by BISMumbai Correspondent

The nationwide COVID-19 Lockdown came into effect on 25 March 2020. At least 04 states - Maharashtra, West Bengal, Telangana and Punjab - are wary of easing the lockdown, seeking extension to contain the pandemic's devastating spread. Maharashtra alone accounts for 23, 401 cases, even as cautious easing of lockdown is being implemented. Mumbai alone, as per statistics on 11 May from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation [BMC], has 60% of Maharashtra's total, with 14,355 positive infected, 791 new infections, 528 deaths, and 3,110 discharged. Amidst chaos over moderate, pre/a- symptomatic conditions, comorbidity factors and the incomprehensible daily 'breaking news' about economic disruption, community transmission and mask-wearing social distancing norms, the scores of people dwelling in impoverished fragile environs and the other multitudinous stranded waiting to flee back to their native homes, the catastrophe unleashed is unprecedented.

Mumbai Salesians' Father Barnabe D'Souza, currently Rector at Don Bosco Seawoods-Nerul, Navi Mumbai, has been coordinating a sustained COVID-19 Outreach for the stranded, starving and seeking-a-way-out migrant peoples in the Navi Mumbai and Belapur. Speaking to BISMumbai, he says, "COVID-19 is indeed a difficult time, more so for the most marginalised and underprivileged. There are so many without food, provisions and other basic necessities. Don Bosco Nerul has been doing its utmost to reach out to the stranded needy. Yet, it is not sufficient." Father D'souza who has earlier worked with the young-at-risk rootless, roofless in Mumbai and who has had first-hand experience of the distressing plight of the abandoned poor on the streets of the cosmopolis, feels, "Many of us are busy with outreach. It is a must. Yet, perhaps, we should look at the methodological process and ask ourselves, how are we doing this outreach?"

Asked to spell out his method of outreach and the process involved therein, Father D'Souza says, "Contacts. It is important to snowball connections/contacts [grocers, provisioners, vendors, volunteers, social outreach staff, donors, etc.] to help the initial survey-analysis. Ask the pertinent questions - who, where, what type of help/aid/assistance. Research the criteria. Distribution sequencing, with coupons, timings, provision pick-up points cannot be overlooked." He further adds, "in these troubled times, the service providers - police force, nurses, doctors - are doing their best. Those of us doing this outreach need to enable them to do their jobs, assist them, associate and network for better door-to-door delivery distribution of essential goods. NGOs, Social Work Colleges [TISS], Association of Architects and Designers [AAD], D-Mart, Johnson & Johnson, Divisional Commissioners, Municipal Commissioners, Local Ward Officials - all of these need the collaboration of those wanting to do outreach. This is very significant. Often, we forget these basics."

The Mumbai Salesians' managed Don Bosco School at Seawoods-Nerul has spared no efforts to reach the stranded unreached in Navi Mumbai and Belapur, networking and collaborating with likeminded do-gooders. Father D'Souza rounds up with, "the need of the hour is to ensure basic survival essentials for those impacted. Constant analysis, identification and networking, almost on a daily basis, helps us to make several inroads to bring COVID-19. Relief Aid to the deprived impoverished.It has widened our circle of reach and has provided us an opening for future work in the villages, slums, and other fragile settings in and around Mumbai. Yes, time-constraints are there, the outreach is important, and more importantly the thought-process to think and act methodologically will stand us in good stead."