The following was written by the Rev. Jane Anitha, manager of Siloam Girls’ Boarding Home in Tamil Nadu, India, where 470 girls are sponsored by LPGM.
Hundreds and thousands of women and girls in India – who are already struggling with poverty – are now forced to an uncertain and dangerous future because of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Life at Siloam was going happily until this outbreak. The girls were assured of good food, hygiene, shelter and peaceful living, often filled with joy and smiles. The older ones were preparing to leave campus after graduation a few days away. The tenth grade were serious in preparing themselves for their public exams. The younger ones were as usual in chatting and playing, and the elementary students were like the others. This was the condition when the lock down was announced on March 24.
The Risks Many Girls Face
In the beginning we thought about retaining the girls in the boarding home, as risks may increase for girls at home. They may not get three full meals a day. Washing hands can be difficult without access to water or sanitation facilities. There are possibilities of living in groups, as many of the girls’ parents are contract building laborers. This may lead to exposing themselves to these infectious diseases.
During their normal vacation, most girls go home and work with their parents and help earn income. This may get worse during this period, as girls play a major role in collecting food and feeding their families. The burden of buying food from markets will be shouldered by girls and women of the family, increasing their exposure to the virus.
During visitors’ days at the boarding home, we often see girls visited by only their grandparents. So remaining at home during this lock down may also force them to take care of the elderly and sick, who are more prone to this disease.
The saddest thing is that the lock down in India is often monitored by drone cameras. Many girls don’t have a roof for their bathrooms and toilets, and many don’t have bathrooms and toilets, so take baths in a well or under a bore well pump and go to an open field for their nature call.
There is also high risk of abuse, and access to supportive agencies might also be difficult for those being abused and raped.
Although we hesitated to send them home, we had to obey the government order. After giving students guidance, advice and awareness, with a heavy heart we sent the girls home and closed down the boarding home.
As days passed by, the government announced it would be extending the lock down.
Meeting Anushya, Omshakthi and Sivaskathi
As I serve as a pastor in a very poor village congregation, I’ve been able to distribute raw food materials to the most deserving widows, widowers and poor families of my church.
When I got 75 packets of donated raw food materials I went to the village, where I met three sisters from our boarding home: Anushya, Omshakthi and Sivaskathi. Their parents are in Delhi, but because they can’t afford to travel that far they’re forced to stay with distant relatives. These relatives already have three children on their own and these additions are a burden to feed. They’re struggling for three meals a day and basic necessities like sanitary napkins.
With tears in her eyes Anushya saw me and came and hugged me. I went to the house where they’re staying and gave them raw food materials and 1500 rupees ($20) to meet their daily needs.
They wanted to talk to their family in Delhi, so I made a phone call. Their older sister, Manimegalai, was also sponsored by LPGM and graduated from Siloam in 2017 but couldn’t continue further studies. The family has eight children and live in a very small house in a Delhi slum. Manimegali assists her mother as a house maid. They’re the only two bread winners of the family, as the father has physical ailments that keep him from working.
Pastor Jane writes that she wanted to share this story to show how great God is. Her ministry among the girls at Siloam has been a consistent and faithful witness to God’s holistic love for years. It shows up in new and unique ways during a crisis like the coronavirus has caused.
If you’d like to support Jane’s ministry – and the efforts of the entire Arcot Lutheran Church – during this pandemic, please consider sponsoring a student. Your sponsorship provides education, care and shelter during the school year, and helps support additional needs when students are at home. Or make a special gift to help us respond to COVID-19 with all our partners around the world.
LPGM is continuing to support our partners and programs during this time to ensure that all the women, girls, men and boys we serve have the resilience they need to get through this crisis and return to school in a safe and timely manner. Read more about how COVID-19 is affecting programs.