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Corona Times

While we had to shut down the school about a month before the end of the year, we were inspired to act and try help those most adversely affected by the covid-19 pandemic, namely the migrant workers and vulnerable families.

Implementation of Lock down in India left a large number of migrant workers stranded in cities, often hundreds of kilometres from their homes. As these people were no longer able to work, and in the absence of social security in their temporary residences, they were left with no option but to attempt to return home by whatever means necessary. With public transport coming to a halt, for many this meant undertaking the journey on foot in summer heat. During the initial days of the lock down, Forest Way volunteers were going each day to the highways and arranging food and water for these people as they passed through Thiruvannamalai, and also co-ordinated with the District administration to arrange relief supplies and transport.

At the same time we felt it is imperative to provide back up support to vulnerable families in various villages surrounding our work areas. This has been co-ordinated by the reforestation staff, who have identified those in their communities most in need. While there is government distribution of basic staples, sometimes this doesn't reach everyone. There are also large numbers of people who do not have ration cards and therefore cannot access the dole even when it is available. Typically such people are already the most vulnerable and least equipped to negotiate the bureaucracy. Under this initiative, more than six hundred families have had their basic food needs met or supplemented through our team, in the form of rice, pulses, cooking oil and staple spices, and this is on going. 

None of the Forest Way team have been laid off at this time. The greening team have obtained passes from the local administration that allow them to continue to come to work on the hill and in the nursery. Agricultural work is allowed to continue. Any staff not able to come to work under lock down conditions are being supported to remain at home.

These operations were supported by many individual donors who felt moved to help this cause. To date (end of April 2020), roughly 400,000 Indian rupees have been spent on relief provisions to those in need, covering people from 5 different villages and one urban poor area of Thiruvannamalai town.