Norfolk charity founder talks of India Covid fears
The Norfolk founder of a Christian charity helping vulnerable people in slum communities in south India has spoken of her fears with the rising Covid-19 crisis in the country. Keith Morris reports.
Retired hospital chaplain, Rev Canon Pat Atkinson from Brundall, has worked with the slum communities in Kerala in India for more than 30 years. Her charity, the Vidiyal Trust, currently works housing street elders, educating children, supporting leprosy families and helping cancer patients.
Pat said: “Until this week we were hopeful that our people would be safe. I was last there in March 2020, it was apparent then that a crisis was looming, so we took early action. We moved our most vulnerable street elders out of our residential home in to a remote rural village, where, thank God, they have remained safe.
“We leased that home to another city charity, the rental from which has enabled us to provide lunch packets for the children with cancer we care for in a small hospital - minimal food is available in the hospital and parents unable to leave to buy food. Before the real impact of Covid-19, we also supplied the paediatric oncology unit with purified water containers, which are filled daily, as well as hand sanitizers, masks, oxymeters and PPE for our staff.
“Within our slum community we have continued daily lunch for our elders and children, providing 150 meals every day. As from this week, to avoid cross-infection, we leave lunch parcels in our slum hut for collection,” said Pat.
“Setting up our systems early was invaluable through the first wave, and we had no infections. However, the second wave is beginning to hit the area. Today (April 28) we have four of our slum elders infected and have just heard of the death of the father of one of our trustees, his whole family are infected. “
Pat can’t return to India at the moment but is in daily telephone and video contact.
“The most difficult thing for our staff and volunteers when I talk to them is a feeling of helplessness as they balance the risk of cross-infection with wanting to help individuals,” said Pat. “Vaccination has been an issue - there has been so much misinformation about the effects of the vaccines that many of our elders have refused. I had myself videoed receiving my second dose, which persuaded a few - but many remain unprotected and I fear the consequences.
“Financially thanks to our wonderful sponsors we can cope, but please pray for our elders and children, for our staff under immense emotional strain - we have cared for some of our elders for many years - In an overcrowded slum area with limited water and sanitation, no electricity and temperatures in the late thirties they are the most vulnerable.”
Pictured above is Pat Atkinson with some of the street elders in Kerala state.