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Sambhali during the time of COVID-19
First of all, we at Sambhali Trust hope that all of you are fine, healthy and safe. It is a difficult time for everybody at the moment but we are all in this together. We do pray that everything will calm down in the near future and that we can welcome you at our main office and projects again soon.

Due to the current Corona situation, we have decided to publish one newsletter for both March and April. We have established one new project in the Thar Desert which is our main goal and priority at the moment.


What have we been up to at Sambhali?

After the first cases have been reported in India, the Indian Government reacted very quickly. Shops were closed and people were asked to stay inside more.

When the first schools had to close in Rajasthan, Sambhali decided to close all Centres, both Boutiques and the other projects on 14th March as well. Only the office remained open but limited to work inside as visitors and tourists were already prohibited. From 16th March on, all volunteers joined the office staff and worked on Admin tasks. They were divided into small groups and concentrated on the Trust’s fundraising, branding and social media. The atmosphere was relaxed and small meetings were held throughout the week so that nobody felt alone.

Nevertheless, due to the increasing complications in the volunteers’ home countries and India itself, most of them left us spontaneously. Additionally, the Trust decided to close down the main office on the 20th March, 2020. Since then, all our projects stay closed and the remaining volunteers work on Admin tasks in Setrawa.
Our newest project in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan

Since Sambhali’s main operations stopped on the 20th March, Govind, his family, some friends and volunteers moved to his family house Dev Bagh in Viramdeogarh, Setrawa.

There, all people work together to have a daily routine. Mukta, Govind’s wife and one of Sambhali’s Trustees, sees the current situation as an opportunity to bond and become closer. “We all work together as a team, hand in hand and heart to heart. What we have right now would not be possible in the city as everybody has its own life. Here, we have to count on each other. It works very well. My husband is like a big tree, we all are branches around him and our children are the wild birds chirping here and there. We have many animals around us, from cows and chickens to a horse, that bring new energy into our lives and my family.”

The Guesthouse Durag Niwas and Sambhali’s Headquarter were offered to the local administration in Jodhpur for isolation camps.

After the first 3-weeks-lockdown was announced by the Indian government on the 24th March, Govind found out that some tribal families around his home didn’t have access to groceries anymore. Therefore, Sambhali helped 22 families with food packages for two weeks on the 31st March. One package includes lentils, flour, chili powder, turmeric powder, chai powder, salt, sugar and oil. For a family of 5 to 6 people, it will last 10-15 days and costs around 14 Euros.
A few days later, more and more families asked for support and even walked many kilometers to talk to us in person. With the help of Viramdeogarh’s Sarpanch, our field workers and generous donations, we managed to get all their information and could start to deliver more food kits.

By now, we have reached 255 families in the villages Setrawa, Viramdeogarh, Dera, Happansar and Lawaran and have already given second packages to all. The third round started this week. We were able to not only deliver food to families but to also share some with migrant workers at the Bawkan Government School and people at the Abhaygarh Isolation Camp nearby.

Besides that, some field workers go to each and every home to speak about the pandemic and distribute soaps. So far, they have visited 850 houses.

Around 270 families have been added to a WhatsApp group for legitimate information. The NGO’s toll free Nirbhaya helpline number and some additional ration kits are placed at our main office in Jodhpur for distressed people as well.
Even though it is hard in the summer heat and there’s lots of paper work, our field team and volunteers, both national and international, are doing their best every day.


Bheru Singh, one of our main field workers, is very happy to participate in the new Sambhali project. “I like to be a part of it. It makes me happy to help the people around us who really need it. I like to see them smile and how thankful they are for the work we do. Sambhali Trust does an amazing job”.
Furthermore, Sambhali and Dev Bagh people engage in other activities as well. Following the rules of social distancing and hygiene restrictions, they play cards and volleyball and help in the household.

One of our volunteers, Maigane, has been living in Setrawa since the beginning of January and is now adapting to the new situation: “Our project and aims in the desert have changed since the Government schools have closed. We now participate in the food distribution project which makes us feel useful in this crisis. It is very inspiring to be able to help the vulnerable families in the villages. To see their smiles makes me happy. Co-living with the family and having our own duties in the household allow us to learn more about the Indian culture and their way of living”.

We are thankful to be supported by so many amazing people, whether they are here in the desert with us or anywhere else. It means the world to us and all families around.  
A big thank you to all of you!
To be able to maintain our newest project in the Thar Desert, we updated our Setrawa fundraising campaign on Milaap. We are beyond grateful for all your support. It has made a tremendous difference in the lives of those people! With your help, families from all castes, religions and backgrounds in need receive regular food packages, hygiene articles and general information on COVID-19. One family of 5-6 people is supported by a kit of 90 Rupees a day.

Every donation can make a difference. Our work here is not finished and we still need more support to continue this important mission. Stay tuned for new updates on our campaign and posts on Sambhali’s social media. Thank you so much!

Click this link to help us support desert families during this pandemic: https://milaap.org/fundraisers/support-govind-singh-rathore


NB: On some pictures we don’t wear masks because it is just us being together at Dev Bagh. As soon as people come from outside, we put on masks and keep social distance.
 
Photo credit: Amelie Hocepied, Emma Deutscher, Roxanne Naeschen, Veronika Goepfert
To learn more about volunteering with Sambhali please follow the link below: Volunteer with us
 
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