Principal Rallies His Community to Serve 10,000 Cooked Meals to Seniors During 40 Days of COVID Crisis in India

A union territory in India with lovely beaches and serene streets is one of the most attractive weekend destinations for busy folks in Southern India. While normally offering a mélange of culture and heritage, Puducherry’s currently-deserted beaches are sufficient to indicate the magnitude of the COVID-19 crisis here.

But, one man has taken to heart the idea that ‘a crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things we could not do before.’

“This phrase has proved absolutely true for me,” said Sasi Kanta Dash, PhD, who has recently completed 40 days of food distribution to the elderly.

Principal of Tagore Government Arts and Science College in Pondicherry, he has been serving hot meals to those confined in their homes during the local lockdowns which started in March.

“It had been my dream to give back to society and the nation. My soul guided me to take the first step. I took the initiative of channelizing the positive energy of the local people and started with feeding 250 people on day one,” Dash told GNN.

“We didn’t know the extent of the lockdown when it was announced for the first time on March 24th,” Dr. Dash continued. “But the immense satisfaction at the end of the first day catalyzed the actions for the future.”

A volunteer visits with food and supplies

Starting with a WhatsApp group of senior citizens who were unable to visit a pharmacy for medicine due to closures in public transit, Dash began to deliver prescriptions to those self-quarantining.

For about 15 days after that he took to bringing families packets of essential cooking supplies like rice, sugar, salt, oil, assorted vegetables and dal (a dish of lentils and beans).

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Gradually the word spread and a few local organizations came forward to support the efforts. A helpline number was set up to receive the calls requesting help.

Along with elderly and daily-wage earners who are unable to eat if they don’t work, Dr. Dash’s charitable mind turned also to the “section of our population dependent on the alms offered by places of worship and other commercial and public places,” after which his operation expanded to those villagers within a 10 kilometer radius of the beach town.

The kitchen in his campus of Tagore Government Arts and Science College is one of the kitchens being used to cook food for people, and his team currently provides groceries for 600-700 families, as well as catering for 250 people of 14-15 different villages.

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“Today, June 3rd, we have entered the 40th day of food distribution and more than 10,000 meals have been served. The food is prepared under the supervision of volunteers to ensure quality, hygiene and nutrition content, and we have a group of 20 volunteers who have come forward to extend their support.”

Dash family photos

An advocate of a clean and green economy and environment, Dr. Dash also works as an organizer and member of numerous planting and cleaning drives in Puducherry.

For readers familiar with Indian cuisine, Dash’s delivery and catering are certainly fortunate in that they get to enjoy dishes like mushroom pulav, egg biryani, karakkuzhambu, groundnut rice, veg pulav & biryani, laddu, and bananas.

THIS Man’s Generosity Can Feed the World (With Inspiration)—SHARE on Social Media…

Need more positive stories and updates coming out of the COVID-19 challenge? For more uplifting coverage, click here.

Maasai Nature Conservancy Asks For Help To Fight Pandemic—And 100,000 People Answer

The rolling plains of the Maasai Mara in Kenya are home to the famous red-cloaked Maasai people as well as some of the most charismatic animals on earth.

When it became clear COVID-19 would destroy the tourism industry of the Maasai living in the breathtaking Nashulai Nature Conservancy, the tribe petitioned Avaaz, a website connecting local people-powered movements, to try and organize a response call for help.

As a result, 100,000 people raised money to help pay the rangers’ salaries, ensuring that the critical Nashulai elephant migration corridor remained safe from poachers. The money was also enough to secure sanitation and medical supplies and food for the Maasai community there, so they could survive the COVID-19 storm.

About 3,000 people live inside the boundaries of the 6,000-acre conservancy, with another 5,000 living in surrounding communities in traditional Maasai villages where they rely mostly on their cattle for food and money.

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In 2016, Nelson Ole Reiyia and Margaret Koshal Reiyia placed a project on Avaaz to turn their home into a Nature Conservancy. “Avaazers” around the world chipped in with hearts and wallets to launch the Nashulai Maasai Conservancy, an innovative way to help the Maasai maintain their traditional way of live in a harmonious way with the land.

The Conservancy created a way to bring outside capital into the community through offering safaris and camping, as well as cultural homestays and other events.

Nashulai Conservancy – nashulai.com

These community programs brought increasing opportunities for education, established greater food and market security, and needed sanitation facilities.

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The Maasai are famous warriors, and the conservancy established a mighty force against poachers. Professional rangers and young warriors called “moran” who are trained in bush practices, now serves as “The Warriors for Wildlife Protection”, monitoring the animal populations and protecting against poaching.

The Modern Maasai Facing COVID-19

COVID-19 has put much of this in danger. The tourist infrastructure, which 90% of all the Nashulai Maasai depend on for income, has completely collapsed.

The community library has been repurposed as a storehouse for medical equipment—and rationing of food supplies like cornmeal and cooking oil has begun.

With help from Avaaz they’ve been able to pay the rangers’ salaries, and import much needed medical and sanitary supplies.

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“We’ve worked hard to create this unique conservancy, and we want it to be there for the people in their deepest moment of need,” writes Nelson Ole Reiyia on the Nashulai website.

Generous persons can still donate to their COVID-combating activities directly on the website, which are tax deductible contributions for the U.S. and Canada.

WATCH the video…

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Need more positive stories and updates coming out of the COVID-19 challenge? For more uplifting coverage, click here.

Rival Gangs in Cape Town Agreed to An Unprecedented Truce—and Together Bring Food to the Poor

South Africa has seen a 75% drop in violent crime during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, rival gang members in Cape Town are teaming up to collect and distribute food and essential goods to those in need.

“What we’re seeing happen here is literally a miracle,” Andie Steele-Smith, a pastor who works with gang members in the community, told BBC News.

Before the pandemic, South Africa had some of the highest violent crime rates on the continent. But now, new circumstances have created changes that are leading to a silver lining.

The government has imposed some of the toughest quarantine rules in the world, including banning alcohol and cigarette sales. The economy has taken a beating—and the gang members were feeling the effects as much as anybody else.

“I got a phone call from two gang leaders, both saying ‘Andie, I’ve never asked you for anything but we are starving’,” the Australian-born pastor told BBC News. “And I just thought if these guys are starving—they are at the top of the food-chain—the rest of the community is going to be in serious, serious strife.”

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Andie hatched a plan that would not only meet the needs of the community in the moment, but also show these young people a new sense of purpose in the world. He asked members who would normally be trying to kill each other to work together toward a common goal: providing food and vital supplies, such as soap, to those in need.

Preston Jacobs, a member of the “Americans” gang, told the BBC it “feels nice” to be doing something positive for the community. “Now I see there are nice people also, and people want to love what we’re doing now.”

Andie Steele-Smith

Sansi Hassan of the “Clever Kids” gang expressed hope that the truce would become permanent, saying: “If it can stay like this, then there will be no gang fight,” he said. “And every gang will agree with us.”

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Andie, a former banker who moved from Sydney to South Africa to become a pastor five years ago, expressed pride in what these young men are doing. “I’m proud of you guys. Literally, if I died today and went to heaven I would die a happy man.”

(WATCH the BBC video below)

Need more positive stories and updates coming out of the COVID-19 challenge? For more uplifting coverage, click here.

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Irish People Are Repaying Debt of Gratitude to Suffering Native Americans 170 Years After Potato Famine

A repayment of gratitude 170 years in the making has rekindled an affectionate bond linking the Great Irish Potato Famine of almost two centuries ago with a Native American tribe in Oklahoma suffering today from the coronavirus pandemic.

In 1847, when Ireland was experiencing years of starvation due to a potato blight, the North American Choctaw tribe joined a compassionate campaign in the U.S. to help these strangers an ocean away.

Despite their own suffering, having been forced to relocate hundreds of miles from their native land, the tribe pooled their pennies and raised $170 (almost $5,000 in today’s currency) to send to the Emerald Isle through a relief fund.

Returning the Kindness

Today, the Navajo and Hopi tribes have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Their high rate of infection is thought to be due to a lack of running water in one-third of all homes and shortage of groceries, forcing families to leave the reservation for supplies.

To finance a plan to provide bottled water and other supplies directly to the reservation, a GoFundMe campaign was set up by Navajo and Hopi families. Now, almost $2.7 million has been raised so far, with many donations flowing in from Irish citizens expressing gratitude for the help they received so many decades ago.

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“Ours is a debt that can never be repaid, but please consider this a small token of love and solidarity from your Irish brothers and sisters. Praying for the strength, wellbeing and prosperity of your community always” said Caroline Kelly, adding a Gaelic message of unity. “Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine.”

“When the Choctaw people had nothing, they gave Ireland all they could at a time when we needed it most. I know it’s not much, but I hope this helps our friends in their time of need,” added Ciaran Mc brearty.

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“Sending Irish blessings, hope, faith and love to our dear Native American brothers and sisters whose ancestors gave us hope in our time of need so many years ago, too,” wrote Aoife Galway. “Thank you agus sláinte, Aoife ☘❤”

Honoring the Choctaw

Three years ago, a soaring silver monument to honor the donations from Native Americans was unveiled in County Cork, Ireland—and Choctaw leaders were invited to the grand unveiling.

Asked about his inspiration to create the huge stainless steel sculpture of nine eagle feathers, the local artist Anex Penetek said, “I wanted to show the courage, fragility and humanity that they displayed.”

The financial support continues to pour in, hour by hour, along with messages of solidarity linking two cultures who uniquely know the meaning of widespread suffering—and the value of supporting one another through it.

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Lithuania Allows Restaurant Seating to Expand Into Streets and Plazas to Safely Reopen its Vibrant Old Town Cafes

The Lithuanian capital of Vilnius is supporting its vibrant café and restaurant culture through the coronavirus pandemic by designating all public spaces as open air cafés, allowing restaurants to stay open and serve customers while observing physical distancing guidelines.

With just over 1,000 cases and 44 deaths from COVID-19, the Baltic nation is staging a tiered exit from its lockdown by allowing restaurants with outdoor seating, hair salons, and most small retail stores to reopen.

Social distancing is still in full effect, but that’s no problem for the intrepid restauranteurs, baristas, and bar owners in Vilnius’ old town of Senamiestis, because they can place their tables as far apart as they care to do, utilizing the narrow streets and small plazas.

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“Plazas, squares, streets… Nearby cafes will be allowed to set up outdoor tables free of charge this season and thus conduct their activities during quarantine,” said Remigijus Šimašius, the mayor of this charming town, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

According to The Guardian, over 160 restaurant, café, and bar owners have signed up for the program that has opened 18 spacious public areas for outdoor seating, promising to add more spaces to the list as the summer progresses and the exit from the lockdown continues.

“It came just in time,” Evalda Šiškauskienė of the Lithuanian Association of Hotels and Restaurants told The Guardian, who added that it would help “accommodate more visitors and bring life back to the city streets, but without violating security requirements.”

Vilnius by Victor Malyushev

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Another ray of good news sunshine in Vilnius came when public health workers were recently rewarded with food and drink vouchers for city restaurants (€400,000 in total) as a gesture of gratitude for their hard work and public service in the face of COVID-19.

This is just one of many positive stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

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Across Canada, Scaremongering Becomes ‘Caremongering’ as Citizens Help Each Other In Challenging Times

Anyone who pays attention to mainstream media, especially these days, has experienced “scaremongering”—but what about “caremongering”? Even as I write this article my spelling software suggests that I change caremongering into scaremongering—because there has never been such a word.

Well that’s no longer the case, since Toronto residents Mita Hans and Valentina Harper set up the first of what now totals 35 Facebook “Caremongering” groups to help out people in Canada during the coronavirus epidemic in Halifax, Ottawa, Ontario, and Annapolis County, Nova Scotia.

People are joining the groups to either ask for help or offer help—particularly to people most susceptible to or most at-risk of the more serious symptoms of COVID-19.

Between the 30,000 caremongers of the 35 groups, a “Candemic” attitude has served to reinforce the image of the Canadian kindness.

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“Scaremongering is a big problem,” Harper tells the BBC. “We wanted to switch that around and get people to connect on a positive level, to connect with each other.

“It’s spread the opposite of panic in people, brought out community and camaraderie, and allowed us to tackle the needs of those who are at-risk all the time—now more than ever.”

On the Toronto Caremongering Facebook group, 10,000 members regularly write either one of three typical posts: #ISO which stands for “in search of,” #OFFER posts, where people offer goods or services to people trapped in self-isolation, and #SHOPS which gives info about shops that are open or stocked.

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However, there are also discussion posts like introductory video that Harper posted earlier this week about how learning the Cree language can be something that people can do while self-isolating.

“I think there is an international belief that Canadians are so nice,” she said. “And  I think there is something Canadian about this because as our population is small as a country, there is a tendency to look out for each other, even if there are a few bad apples who buy all the toilet paper!”

This is just one of many positive stories and updates that GNN is churning out with their COVID-19 news coverage this week. Click here to see more uplifting coverage.

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Canada’s First ‘Dementia Village’ is Helping to Change How People Care for Seniors With Alzheimers

This cozy little Canadian community may seem like an ordinary village on the outside—but in actuality, it is the country’s first village designed specifically to accommodate people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The British Columbia community, which is simply called The Village, hosts several dozen cottages, businesses, and shared living spaces for up to 78 patients.

Shortly after construction began on The Village in March 2018, Elroy Jespersen—the vice president of special projects at Verve Senior Living and the mastermind behind the Village, told CTV News that he wanted dementia patients to feel the same amount of independence as their able-bodied counterparts, saying: “We believe that it’s really important for people to be connected to nature and life and the outdoors.”

The Village now gives them a controlled space in which to live their lives, free of the stressful feeling of always “running into a locked door”.

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Although residents are free to roam throughout the gardens, restaurants, and facilities of The Village, the 7.5-acre community is protected by an 8-foot fence around the perimeter of the property.

Residents are also required to wear “wellness bracelets” which uses Bluetooth technology to keep track of their locations.

The initiative draws inspiration from Hogeweyk, a similarly-designed community in the Netherlands which was declared the world’s first village for dementia patients. The compound features everything from supermarkets and stores to restaurants and gardens.

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Since The Village opened in Langley back in August, it has already welcomed several dozen residents. Not only that, CBC says that there are similar initiatives now being implemented in South Vancouver and Comox.

Although housing rates for The Village range between $7,300 to $8,300 per month, its management is now conducting research on the project’s efficacy in hopes that it will eventually spur the government to help fund its operations and make its care model more affordable to the Canadian public.

(WATCH the video tour of The Village below)

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Guy Gives Up Christmas With Family So He Can Rally His Town to Feed 75 Stranded Travelers

Some bad weather turned into the “best Christmas Day ever” for one Canadian who chose to give up hours of holiday fun with his family to help 75 stranded strangers.

High winds diverted a WestJet airline on Dec. 25, a flight intended for St. John’s, Newfoundland that only made it as far as Deer Lake on the other side of the island province—roughly 400 miles (600 km) from its destination.

Local resident Brian Snow was friends with one of the passengers and realized that due to the national holiday, all the restaurants and shops in town were closed.

On top of that, the hotel where almost 80 people had been dropped off had no restaurant. Mr. Snow, who happens to be the community services coordinator for the Salvation Army, posted a call to action on social media: “Let’s show the true Christmas spirit.”

Within an hour, the Facebook post was shared 60 times and the community had spontaneously organized a delightful potluck in the hotel lobby. Residents brought sandwiches, platters of their own turkey dinner leftovers, freshly baked breads, and, of course, lots of cookies and desserts.

“I, as well as my entire family are beyond thankful for the beautiful souls who helped make a Christmas away from home just that much better!” wrote Kate Sexton from St. John’s, with gratitude that her aunt and uncle were being cared for.

With their bellies full and their spirits renewed, the kindness from the Deer Lake community didn’t end at the dinner table.

Dave Power, one of the stranded passengers who was flying with his wife to be with family in St. John’s, told CBC News, “When we finished eating, they said as soon as you’re ready, let us know, and we’ll take you to the airport.”

They organized a motorcade to get everyone back to the airport for their delayed flight.

“It was truly like a ‘Come from Away Christmas’,” said David’s brother Robert Power on Facebook. “That’s what the season is all about.”

Power was referring to the Tony Award-winning musical Come From Away, which tells a similar true story of the small Newfoundland town named Gander where nearly 6,600 passengers were welcomed after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 grounded 38 planes there. The famous news story details the efforts of community members in Gander and surrounding towns who took care of the thousands of travelers in churches, schools, and community centers for several days.

The loving care displayed by Deer Lake residents left some passengers ”bawling.”

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