One car, 4,000 meals: How father-daughter duo in Goa fed those in need
Being under lockdown and confined to four walls is frustrating for most. But for Pankaj Kumar, who has always been a busy man, it was completely alien. However, rather then let his frustration get the better of him, he chose to venture out.
For two weeks across the month of April, he drove daily from his home in Assagao in North Goa to Vasco in South Goa and then to Bicholim back in North Goa to help ensure that those in need could get one square meal a day.
With government agencies struggling to put in place the arrangements for hundreds of people who found themselves without work and without food, stranded in the state, Kumar and his daughter Hiya Nandini began pooling together resources -- daily necessities like rice, atta and oil -- even before the government could mobilise, to ensure that no one went hungry.
“All my life I’ve been extremely busy, but the lockdown kept me isolated within the four walls of my house while at the same time I began hearing stories of people being trapped in Goa without food and water. But what really got me to step out was a story about a man whose wife was pregnant and didn’t have access to food and water. That’s when we stepped out,” Kumar recalls.
Over the next few weeks, Kumar began arranging for food to be delivered to the areas where migrants were being held up be it in temples or later in government shelters where they were provided accommodation but not food.
“I used to drive up and down in my car one and a half hours everyday for the first few days until the government began to get its act together and arrange food. Even the deputy collector was surprised that I was doing this,” Kumar said.
“I did what I could and that was to try and arrange for each of them to get one meal a day but the number kept growing. I used to deliver at Vasco da Gama and Bicholim where the labourers were being housed and the number of people soon grew to around 400-500,” Kumar recalled.
“Wherever I tried to help, I used help of a local panch member or a government official in order to reach out to more people,” he said.
As the government began to step in, Kumar began inquiring in his own village of Assagao and soon realised that there were many people including senior citizens staying alone.
“Now since the government has stepped up its outreach and things have also opened up, we have focussed on two old-age homes as well as those who are in need in Saligao, as well as in my village of Assagao,” Kumar recalls.
So far, Kumar has ended up spending around ₹2 lakh on sourcing and distributing the food with a little help from his friends as well as starting a crowdfunding platform through the Ketto website.
“It has been a very fulfilling experience, I used to volunteer during my early days with the Missionaries of Charity. These are people who even on a normal day struggle and manage to get by. I thought that I might just handhold them through the crisis,” he said.
“There are many who are willing to help but do not know where to start,” Pankaj says.