GSM and the Covid-19 Emergency

What is happening in Mumbai? How is the Good Samaritan Mission dealing with the health emergency? Has the Covid-19 affected those living in the GSM homes?

Many of our supporters are asking for news since our media rarely report on India and merely list numbers of daily infections, which are indeed very high. There is no particular coverage, except for a few quality magazines such as Internazionale.
Mumbai remains the most affected Indian metropolis and the entire country is now close to 100,000 deaths; however, the figure is vastly underestimated, as are the number of contagions. People are dying mainly in slums, around railway hubs and in rural areas, and not only because of Covid-19, which complicates an already problematic health situation, but also due to the impossibility of eating.

In a previous report, we described how the closure of railway stations had prevented any activity for the homeless living near the railway tracks in Dadar, Victoria Station and other hubs. The central and Maharashtra governments are trying to contain the contagions with partial lockdowns and, therefore, most trains and buses are still stopped. The situation is so serious since the Mumbai area, like other megalopolises, has been on lockdown from March until July, allowing some businesses to slowly reopen.
What is more, the same government that had ensured a supply, albeit minimal, to many families, has excluded the outcasts, children included, namely the ones born and raised on the streets who, for this reason, are not recorded at the registry office and, therefore, do not exist for the authorities. These are individuals with no identity, yet familiar to Peter Paul, since many of the children who now live in the GSM come from these very streets, children who escaped from the shadow of non-existence through education and social inclusion.

An indispensable support

Peter Paul and the older boys of the GSM continue to bring basic necessities to the homeless in the stations and in some forgotten slums.  And not without taking risks. In addition to the other influenza coronaviruses, this coronavirus has entered the mission mildly affecting some girls and boys but seriously affecting Sangeeta, the woman who has been looking after the homes for more than 20 years and who lives in the Silvano Niwas. The Vikhroli district remains a red zone, people have died, the hospital nearby is full of sick people, and oxygen supplies have run out with dramatic consequences. Sangeeta herself preferred to take care of herself at home, isolating herself on the top floor for three weeks, when she finally began to feel better at the end of August.
Now she seems to be recovering, and her breathing problems, fever and other Covid symptoms have disappeared.

The Good Samaritan Mission remains a protected place where rooms are carefully sanitised. The older girls and boys pay attention to hand hygiene and encourage the younger ones to do the same. Face masks are used systematically, and the children avoid going outside.
School is done remotely, and teachers have provided a few mobile phones for the children to be able to connect with them.

Dalla GSM News

Peter Paul Raj receives prestigious award

A surprise announcement stated that the International Institute of Education & Management honoured Peter Paul Raj, founder of the Good Samaritan Mission in 1994, with the Asia Pacific Achiever Award.

Peter Paulwas conferred the award, namely a certificate of excellence, for his achievements in the field of charity towards the poor.
The ceremony took place on October 28th, 2020 in Delhi remotely, i.e. via Zoom, due to the Covid-19 emergency.

The prestigious award came after years of activities and sacrifices, thirty years if we also consider the time spent by Peter Paul with Mother Teresa. A steady commitment in which the many happy moments have also been accompanied by difficult ones, not least this health emergency that calls for the missionary and his teenage boys to be in the front line to feed the poor who crowd the streets of Mumbai.

Dalla GSM News

A happy ending story from the GSM

Despite the Covid-19 emergency and the subsequent lockdown, at Good Samaritan Mission life flows like a gentle yet rushing river. Former children are now achieving independence, and it is exciting to see them grow not only on each annual trip, but also through weekly video calls.

On November 26th, 2020 we celebrated the wedding of Pinky, a 22-year-old young woman who, after graduating from high school, found a job as a saleswoman in a clothes shop in a shopping centre. Against all odds,economic stability and her love for Ravi, a boy she met at school who is now employed in a company, accelerated the wedding right in the year of the pandemic.

I first met Pinky in December sixteen years ago. She was not even six years old. She came to the Good Samaritan Mission from the street with her father, the only two survivors of an unfortunate family. Her arrival in Vikhroli made me think of the last survivors after a catastrophe. This is a recurring image. The ailing father was housed in VJ Ashram, the home of the dying and mentally ill with no possessions and a faded past between station platforms. The little daughter, instead,was lodged in the almost adjacent Silvano Niwas – The Girls’ House. A blessing, the last act of love of a man who, by handing over his daughter into safe hands, had eventually succumbed to death.

In the GSM Pinky has built solid friendships and a deep relationship with Sangeeta and Peter Paul. A year and a half ago she left the Silvano Niwas to go live with Kalpana and her three sisters, a group of independent working girls who had grown up in the GSM and changed their destiny (another story that is worth being told soon).
Pinky, unlike many other girls, did not celebrate an arranged marriage. On the contrary, she met, dated, and finally married Ravi with the blessing of Mami Sangeeta and Peter Paul. Her family is not wealthy but lives with dignity in the hope of a better future for their children, far from the hunger and misery of the slums.

We wish Pinky and Ravi all the best. Covid permitting, next year I will visit them too, bringing the best wishes of all my Italian friends.
(Alessandro Leone)

Dalla GSM News

La piccola Vibha ha cominciato a frequentare la scuola materna

Vibha, in divisa scolastica, all’entrata della scuola materna

Vibha, la più piccola ospite della Good Samaritan Mission, abbandonata in missione a soli due mesi il 15 ottobre del 2019 ha compiuto tre anni. Vera e propria mascotte dell’intera Silvano Niwas, adottata a tutti gli effetti da Mami Sangeeta, che da ventiquattro anni aiuta Peter Paul nella gestione delle case, Vibha ha indossato per la prima volta un’uniforme scolastica per frequentare ciò che in Italia corrisponde all’asilo. Come è possibile intravedere nella foto, i bambini la mattina entrano e prendono posti tra i banchi proprio come poi accade con il passaggio alla primaria.

Vibha è molto contenta della sua scuola, perché può fare attività pratiche, preparare piccole coreografie, giocare insieme ai coetanei, imparare la lingua ufficiale dello stato del Maharashtra, il marathi, oltre ad affinare l’hindi.
Vibha apprende con grande facilità, agevolata da un ambiente dove vivono adulti e ragazze grandi. Riesce per questo ad esprime in inglese semplici concetti. Infatti sia Peter Paul che Sangeeta le parlano costantemente in questa lingua così importante in India, consapevoli che in adolescenza sarà fondamentale per il suo percorso di studi.