2021 is a frightening year to be living in an Indian slum. Pre-pandemic, slum life was already precarious. Relying on a small daily wage for the day’s food means that any minor medical or economic setback can leave a family starving. But during India’s catastrophic 2021 Covid wave, day labourer slum families faced a new and gut-wrenching reality: ‘No wage – no food – no existence’.  

Our long-time partners in India, Saahassee, were one of the first we turned to when India’s crisis hit the headlines. With calls and emails from people wanting to help, we set up a fundraising page, and donors started giving generously.  

Using funds we raised, Saahassee began purchasing and distributing emergency aid packages. The descriptions they shared were heart-breaking. “As we started the distribution, we were pained to hear the struggles of their Covid journey,” they wrote. “It was a deluge of suffering. Almost every household recounted immeasurable sorrow and grief.” Over and again, people told them they couldn’t access oxygen saturation meters or masks for sick family members and they couldn’t afford ambulance transport or hospital fees. Loved ones were dying as a direct result. Trauma was rife through the community. “Children appeared stiff, scared, listless and lost,” said our partners. “Some children have lost both parents. It’s been a harrowing time.” 

For nearly a decade, these friends have served in a small pocket of a huge slum that houses 400,000 people. They run strategic programmes, empowering women to start businesses, working with children to help them stay in school, and more. It’s because of these years of relationship-building that now, amid fear of Covid and mistrust of other authorities, people trust these staff enough to let them help. 

The packages they brought were a literal lifeline. They were filled with essentials such as beans, lentils and oil, as well as school materials for children in lockdown. “The Covid-affected families have been so thankful for the relief provisions, as they take a deep sigh, knowing that they will not have to beg for their next meals,” wrote staff. “This assistance has eased every single home’s anxiety for survival.” 

Funds raised through Crossroads’ appeal helped 2,728 people with food packages and children’s home learning packs.  

While the pandemic created significant difficulties in shipping goods directly to India, we were able to match goods for India remotely through our Global Hand service for Covid relief: oxygen concentrators for hospitals and 150,000 face masks, offered by a medical manufacturer in China. We’re so grateful that donors like these, and the people who gave to our India appeal, allowed us to help, even when shipping goods ourselves was impossible. 

Milind’s story

“The chaos in our slum was frightening,” recalls Milind, aged 35. “We were left with no savings and we were struggling to afford a daily meal. Milind and his two nephews, whom he cares for, received emergency assistance through Crossroads’ relief appeal. The family are mourning his grandmother, who died of Covid-19 and the boys’ parents, who both died. “I and my family don’t know how to express how relieved we were to get the one-month ration supplies, which allowed us to not only grieve but to think in peace.” 

Asha’s story

29-year old Asha lives in the Pune slum where one of our partners works. “Our lives and financial situation were completely wrecked by Covid-19,” she said. When her husband fell ill with Covid, she raced from one hospital to another in a rickshaw, until finally with Saahassee’s help, they found a bed and he eventually recovered. It was a traumatic time for the whole family, and Asha was deeply grateful for her emergency pack of food and children’s activities as they were isolated at home. “I still cannot believe it,” she said. “It was a double provision for my family. Games and story books helped my children deal with their distress, sense of isolation, neglect and loneliness.” 


Want to do more?

Your gift can help us continue to serve those struggling through the pandemic, both in Hong Kong and globally. Click here to find out how to become a sustaining donor or give a one-off gift.

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Trying to do school online can be an uphill battle for children from low-income families, like Jiahui, who’s just starting Form 6 in Hong Kong. Jiahui’s family income is just enough to cover rent and essentials. It’s simply not enough to stretch to buying a new computer for Jiahui to learn from home. In a Mingpao article featuring Crossroads, Jiahui said that during the Covid-19 school closures, she struggled to manage online classes using just her small mobile phone screen,  until she received her own donated computer. Now, she says, studying is five times more effective than it was before.

Across the city, thousands of grassroots Hong Kong students are at an instant disadvantage when schools close and lessons go online. Together with our partners, we’re helping close that gap for students like Jiahui. With significant support from partners like the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust and Microsoft, as well as companies who both donated computers and volunteered to process them, Crossroads’ computer team has prepared and given out more than 600 computers to Hong Kong students in need throughout the Covid-19 school closures.

Hang Seng Bank, who also donated computers for the campaign (picture above), sent volunteers from their company to help process and format the donated computers for students.

We’re hugely grateful to volunteer services Hands On Hong Kong, Easyvolunteer.hk and Social Career, who were all strategic in helping source individual and corporate volunteers from organisations like Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group (pictured above), fast-tracking the process.

Want to help Hong Kong students in need?

If you or your company has computers to donate for students in need, we’d love to hear from you! Visit www.goodcity.hk to donate or email enquiries@crossroads.org.hk to discuss.

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“War, poverty, refugees, modern-day slavery. Many people look at global issues, and long to see change occur. But can one person’s life really make a difference? Yes!”
David Begbie, Director of Crossroads’ Global X-perience

It was a mighty goal: running a full-day conference for 180 students and staff at a large international school in Beijing, with workshops, talks from international experts and complex discussions. Crossroads’ Global X-perience team was planning to travel and be there in person, until Covid hit and the entire event changed course to an online conference.

Our team worked closely with teachers to deliver the conference with interactive elements across the day. Spokesman David Begbie addressed the whole school (pictured above), as well as doing a live Q&A, and they showed personalised video talks from speakers like former child soldier David Livingstone and peace campaigner and author Zak Ebrahim. The students and teachers workshopped together on ways that they could engage with these urgent issues.

“Students were captivated by the speakers, participated with lots of passion during the discussion portion and had some great questions during the Q&A,” said the coordinating teacher. She said that the students are now fired up and keen to take action, ready to incorporate what they’ve learnt into their major projects for the year.

In these unpredictable times, schools are having to pivot to new and uncharted ways of learning. Crossroads is here to help.

Online and offline options

As of October 2020, we are taking bookings once more for some of our experiential simulations, with limitations around Covid-19 health and safety. However, we can also help your students can engage with important world issues online. Email globalx@crossroads.org.hk to talk!

Video resources

We’ve also prepared a range of videos on issues of poverty, which you can use freely in classrooms here:

How has Covid-19 impacted orphans, refugees and children at risk around the world?

How is Covid-19 affecting fair trade producers?

How is COVID-19 affecting people in poverty?

The challenge of water access around the world

For younger children, we’ve taken our Silk Road Storytime sessions online! You are welcome to use the videos at the links below, which include stories and crafts that encourage preschoolers to be empathetic global citizens:

Crossroads Silk Road Storytime – The Magic Paintbrush

Crossroads Silk Road Storytime – Biblioburro

Crossroads Silk Road Storytime – Circles of Hope

Crossroads Silk Road Story Time – One Hen

Crossroads Silk Road Story Time: The Colour of Home

Crossroads Silk Road Story Time – The Snail and the Whale

Want to talk further?

Start the conversation about how we can help your school connect with a world in need. Email globalx@crossroads.org.hk

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It’s hard not to grieve over the streets of Pattaya, Thailand, with the exploitation and other tragic stories usually written there. The business ‘booming’ on its streets is largely sex work: a massive industry which provides a means of survival for an estimated 35,000 women and men. Not all want this kind of work. Some are pushed into it by the financial need of their parents, even their own spouses, in order to pay the bills. With the arrival of Covid, though, the bars closed and, suddenly, thousands were destitute without access to some of the official safety nets.

One of Crossroads’ partners, Tamar Centre, was established to reach out to sex workers. “It’s devastating,” they told us. “Thousands of people lost their jobs when the bars needed to close during lockdown. Now the bars have re-opened but many have been bankrupted already because they don’t have enough customers. Every day we hear about more bars, shops and restaurants closing. Every day more people are on the streets without jobs. Those who have the least are just left with no one caring for them. The situation will continue to get worse,” they said. “All we can do is help.”

When we spoke with Tamar staff, they were in the middle of an intensive food package campaign, trying to meet some of the urgent immediate needs of those they care for.

Their work goes far deeper than daily bread, though. They teach new skills to women who want to break out of the sex industry, and employ many in their cafe, shop, salon and other projects. They even visit the home villages of women to help educate families there about the risks of trafficking and falling into prostitution when seeking a new life in the city.

We’ve partnered with Tamar for many years, selling their handmade cards in our Handicrafts shop, produced by women transitioning out of the sex industry. When their business was crippled by Covid, they reached out to us with a suggestion: what if Tamar‘s workshop were to create Crossroads’ 2020 Christmas cards? “If you would place this order, it would give us the opportunity to employ many women for this, and would give the women a job and an income,” they said.

So, we placed our order! The ball is rolling, and they have already started employing some of the women in their projects to begin work on our 2020 cards (pictured above), ready in time to spread much-needed joy to the world at Christmas.

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When Covid-19 started to spread in Hong Kong, health and hygiene products flew off the shelves. It became impossible to buy the things that everyone needed most to stay safe. For those at the grassroots, particularly vulnerable elderly, it was extremely difficult to find these high-demand goods.

We were so grateful to have supplies in our warehouse of donated soap, hand-wash and healthy fruit juices. When NGO Manna asked Crossroads for help with these very goods to assemble packs for the elderly, they were very pleased to take a large supply. They immediately started distributing them to Kwun Tong elderly in need (pictured at right), as part of their Covid-19 support projects in February.

Through this challenging season, it’s an ongoing honour to keep teaming up with both goods donors and hardworking NGOs, helping each other walk with the most vulnerable in Hong Kong.

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“We have to laugh,” said a slum dweller whose face could not have been more serious, “when people tell us that family members with Covid should be isolated in their rooms. When you live in a slum, you all live in one room. It’s nonsensical for our situation.” Tragic and bitter humour, his words were haunting.

Growing up in the slums around Antipolo, Philippines, life is about crowded living quarters, with families squeezed into one-room homes where all home activities take place. Diseases spread quickly, and family tensions are hard to escape. For children from these families, a high-quality education can be the key to breaking the poverty cycle.

We’ve shipped several times to partners in Antipolo whose schools goes beyond the ABC’s. It comes to the whole family, with parent seminars on nutrition, parenting and life skills, and all children are taught that they’re valuable and worthy of a thriving future.

When Covid-19 hit, all schools had to close. For children in slum homes, without computers or even internet access, online learning is impossible. Our partners didn’t want to stop the children’s education, though, so they needed a plan. We, happily, could be part of it!

Wonderfully, we had been donated monitors by Bank of America in Hong Kong, and desktops by DHL. They were included in a shipment we sent late last year, and these very computers are now being used to produce video materials and lessons for children from the slums to study from home.

“All our teachers now have a desktop in their classrooms and staff are provided computers at home so communication is easier,” our partners told us.

The staff prepared packs for families to collect: worksheets, stationery, schoolwork, and a tablet for each child, loaded with videos and materials created on the teachers’ donated computers. “Since the poor families can’t afford internet, we load it onto a microSD that we provided and they watch it on a tablet we provided,” they told us.

In the past, we’ve loved helping these partners with such goods as school furniture, educational toys and aid for displaced people after the Taal Volcano erupted. Now, with Covid wreaking its havoc, we are thrilled that these computers are now being used by these creative, dedicated teachers to invest in the lives of children in need.

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