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.” 


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Celia, of Chile, knows a thing or two about honey. A mother of five, Celia lives in the Valdivia region of southern Chile, in a rural community where work is scarce and education is lower than the national average. Celia’s future has brightened since she joined the beekeeping co-op that supplies honey to Fair Trade snacks, Geobars. According to Geobar, this Fair Trade Chilean honey co-op pays the best wages in the area, bringing changes like fresh water to drink and toilets close by: things we might take for granted, but which, for seasonal farm workers in Chile, are often the exception!

The changes in Celia’s own life have certainly been real. “My dream would be for all my children to finish high school. I hope that they will study further. Because of this, I’m trying to find ways to increase my beehives. That will be my source of money in case any of my kids want to go to university and then I can support them,” she says.

The sweet thing about Geobars is that honey is only one of their delicious Fair Trade ingredients! “When you’re eating Geobars, you’re also kitting kids out for school in South Africa, helping beekeepers and their communities to thrive in remote, rural Chile and giving fruit pickers in the mountains of Pakistan a much fairer deal,” says Geobar. Now, those are words that make our hearts sing, too!

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West Africa is a hot-spot for chocolate slavery. Children as young as 8 can be found putting in back-breaking days wielding sharp machetes or handling hazardous pesticides. Few children on chocolate farms attend school.

Where Divine’s cocoa is grown, things are different. The women who work with their supplier in Ghana, cocoa cooperative Kuapa Kokoo, care as much about investing their communities as they do about the cocoa they produce. The extra income generated by fair trade operations benefits not just the farmers, but the area’s children, like Jennifer (below).

When Jennifer was younger, she had to make a difficult choice: to live with her family or to go to school. Even though the closest school was 2 hours away, education was important to Jennifer and her family, so she left home and attended school far away, knowing it was the only way to reach her dream of becoming a nurse.

Today, though, Jennifer no longer has to make that choice. Her area is home to Divine chocolate’s cocoa supplier Kuapa Kokoo. With fair trade premiums invested by the women of Kuapa, new schools have now been built in Jennifer’s village. She can live with her family again, as well as get the education she needs to become a nurse and care for people in her community.

Global Handicrafts sells a wide range of Divine’s chocolates, including our larger 100g blocks and powdered drinking chocolate, as well as the snack-sized 50g bars available in-store!

* Story and photos courtesy of Divine chocolate.

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In the isolated region of far western Cameroon, village women could see that their children were getting sick too often. They would break bones easily, had discoloured teeth, and the distended round bellies that indicated malnutrition. “Almost everyone in the village was malnourished,” said a visitor conducting assessments. It wasn’t until an NGO began to run education programmes in their district, especially for mothers and grandmothers in the community, that the women realised the diet they were feeding their families – almost completely consisting of carbohydrates – could be making them sick.

Women cooking class“It was not that they did not have the food needed for a healthy diet,” one NGO staff member told us, “but that they did not know how to go about it.” After running seminars on food and nutrition (left), they saw the women eagerly learn what kinds of proteins and vegetables would give their children a balanced, healthy diet. Now, families in these Cameroonian villages grow beans and smoke fish to eat with their plantains and grind peanuts into paste for a nutritious, protein rich food, even growing enough to sell at market. It’s basic knowledge that has revolutionised the health of the community, meaning less sickness, fewer children dying early, and women better empowered to take care of their families.

These nutritional seminars, which have reached more than 800 families, and counting, are just one of the transformative programmes run by the NGO. They teach communities to keep bees for honey, they help with the basic needs of orphans and vulnerable children, and they give regular radio broadcasts educating people about HIV/Aids, and more.

They have now asked Crossroads for a shipment that will help them reach out to more people in western Cameroon. “Our offices are inadequately equipped,” they write. They need office furniture and computers, school furniture and clothes to help community children, and other goods. “98% of this area is cut off from anywhere else,” they told us. There is no road at all leading to much of the region.

We’re excited to be bringing this shipment together to support their work in isolated communities that is, literally, transforming and saving lives.

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Cameroon Snapshot

Population: 22.25 million

Capital: Yaoundé

Cameroon is in the west Central Africa region, with natural features including beaches, deserts, mountains, rainforests, and savannas.

Although the country as a whole has improved standards of literacy and healthcare, there is still a long way to go. Less than half of children go on to secondary education, and over 40% are involved in some kind of child labour. In rural areas, less than half the population has access to clean water and sanitation.

Cameroon_S2893_5

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