It’s India’s turn in the ongoing pandemic saga.
Locked down women being abused, kids being thrown across rooms, children missing out on exams, charities barely surviving, food shortages, poverty woes and government sanctions, but once again through it all, the good will of particular individuals shows us the way of humanity.
We’re updating on our article of three years ago about the charity known as Goa Outreach, who at the time, needed just one sewing machine to make pencil cases for the children they were supporting and encouraging in order to get an education for a better life than that on the streets as trinket vendors or peddlers.
That article was called: The Pen, A Case and the Sewing Machine, but this is about now in the year of the pandemic 2020.
Article written by Hazel Arnold.
If you Googled that article and have read it you will know exactly what Goa Outreach is all about, however, it is long overdue for a catch up to see how they are doing now, especially through the pandemic.
The charity is run by Robert Lyon who works tirelessly encouraging around one hundred and fifty families to keep their children in school. An ongoing project every year is to raise funds to provide the children with bags, pens and pencils. He also supports the families by giving out monthly health packs and promoting cleanliness as a lot of the children live in poor conditions. To find out more you will find a live link to their website in the footnotes: https://www.goaoutreach.org/
Rob responded within a day to bring us up to speed. He explained the lockdown came quickly and without notice. Families that rely on daily wages and with no savings were hit the hardest, with no income to pay rent or to buy food. All the shops were shut down so even the ones that had a little money were in desperate need. The consequences of venturing out, if caught by the police, was being subjected to a beating. Rob, with help from the older students, was out everyday delivering food parcels and news of his help spread fast and so too did the amount of families that were in need.
You can find Rob's daily account about the challenges being faced through lockdown on their Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/GoaOutreach, but here is one story of a situation Rob encountered.
One of the students asked for help for her sister who was suffering from violent abuse from her husband. She feared for her life when she was kicked in the ribs and beaten with a metal pole and her two year old child had been thrown across the room. Rob gave her a place to stay for a few days while she healed from her wounds. He offered some options for what she could do, such as informing the police, but she felt it would make things worse for her as she had nowhere to go. Rob also explained to her that other women had suffered the same sort of fate and had found a way to break the cycle of abuse.
Eventually she returned to her husband and Rob continues to monitor the situation but now the woman knows she does have a safe place to turn to, as well as knowing she is not alone from understanding that other women have suffered in the same way. The full story is on the Goa Outreach facebook page and is Rob's story to tell (the live link is in the footnotes: https://www.facebook.com/911106262253450/posts/3272553022775417).
I mention it because through lockdown it has been much harder for women in this pandemic in these situations. There can be many trigger points that cause an onset of abuse. Living with a short tempered man and not being able to get out of their way because of lockdown. Trouble could spark from either partner not having enough food or drink. Worst still, money issues could set off a flaming row that can end badly, and with plenty of people being laid off from work, this can be a powder keg waiting to go off. Even having children constantly under the parents feet could inadvertently spark tension. There are plenty of other reasons why domestic abuse will flare up, common or obscure, but those come immediately to mind. The same sort of things have already happened in the USA and the UK. Charities that deal with these sorts of issues have been inundated including child abuse charities.
Any women seeking such support may gain help from the charity Women In Need a British registered charity operating in India. Their website is https://www.women-in-need.co.uk/ (live link in footnotes).
Goa Outreach are managing during this time but they usually get support from the many visitors that travel to Goa. However, Rob is very aware people won't be traveling so much in the near future which will have a huge impact on the charity and what they can do.
The school year usually starts the first week in June, yet no one knows when the schools will actually reopen.
Some of the students we met three years ago have gone on to do exams. A young lad named Gopi was one of them and was studying hard for his exams which he passed. Well done Gopi. He has since worked with his cousin in his shoe shop, but has struggled a bit. Rob mentioned Gopi was with him at the time of writing the email back to me.
Acchelal, another student took his exams and passed but missed out on beating Gopi’s mark by 4%. They both got distinctions and they achieved first and fourth in their school. Acchelal is now studying for his final exams and hopes to go on to do his Masters in Commerce.
The good news is over the last three years Goa Outreach students have been achieving top marks, and three of them were named in a local paper. This year Arjun, and last year Garnesh and Gopi, all passed with distinctions.
So you can see how instrumental Goa Outreach is in the work that they do.
The girls Ambrin and Anwashi took the 12th exam also known as HSC Higher Secondary School Certificate which is equivalent to A level GCE in England. They have both continued to study, but have not been able to take the exams due to COVID-19 and are coming up to their final year of graduation. Ambrin travels a lot as she plays kabaddi, a very popular Indian sport, at state level. It's a game of two teams of seven players. The object of the game is for one member of the team to run into the opposing side's court, tagging and tackling the defenders, then run back into their own court without themselves being tagged or tackled. I must say it sounds very energetic. Due to this he doesn't see her so much.
Survanakala sadly didn't pass her exam and stopped her studies although she now works for a pharmaceutical company.
Goa Outreach main needs are donations to help fund the after school centre and provide wages for locals to teach and feed the children.
At the stage of doing final finishing touches to this article, it was brought to our attention that one of the mums of the children was tested positive for COVID-19. Rob had not been in contact with the family for a couple of weeks, but with news of other cases being reported, it was decided safer to shut the after school centre and advise children and their families to stay at home, which is what Rob did in the interests of the whole community.
If in the future you are heading out to Goa, you could contact Rob about school equipment he needs, if this story resonates with you. Goa Outreach would be thankful for any donation you would be willing to give.