New Delhi: A health crisis that has caused immense economic distress due to lockdowns, the COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be a threat to life and livelihood. In these difficult times, 49-year-old Heena Mandavia and her 26-year-old son Harsh have been serving homecooked meals free of cost to the poor and needy in Mumbai.
Ms Mandavia started a tiffin service, ‘Harsh Thali And Parathas’ in 1999 after her husband died in a car accident. Last year, when the pandemic hit, this mother-son duo converted their tiffin delivery kitchen into a ‘feed the needy’ service. They started feeding the hungry during the first lockdown and during the second wave of the pandemic also they continued to cook tirelessly and feed the hungry. Ms Mandavia said,
I started a tiffin service in 1999, my son was six years old and at that time, I did not have grains, vegetables or even utensils for providing people a tiffin. But I had to do something for my and my son’s survival and so with the help of my neighbours and friends I managed to start my business. Many strangers had also helped to reach the level where I am today. Because of this I always wanted to do something for the society. Always wanted to give back.
Talking about the journey of their ‘Feed the Needy’ initiative, Harsh said that there is always some worry about getting infected as they are required to go out to serve people but knowing that a lot of people need their help motivates them to keep their fears aside and do their duty. He shared that they started feeding people for free after one of their regular customers inspired them by asking them to feed 100 people on his behalf. He said,
In the month of May last year, I got a call from our regular customer who told me that he wants to feed 100 poor people. But he didn’t want to step out because of the COVID-19 pandemic. So, he asked us if we can go out and feed them. That was the first day when we went out and fed the people outside a Gurudwara in Malad. On the same evening, I put up an appreciation post on social media along with pictures and videos of the food donation drive. That connected us with the people online and people started donating money from all over. After that we have not looked back and every day tirelessly, we cook and serve over 100 meals.
Ms Mandavia and her son have served more than 27,000 meals in the past 13 months that has covered more than thousands of poor people including those living in slums, old age homes, orphanages. Harsh added,
We also try catering to people from different segments of the society like watchmen, rickshaw drivers, garbage collectors among others who couldn’t get food while working during the daytime.
According to Ms Mandavia, the initiative also aims to provide employment to a few women who lost their jobs during the pandemic. She said,
That was a big thing for me, because I have been through the same situation in my life. A lot of people helped me to reach the level that I am at today. So, I thought I want to help some ladies too.
Poonam Patil who is a teacher and her husband, a make-up artist by profession lost their jobs due to the pandemic. For many days they faced financial problems. Ms Patil was then employed by Ms Mandavia to help out in cooking for her initiative. Ms Patil said,
Because of the pandemic, we lost our jobs and there was no source of income. Thanks to Heena ji’s initiative, we are able to get some work and earn some income and are able to do our bit in helping the needy during the difficult times.
According to Harsh, the initiative has been receiving financial support from all across the globe. He said that to help them continue and expand their food donation drive, over Rs 27 lakh has been raised so far through social media. He said,
The encouragement that we have been receiving helped us feed the poor and spread smiles even during challenging times like these.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.
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