Burdwan, April 18, 2020: Asansol Burdwan Seva Kendra (ABSK), the social wing of the diocese of Asansol actively involved in the relief work of feeding, distributing food to the migrants, daily labourers, poor and needy people in the time of lockdown in India.
The team got the permission from the Child Line Burdwan. “I started the COVID-19 relief work after I was issued pass by the District Magistrate Mr. Vijay Bharati, on behalf of Childline Burdwan, on March 31, 2020,” said Fr. Wilson Fernandes, the Regional Director of Social works in West-Bengal.
We have been able to support around 3,500 families at Burdwan Municipality and a few surrounding Santhal tribal villages. Sister Chandra of St. Anne’s of Chennai, Sisters Joselette & Gladys of Congregation of Jesus, 14 staff and volunteers of ABSK along with the director of ABSK, Fr. Arvind Tirkey, we have been packing and distributing dry ration and groceries for 15 days for poor families. Through awareness on safe distancing, washing of the hand with Sanitiser we teach people to fight the COVID-19, added Fr. Fernandes.
The sisters and inmates of home for special Need children (CCC, Chetana) and Roshni were able to stitch 4,500 masks and the same were distributed to the people along with 100 ml. Sanitizers. ABSK also supported 300 migrant workers from Jharkhand state stationed at Memari block with 10 days food along with the Claretian priests and Friends of Jesus Sisters in Sahanagar. We will be supporting another 4,500 people in Birbhum and Purba Burdwan districts till April 30, 2020 explained Fr. Fernandes.
“Today I must thank God who came to my help in the time of struggle through the Catholic Priests, Religious nuns and Christian volunteers,” said Mrs. Muni Besra, 50 one of the beneficiaries from Ichalabad, Ward No 11 of Burdwan Municipality.
“I had no food and no work for a week due to lockdown, but I am lucky to get food from the Fathers and Sisters of Christianity,” said Mr. Mohan Lohar of kanpukur Adivasi Para Ward No. 6, Burdwan Municipality.
“The Church is closed, no Sunday Mass, no Easter celebration first time in my life. But I have faith in Christ still growing stronger and stronger by seeing the work of Catholic Priests and Religious Nuns of Christianity in this time of fighting COVID-19,” said Animesh Das, 17, Birata Kora Bosti Ward No; 9, Burdwan Municipality, a Catholic Youth who volunteers with ABSK for the relief work.
“I have no parents. I solely depend on others for my survival. I see the love, care and support in the help of the Catholic Priest and Religious Nuns,” said Mungli Murmu, 8 Mahachanda Panchayat an orphan girl who was looked after by her uncle who is also a daily labourer.
The DM is very happy. He meets us to learn about our relief works. Police asked us to feed 100 children at the Burdwan Railway station. Thus we did for two days. Whatever Administration of the state is asking us to do we do with our limited ability, Said Fr. Arbind Tirkey.
“I wanted to share Easter joy with the poor, so I started relief work”, said Fr. Robert Richard D’Souza, Parish priest of Laghata village in Birbhum district. He distributed relief materials to more than 500 tribal families of Labpur and Sainthia blocks with assistance from his friends and ABSK. Fr. Robert plans to distribute ration to another 400 families soon. Seeing his relief works and his example, many priests Frs. Britto in Kamarpara, Solomon, OMI in Ekpere, Avinash Kumar in Talbona, Rahul Sequeira of Burnpur, Peter of Kulti, Irudaya Doss of Chittaranjan, Clarence Bhaju of Gordanmari, John Soren of Sahanagar, Thomas Marandi of Rajnagar also started distributing dry ration to the poor. Many Religious Sisters also distributed rice, dal to the poor neighbours of their convents. Most of the Sisters started special prayers in their communities to invoke God’s protection for the health workers and those affected by Covid 19
We really take care of maintaining social distance as the government has instructed by putting on mask, gloves, washing our hands with sanitizers and with soap before and after the distribution of the food materials. We have sanitizers for all those who come for the help. They stand in different circles keeping the two metres distance. Our volunteers also take maximum care for the cleanliness explained Fr. Fernandes.
All our beneficiaries are non-Christians. Muslims around 700. Migrants from Jharkhand and Bihar, Rickshaw pullers, Tribals, wide range of people. 14 Volunteers including five Catholic youth help in our work. They are quite impressed including on Easter Sunday they left home and joined in this work, said Fr. Martin Behera, Parish Priest of Burdwan.
“We are really grateful and thankful to Christian community for standing by our side in this time of lockdown to stop corona virus pandemic,” said Mohammad Yousef, 52 from Muslim community. Your words and deeds go together hand in hand. What you believe you practice in reality. There is no contradiction in what you preach and what you do. We thank God for you, added Yousef.
“You are one with the people. You are doing the great work. You are not acting as giver and people as receiver. You are putting yourself into their shoes and feeling the pain to reach out to them,” said Mr. Mithu Majhi, Women and Child development officer, West-Bengal Zila Parishad. I thought initially you are workers but later I came to know you are Catholic Priests. I never thought Catholic Priests will work like volunteers but you sacrifice yourself for the needy in the time of difficulties, added Majhi.
Many priests and religious in the diocese are also involved in relief work in their areas for the poor daily labourers who lost job during this time.