Reena (name changed) picked up the phone when it rang. Upon listening to the familiar voice of her beloved Sheetal didi, the Social Mobiliser from Room to Read, and her mentor, tears started rolling down her cheeks and she started howling.
Reena, a student of Grade 8, has been a beneficiary of Room to Read’s Girls Education and Gender Equality Program since 2017 in a small village in Tilda block of Raipur district in Chhattisgarh. She explained to Sheetal didi that her parents, daily wagers who had gone for contract work to Hyderabad, were stranded there due to the lockdown. She was alone at home along with her elder brother (in grade 12) and younger brother (in grade 4), fending for their survival by themselves at this age.
The children had no means of contacting their parents and could only pray for their safety. However, the extension of the lockdown put them in dire straits as they were left with no food, no money, no guardian, and no way of contacting the guardian either.
A worried Sheetal (SM) explained to Reena the various contingency measures by the government to help the needy and advised her to contact the local authorities. With the life skills training received from Room to Read’s Girls Education Program about critical thinking, Reena put her training to practical use.
Along with her older brother, she met the members of the Gram Panchayat (the local village-level administrative unit) and shared their problems. She firmly requested a constant supply of food material provided by the local government. Much to their excitement and relief, the Panchayat provided the essential food materials and their immediate problem of getting food was resolved.
Though the financial problems continue, Reena ensured the basic survival of her family during this coronavirus pandemic with the help of the skills she had learnt. She was also helped by the thoughtful, but accurate and timely, advice of the Social Mobiliser who was reaching out to all the beneficiaries of the program and enquiring about their well-being.