lockdown crisis, but also to assist the villagers through awareness programmes, in a sustained manner over the coming months, to prepare the necessary documentation to access various Government Schemes in the future.

In these devastating times of the pandemic, Don Bosco Lonavla is ensuring a steady supply of food packets, every week, to the 03 adopted villages. In another 03 villages nearby too, food packets are being distributed to help sustain families in the prevailing situation. Sonali Shelke and Ravi Shelke, Don Bosco Lonavla field staff are coordinating the entire adoption-awareness-distribution-documentation process in the 03 adopted villages. Likewise, Unita Doulton and her team of generous volunteers are involved in providing financial back-up/aid, while also personally distributing food packets in all the 06 villages.

Over the course of the last week [19 - 25 April], many stranded migrants returned back to the villages, since the lockdown has yet to be eased. A survey assessment was undertaken to gather information and identify the accurate number of such returning migrants, so that the supply of food relief would not fall short of the requirement. During the course of the week, the Gram Panchayat in 02 of these villages also undertook a free mask-distribution intiative.

As of 25 April 2020, Don Bosco Lonavla had reached out to 56 families in Karandul Katkarwadi, 18 families in Vergaon Katkatwadi, 28 families in Mundhavare Katkarwadi, 15 families in Karla Katkarwadi, 14 families in Sadapur Katkarwadi, and 55 families in Vaksai Katkarwadi. A total of 186 families are being assisted as part of this sustained outreach.

Don Bosco Lonavla has discovered that COVID-19 has unleashed a new wave of displacement of the Katkaris - tribal inhabitants of the villages under adoption & outreach. As per the findings, many of these villages have to now put up with other persons who have translocated to gain access to the distributed food. Others who were original inhabitants of the hilly terrain have now shifted to the sanctuary of what-is-yet-left--of-the-forests, in makeshift huts, in order to escape this pandemic scourge.