By Our Correspondent | Opening Doorz Editorial | May 10, 2020

COVID-19 Relief: Salesians of Don Bosco leading the way…
When there is a crisis, you can count on the Salesians of Don Bosco to jump right to where the need is. That has been the spirit of their founder St. John Bosco, who stood for the marginalised, and over 150 years later, the Salesians march on during every crisis, reaching out to the poor.

The current pandemic which has gripped the world has seen the Salesians pull up their Cassock and distribute food and relief to the worst hit all across India.

Even before Rector Major’s invitation to “Let’s roll up our sleeves and ask what can we do?” the Don Bosco Oratory coordinators (Mumbai) had already put some measures in place for DB Solidarity Vs COVID-19. Fr. Glenford Lowe approached the Provincial Economer to assist with rations for 180 Oratory Youth. The request was promptly granted. Together with Fr. McEnroe Lopes and Bro. Bryce Fernandes, the process was coordinated with Fr. Rolvin D’Mello, (Executive Director of Don Bosco Development Society), Supplies reached within a few days. The very first outreach and distribution of relief kits containing rations for a month, toiletries and hygiene kits began at four different locations.

Salesians of Don Bosco leading the way, showing the light!
Salesians of Don Bosco, leading the way, showing the light.

With the help and co-ordination of the senior DBO youth, others were mobilised in the four distribution hubs. Fr. Lopes and Bro. Fernandes began the distribution of relief kits at 60-feet road in Dharavi, the Dharavi Bus Depot area and the Sion Koliwada area. Fr. Lowe handled the relief operations at the Don Bosco Provincial House Matunga, King’s Circle, Wadala, Sewree and Antop Hill.

With the extended COVID-19 lockdown a second round of relief kits distribution was organised.

At Don Bosco Nerul, Fr. Barnabe D’Souza has been working closely with the municipal and the police authorities, who have been of great help during this time of need. They have reached out to daily wage earners, migrants, construction workers and all those affected the most by the virus, by providing them with the distribution of rice, dal, spices, soap, etc, to help them stock up for about a week. With the help of donations which have been trickling in, Fr. Barnabe and his team have been able to reach out to countless people since the Lockdown began. When asked how many people they have reached out to till date, he says: “When you reach out to someone, you don’t count the numbers. The important thing is to see how many are in need.”

Other Don Bosco centres witn COVID-19 relief work…

NARUKOT, Gujarat
This outreach in Jambughoda Tehsil of Panchmahal District in Central Gujarat was carried out after extensive survey-analysis of the most deprived suffering. Fifty-five families in 9 villages were given food-provision (pulses, condiments, grain, oil, salt, and biscuits), toiletries and masks. Prior to distribution of the relief kits, a general COVID-19 info-awareness session was organised, and the recipients’ signatures were registered. Later, Zalariya, Kesarpura and Kewa villages were covered followed by Chalvad, Pohili, Ghandra, Nizran, Ranjitpura, and Zarva.

This act of service to the most deprived was appreciated by the families, who expressed gratitude for the concern expressed by the Salesians. Salesian Coadjutor Bro. Melvyn Carvalho, Fr. Ajay Shelke, and social outreach coordinator Ashwin Barla undertook the initial survey-assessment.

Salesians of Don Bosco leading the way, showing the light!
Salesians of Don Bosco, leading the way, showing the light.

LONAVLA, Maharashtra
Under the leadership of Fr. Blany Pinto, the Lonavla outfit adopted six villages, providing food-ration sustenance. Weekly food distribution to 186 families in these six villages, notwithstanding, Sonali Shelke and Ravi Shelke, social outreach staff, surveyed the other villages in/around Lonavla and Khandala, over the last week, discovering the deplorable deprivation of the villagers. A decision was arrived at, to distribute food-rations to these other villages too. The families were contacted and coupons handed out. Thanks to the large-hearted generosity of Fr. Roque Green, Parish Priest, St. Anthony’s Shivaji Nagar, who personally distributed the food packets along with Fr. Simon D’Souza. Around seven families in Fanasrai Thakurwadi, 18 families in Vanuatu Thakurwadi, 12 families in Udhaywadi Thakurwadi, 25 families in Rajmachi Village—all situated 19 kms from the Khandala highway, were assisted.

A few other 30 tribal families in Sawantwadi and Pawana Dam in Lonavla along with 75 families in Devghar gaon, 31 families in Karandoli gaon, and 88 families in Vaksai village were also given food packets.

What is heartening to note is that across states, Municipal authorities and the police have been coming forward to help out to ensure the process is smooth and all affected are being helped. Donations from large-hearted individuals have made these relief operations a success, say the Priests who are out there daily.

Also Read: Shahul Hamid is Forever Grateful to Don Bosco

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