Balenahalli, the land of the Jenu Kurubas is a step back in time. Life there is very primitive, the people are simple and guileless. One wonders how the community survives without even the basic essentials that we take for granted. No electricity, no proper sanitation and more importantly, no education to lift them out of their abysmal poverty. A tribal people, they are used to foraging in the forest to supplement their diet and seek employment in the neighbouring plantations/estates as agricultural labourers.
It was a pleasure to meet the JenuKurubas of Balenahalli once again. For the last 10 years, our team has been working among them, providing them with sanitation and health and hygiene education. So far, with contributions from our generous donors, we have built 38 toilets-cum-bathrooms for the community, with another 25 to go.
With the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic, their world has collapsed. With the lockdown in force, employment is impossible. With no income or savings, food is scarce and the tribals were facing extreme economic distress.
With the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic, their world has collapsed. With the lockdown in force, employment is impossible, they are mostly daily wage workers and coffee plantation workers. With no income or savings, food is scarce and the tribals were facing extreme economic distress. Thanks to our generous donors, we were able to raise enough funds to extend a helping hand to the tribals of Balenahalli. As is our practice, all the required permissions were taken from the police and other authorities to ensure that we are in line with the government directives.
72 families were identified and we placed the order for provisions at Nammangadi, in Hunsur where everything was packed into the bags on 17th May 2020, and made ready for distribution. Unexpectedly, Mr Mahadesh, the ex-President of Aspathrekaval Panchayat donated a huge quantity of tomatoes, green chillis, brinjals, lemons and biscuits to add to the essentials that we had ordered. There are 30 villages that come under the purvey of this Panchayat and Balenahalli is one of them.
The fresh vegetables were an added bonus for the tribals and each family was apportioned 4 kgs thanks to the kindness of Mr Mahadesh. The items provided by our organisation were 20 kgs rice, 2 kgs dal, 3 kgs onions, 3 kgs potatoes, 2 kgs sugar, 1 kg jaggery, 1 kg salt, 250 gms tea, 250 gms chilli powder, 200 gms turmeric, 200 gms sambar powder, 250 gms garlic, 150 mustard, 2 bars of dishwashing soap, and 2 bars of bath soap. The bags were then loaded into trucks and taken to Balenahalli for storage until the distribution the following day.
The location chosen for our distribution activities was Balenahalli Government Higher Primary School. At 7 am, our field staff Manju B swept and cleaned the grounds with the help of the local community, Samson and Rowena, our volunteers. Social distancing circles were marked and next, our team left to pick up the bags of provision and vegetables. The local tribal youth pitched in to load the bags into the vehicles and our team set off to begin their distribution activities.
At 3 pm, Mrs Srishaila, the Panchayat Development Officer, Mr Nazirullah, a local Panchayat member, Mohan, the Panchyat Secretary, Mr Kallaiah and Venkatesh, the tribal community leaders, Aspathrekaval Panchayat President Mrs Pushpa, Mr Santhosh from Hunsur town police, ASHA worker Mrs Puttalakshmi, and the masons who worked with us to build the community’s toilets were all assembled at the school along with the tribal community and our staff.
After a speech by the PDO, local Panchayat leader and tribal youth leader Shivaraj, the distribution began. We spaced it out by distributing to 20 people at a time, with a gap of half an hour between distributions. The tribals were overwhelmed to receive so much towards their welfare and were very happy and thankful. 2 families were given ½ a bag extra as they had more family members. They once again expressed their gratitude for the toilets built to improve their sanitation, the school renovations, and mentioned that no one else has ever supported them in their time of need.
Our staff were highly motivated by the entire exercise. They felt that the relief activities at Balenahalli tribal village can be used as a model for other locations also.
We continue to plan for more COVID relief activities. So far, we were able to distribute in total to 135 members with food packets worth Rs. 1500/- each. If you would like to be a part of this either by service or donations in cash or kind, please write to email@example.com. Watch this space for more stories of COVID 19 relief.