When India first locked down for the pandemic, thanks to support from ICA, the MCF team was able to quickly mobilize support for families who overnight found themselves without work, food or other basic supplies. The bal sangathans — village-level children’s groups — helped their facilitators identify the families in need and connect them to government services. Where that was not possible, MCF provided supplies including rice, lentils, cooking oil and basic spices as well as soap and sanitary pads for the girls. The many years MCF has spent teaching the children and their communities about hygiene and sanitation also paid off as the children were able to remind their elders about the importance of proper handwashing to avoid catching and spreading the virus. Through all this, the young people, working collectively through their bal sangathans, have been reaching out to help others in their communities.
As the lockdowns lifted, it became increasingly clear that food and sanitation were not the only needs. Children were out of school and separated from their friends. So MCF started reaching out with ways to provide social and emotional support. The children made drawings and recorded videos to share their thoughts about the coronavirus, and sent them to the MCF. Every child who participated received a certificate and many of their submissions were featured in a colorful children’s magazine called PABAM, is a short form of Parvatiya Bal Manch (Mountain Children’s Forum). The children and staff of the Mountain Children’s Foundation believe that perhaps the greatest thing we can offer our struggling compatriots in these incredibly difficult times is an outstretched hand, the reassurance that they are not alone, and the promise we will get through this together, and are “deeply grateful to ICA for helping make this happen.”