Covid-19 has altered our everyday lives with widespread lockdowns and stay at home orders in an effort to slow the transmission of the virus. On 6th March, the local Government in Delhi directed the closure of all primary schools in the capital. This was followed on 19th March by the direction to close all educational institutions.The consequences of these school closures have not only been the interrupted learning of our students, but it also raised concerns regarding their compromised nutrition, the consequent economic cost to families who could not work, and spread of the virus due to low awareness.The lockdown to contain the virus’s spread has hit these households the hardest, not only due to the consequent loss of incomes and livelihoods, but also due to the crowded and unhygienic surroundings in which they are forced to live that often have little to no access to municipal facilities such as running water, sufficient toilets, or adequate sewage lines.
The Ramakrishna Math and Mission is a religious and spiritual organization that carries out extensive educational and philanthropic activities in India. Branch centers outside India, known as Vedanta Centers, were established to promote harmony between Eastern and Western thought, and to recognize the truth in all great religions of the world.From its inception the Ramakrishna Mission has been dispensing relief services in response to natural & man-made disasters, and epidemics in India. Its sources of inspiration are Sri Ramakrishna, Ma Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananda and their IDEAL is ‘Atmano mokshartham jagat hitaya cha’, ‘For one’s own spiritual realization and for the welfare of the world’.
The Mission’s relief service is characterized by their commitment to the ideal, outstanding organizational network, and over a century of experience in providing humanitarian relief.Its organizational network through branch centers, volunteers, and suppliers of relief goods enables it to meet the immediate and long term needs of victims affected by disasters. Immediate needs include distribution of food, clothing, medicines, and arrangement of temporary shelters. Long-term needs on the other hand range from constructing-houses and shelters to economic rehabilitation and follow-up programs. (See https://belurmath.org/)
With stay at home orders and mandatory lockdown in India, branches of The Ramakrishna Mission immediately started relief activities for low-income and underprivileged families. On March 29th, a Sunaayy volunteer who lives in the United States and closely associated with the Vedanta Center of Greater Washington DC approached the center to reach out to the Ramakrishna Mission in New Delhi for relief assistance for Sunaayy families and children. Swami Atmajnanananda, resident Minister of the DC center immediately emailed Swami Shantatmananda, Secretary of the Delhi Ashram and introduced him to Sunaayy’s founder, Richa Prashant. Within 24 hours, Swami Shantatmananda made all necessary arrangements to distribute 450 boxes of cooked rice, rajma (kidney beans) and sweets (desserts) amongst Sunaayy children recently.
Sunaayy’s founder Mrs. Richa Prashant acknowledged Swami Atmajnanananda, “In these distressed times, your words to Swami Shantatmanandaji to support our families and children meant a lot to us. It added new life to the lesser privileged souls stuck in despair. Swami Shantatmanandaji went out of his way to provide food for the children and we are extremely grateful for his generosity.”
Swami Atmajnanananda responded to the food distribution saying “I am amazed that Swamiji acted so quickly. It is really wonderful. I am very happy that you will be working together.” Subsequently, Swami Atmajnanananda met with the board of trustees who unanimously agreed to generously donate much needed funds to Sunaayy for which Sunaayy is most grateful.
“We feel blessed and appreciate the kindness of everyone in DC that came out in support of Sunaayy and the families we support” added Mrs. Prashant.