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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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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It might not look like a treasure chest. But the 40 foot shipping container outside the only school in Kamwokya slum is filled with valuables that are changing Ugandan futures, one child at a time. Children in the densely packed, dangerous Kamwokya slum once had nowhere to go to school, while their parents went to work in surrounding neighbourhoods. Now, this school is a beacon of hope, educating 2,000 pupils, not just in academic subjects but in life skills, job training and children’s rights.

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They struggle with very few resources, though. We responded with the shipment sent by Fund Managers, Asian Bankers and Brokers Awards (FABBAs). As a result, the school library in Kamwokya is now filled with text books, the boys’ soccer team wears uniforms, the students sit at new desks and chairs, and some of the poorest students, who previously slept on the floor, now have soft new mattresses and warm blankets. All have a new zeal to attend school each day.

 

It’s FABBAs – our largest single donor in 13 years – who made this possible. At their 2013 banquet, FABBAs raised a staggering HK$1.5 million for Crossroads’ operations and international shipments.

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Uganda Snapshot

Population: 37.58 million
Capital: Kampala

Uganda is a fertile, land-locked country in East Africa, in the Africa Great Lakes region, with a tropical climate.

Great progress has been made in fighting HIV in Uganda, but 1.5 million people still live with the disease, and there are 1 million children orphaned by HIV/AIDS.

39% of girls are married by the age of 18. 37.7% of people in Uganda live below the international poverty line of US$1.25/day.

A6

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Mikono Refugee Crafts is based in Kenya.

All Mikono handicrafts are made by refugees from Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Uganda and Mozambique. Most of these refugees are slum dwellers with the desire and the need to earn a living. Their status does not allow them to find jobs easily but through Mikono they are given the opportunity to use the skills acquired from their home country to make handicrafts that are sold to help support them and their families. Thank you for changing the lives of African refugees through your purchase of a Mikono product!

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Browse Global Handicrafts’ full online range here or visit our shop at Crossroads Village to walk through our colourful global marketplace, with even more handmade delights from around the world, all of which care for the people who made them.

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Harriet is 14 years old and lives in a slum in Uganda’s capital, Kampala. Six years ago, Harriet’s mother died, leaving her and her three younger siblings in the care of their father. Just two years later, their father abandoned them, as the children slept at night, and has never been seen again. At the age of 10, literally overnight, Harriet became the head of her household, comforting the wails of the frightened little ones, and knowing she had no means to feed them or pay her rent.

There is just one large government school operating in the slum where Harriet and her siblings live. This school, though, is working hard to be a force for change amongst the area’s young people. 1890 students attend the school, which is primary, yet has students as old as 15, who are only now getting the chance to complete 6th grade.

 In their 16 years teaching children in the slums, the school has developed some remarkable programs to address the deep needs of, not only the children in their classrooms, but the youth and adults in the surrounding slum area, densely populated with 14,000 people.

Harriet and her siblings were some of those identified by the school as in need of help. The school appealed to their donors and the local community for any help they could offer, and people came forward with clothing and money to pay the rent for Harriet’s small slum home.  Once the children were in school, the staff began the process of matching them up with a local older woman in a ‘granny’ program, whereby elderly people living alone are matched up with children living alone, to offer stability, love and guidance. Life for Harriet’s young family has not been mended overnight, but they, and hundreds of students like them, are in a far more empowered position to support themselves in the future because of the work of this school.

The school asked Crossroads to send a container of goods to help their work in this Kampala slum. They needed more text books, exercise books and books for the teachers, computers, recreational equipment, school uniforms and other clothing that can be given to the poorest children, and others in the community, and more. The goods that we were able to send helped the school continue its existing programs, and also reach its goals for expanding their work to establish an orphanage for the most vulnerable children, enhance their programs in adult literacy amongst the students’ parents, and a more comprehensive handicrafts program for the older students.

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