Young Indian Catholics helping people affected by COVID-19

In a country which has been brought to its knees, young Indian Catholics are helping people affected by the coronavirus and COVID-19 by handing out food parcels to the poor, cremating the bodies of the dead, aiding those waiting outside hospitals, and donating blood.

Jun 12, 2021

By Nirmala Carvalho
In a country  which has been  brought to its knees, young  Indian Catholics are helping people affected by the  coronavirus and COVID-19 by handing out food  parcels to the poor, cremating the bodies of the dead,  aiding those waiting outside hospitals, and donating blood.

“In the midst of this untold tragedy, the Indian Catholic Youth Movement (ICYM), the youth wing of the Bishops' Conference, has been at the forefront of relief operations in many parts of the country,” said Fr Chetan Machado, executive secretary of the Youth Commission of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CCBI), speaking to AsiaNews.

“The youth threw themselves into the risk of getting infected with the virus and undertook relief efforts to help the needy, the poor and migrants,” he explained.

“ICYM units, besides creating awareness campaign through online digital content like with videos and posters to encourage people to go for vaccination, helped people with their relief efforts, physical help, moral support, monetary assistance and counselling,” he added.

The involvement of young people has given a boost to the lives of many, “helping people in hospitals and with burial and cremation” in a dignified way, showing great generosity.

The ICYM has always led from the front in natural disasters, whether floods in Kerala and Karnataka in 2018, earthquakes in Nepal, or the latest cyclones.

With over 2.5 million members across the country, the ICYM has remained close to the people even in the most difficult of times. And now it continues to do so with people affected by COVID-19.

Rajesh, who belongs to the ICYM group in Bangalore, has helped in cremating and burying COVID-19 victims.

“My parents did not want me to go,” he said, “but it was a noble cause. After helping families cremate and bury their loved ones, I am proud to be called a Catholic youth.”

Robin D'Souza is a young man from Delhi; for him, “Working for COVID relief is an opportunity to reach out to those who have been either cornered or left out due to this pandemic,” he told AsiaNews.

“We have been providing financial and medical aid to the affected. We are dealing mainly with basic ration kits and medicines.”

“I am in charge everyday of verifying the distress calls and when i talk to these people I can hear the pain in their voices. We make sure that no distress call goes unanswered and that aid reaches them in a day or two.”

Leon Saldanha, diocesan president of ICYM in Mangalore, explained that “The experience is different every day. We see people in streets rushing to us for food and the way they thank us is something that cannot be expressed.

“Some are so weak in body  that their faces lit up when we ask them if they need food. We are sure that their blessings and prayers will help us in our life.”

In the case of “middle class people who have a good house to stay but are financially poor because they are out of work, they feel shy about asking for food but their neighbours and other people who are aware call us”.

“We are trying our best to reach out to them. I am sure that God is working through us because from day one we have not fallen short of funds. We get funds on a daily basis, which has helped us go far in 33 days. We are thankful to each and everyone for their support and guidance.”

Jason is from Karnataka. “We saw many daily wage earners and inter-state migrants struggle to get a single meal a day due to lockdown. So we decided to hand out food parcels,” he told AsiaNews.

“We have also started a team for funeral service: Corona Warriors for COVID deaths. We have served not only Catholics but also non-Catholics, according to their rites,” he explained. “These are testing times for everyone, so one has to put ones best foot forward to help people.”––Asia News

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