iNDICA News Bureau-
The world has changed greatly since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. While metropolitan dwellers have generally adjusted their lifestyles to overcome the initial communication challenges, their lifestyles were not altered drastically.
The same does not hold true for rural communities – particularly the poorer communities in India. The pandemic took a particularly cruel toll of them. With several lockdowns and school closures, the rates of child marriage, trafficking and labor spiked, accompanied by increased incidence of malnutrition, gaps in learning and abuse of girl children.
These are problems that require intervention, but the government – already burdened with an economic downturn and coordinating massive Covid relief efforts – has not found the time to address this yet.
Child Rights and You (CRY) is one of the organizations that stepped up to fill this gap, and the efforts of the dedicated social workers were honored at CRY’s annual ‘Heroes for Life’ gala series this year.
Spearheaded by celebrity actor Vivek Oberoi, the gala series ran from May 14 through May 22, with sold-out events in the San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego, New York City and Houston, and a virtual event in Seattle.
This year’s fundraising total smashed previous records, raising over $1 million. Oberoi appeared alongside Lalithamma, director of the People’s Organization for Rural Development (PORD), which is one of CRY’s flagship projects in Andhra Pradesh.
Lockdowns and closures produced peripheral ills affecting children. Through awareness campaigns and supply distributions, PORD stopped 62 child marriages, and its vaccination drive resulted in zero Covid cases among children in Andhra Pradesh districts.
CRY America CEO Shefali Sunderlal noted that project workers were given special permissions by the Indian government as essential workers during the pandemic and they went the extra mile to ensure that challenges faced by their communities and children were addressed.
She said, “Our project workers risked their lives to undertake community awareness programs on Covid protocols, distribution of PPE kits, and ensure testing and vaccination efforts across their villages.”
The importance of the work done by these workers cannot be understated, and CRY oriented their plans around this work.
Other innovations implemented by CRY America projects included “bridge schools” – supplemental classes to ensure children caught up on missed coursework; home/community kitchen gardens to improve nutrition among children; and the organization of “children’s collectives”, where girls and boys meet to talk about pandemic-related anxieties, hopes and future plans.
CRY America’s donors were charitable in their donations and their contributions were received with gratitude. Oberoi, speaking at the New York City gala, said “the world is full of two kinds of people – those who need help, and those who can help. Every time you find yourself among those who can help, you need to count your blessings.”
CRY America is a 501c3 registered nonprofit that supports projects in India and the U.S. that ensure access to education and healthcare for underprivileged children, as well as protection from child labor, early marriage and trafficking.