COVID-19: Good samaritan reaches out with food for the displaced during the lockdown in Kochi

PA Mary Anitha is providing food for street dwellers, migrant workers and the policemen on duty during the Coronavirus lockdown in Kochi

March 28, 2020 05:16 pm | Updated March 30, 2020 05:26 pm IST - Kochi

PA Mary Anitha in Kochi

PA Mary Anitha in Kochi

“If it was to feed people in distress for a day I would make biriyani. But this has to go on for 21 days till the lockdown is over,” says PA Mary Anitha who is leading a community-feeding programme in Kochi. Along with a team of volunteers, she is providing food packets for street dwellers, migrant workers and the policemen on duty. A clinical psychologist, Mary founded the Centre For Empowerment and Enrichment in 2007 and opened branches in Ernakulam, Thiruvanathpuram and Malappuram.

“I began this centre mainly to bring the needs of differently abled children into the forefront,” says Mary, who also started a project called ‘Unity Me’ that focuses on their medical and financial needs.

During the 2018 Kerala floods, Mary opened a kitchen that cooked and served food for nearly 2,000 people in different relief camps. With a network of friends and volunteers, she even reached out to remote areas in Wayanad. As soon as the Coronavirus scare began and restrictions in movement were imposed, Mary was quick to connect with her network.

PA Mary Anitha’s group

PA Mary Anitha’s group

“We have to be careful of personal distancing and not assemble in one place, so I had to work out another strategy,” says Mary who cooks for a 100 people daily and organises food packets through her network for another 200.

She recalls the first day, March 12, when she began providing snacks for the policeman on duty at Vyttila junction. “While all the focus goes to people who are in distress, we tend to overlook the caregivers and the people behind the scenes. Our policemen are working round the clock to serve us, so I began with them.”

Her two food distribution points for migrants and street dwellers are at Kaloor and Ernakulam Boat Jetty. Mary not only provides food but also ensures that every person receiving taking a parcel washes his/her hand thoroughly and uses hand sanitiser. “We have to make them aware of the importance of this habit too,” she says.

Her network of volunteers was built through her three counselling centres, which have 3720 families registered. The families of the special children help her cook, collect and deliver food. She also has the support of her family - husband and three children - in her work.

This operation required careful planning. “I have data on the numbers of people who need food. Without that I would not know how much food to organize.” According to her, there are 126 slums in Ernakulam district, 32 in Kochi city and approximately 800 migrant workers. At Kaloor, she provides 225 food packets and 100 at the Boat Jetty.

The menu is simple: rice and green gram gruel while the policemen get banana fry, bread roll or kolkuttas for snacks . Another social group, FACE, sponsors tea.

Mary has been working closely with the police force for past several years, addressing them on subjects like psychology, “mostly on stress relief”, motivational talks and sensitisation.

Contact Mary Anitha at 94464 44222

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