Published: 03rd April 2020
Amidst the lockdown, this NGO is distributing relief material in the slums of Ganjam and Bhubaneswar
VIEWS is an NGO which is distributing food baskets and hygiene kits so that those living in the slum areas in Bhubaneswar and Ganjam don't face the brunt of the severe lockdown implemented in Odisha
There is no contesting the fact that Odisha is a disaster-prone state. But then there is also the fact that this has made it more resilient than any other state. From the United Nations praising the coastal state for its preparedness before Cyclone Phani, the most recent disaster to hit the state, to COVID-19 hospitals it has set up well in advance, for which it is earning applause from all corners of the country — it has learnt the knack of staying ahead of the curve when it comes to disaster management.
During the 1999 Odisha cyclone that tore the state apart, many NGOs stepped in to help and left when their work was done. Youngsters from Venkatraipur in Ganjam district, imbibing the same spirit of resilience that Odisha was starting to develop, thought to themselves, 'Why wait for someone else to help us when we can help ourselves?' Thus, in June 2002, the youth organisation Voluntary Integration for Education and Welfare of Society (VIEWS) was born and slowly, it transformed into an NGO in 2008. Now, when another disaster-like situation in the form of COVID-19 is upon the nation, VIEWS is again reaching out to all those who are vulnerable and through their relief work, is assuring them that, 'This too shall pass'.
With her food basket | (Pic: VIEWS)
What a relief
The focus of VIEWS has always been three-fold: sustainable livelihood, quality education and health and hygiene. They work with the poor, tribals, dalits and socially-deprived to help them through education and teaching them skills like organic farming. They work primarily in tribal villages of Ganjam, slums in Sikharchandi Nagar and Jalimunda situated in Bhubaneswar. As their network is already established in these areas, it is these areas they are distributing food baskets and hygiene kits in. "Only after taking permission from the police are we distributing these baskets and kits. We started this on March 29 with a target of distributing them to 400 families," says Selvin Bheemarao, Executive Director, VIEWS. It was through donations from his friends in the US, especially Asia Initiatives, that they could assemble and distribute food baskets, that contain rice, wheat flour, oil, turmeric, and hygiene kits, that had masks and soap. He assures us that volunteers are maintaining social distance, wearing gloves and using sanitisers while disturbing these kits.
What has his heart
Expressing his concern about slum dwellers, especially the Munda tribal community, that resides in the Jalimunda slum, Selvin informs us that men are prone to alcoholism and drink and pass out often. It is the kids and the women who suffer malnutrition and what not because of this. They are poor, unhygienic and every family has more mouths than they can afford to feed. "During Cyclone Phani, we distributed Rs 20 lakh worth of relief material just for them," shares Selvin who has been working with them for three years now. They had even established a community-based education center with seven teachers, who are currently helping with the distribution of relief material.
Maintaining social distance | (Pic: VIEWS)
After the Coronavirus is wiped out, the 41-year-old wants to persuade the government to help establish a government school in the area so that with it, comes education, more awareness and midday meals for children. "This is a dream close to my heart," he says emotionally.