Meet the Good Samaritans who went out of their way to feed the hungry amidst COVID-19
“As long as poverty, injustice, and gross inequality exist in our world, none of us can truly rest.” - Nelson Mandela
Every year, on July 18, we observe Nelson Mandela Day. The Noble Peace Prize winner and former South African President had dedicated his life to make poverty, food insecurity, and social injustice problems of the past.
This year, the occasion is celebrated with the theme, 'One Hand Can Feed Another'.
In the past year and a half, the COVID-19 pandemic aggravated poverty and widened inequality globally. While some lost their family and friends, many also lost their livelihoods.
However, several Samaritans rose to the occasion to ease other’s suffering.
This Nelson Mandela Day, we celebrate all those individuals who took responsibility to not let their fellow beings go hungry. Here are the stories of five individuals who fed others amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chef Daman Shrivastav
Chef Daman Srivastav and his daughter (Image: Twitter)
Daman Shrivastav is an Indian-origin chef in Australia who has been delivering free food to the homeless and stranded international students amidst the pandemic.
The 54-year-old grew up in Delhi and later moved to the Middle East, where he fed thousands for free during the Gulf War in Iraq.
He has been serving people selflessly throughout the pandemic. Along with his wife and daughter, Daman cooked about 150 meals a day in his home kitchen and distributed them to homeless people in his car.
In fact, during his initial days in Australia, he experienced poverty, homelessness, and hunger, and thus, he wants nobody else to go through the same fate.
Philem Rohan Singh, a young cyclist from Manipur, is the founder of ‘Cycling for Humanity’. When the pandemic broke out last year he started providing food for 50-60 people each day.
In February 2021, he expanded his campaign to Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, and Delhi, feeding over 4,000 people.
Moreover, he cycled across the country, spreading awareness about COVID-19 protocols and the ‘new normal’ and distributed meals. He lived with his friends and relatives in each city he travelled to and got good quality food at decent rates from restaurants and hotels.
He also received support and donations from several individuals and organisations to continue this work.
Subramaniyan Potty S
As the COVID-19 lockdown was imposed, several restaurants and small eateries shut shop and people were restricted to their houses. This led to many stray dogs going hungry overnight.
Seeing this, Subramaniyan Potty S, a police officer from the Neon police station, Kerala, started feeding dogs around his locality and place of work.
He started this initiative after coming across extremely malnourished dogs in his neighbourhood, which broke his heart, and he wanted to do something about it.
He spends Rs 200 each day on his furry friends as he doesn’t want to give them food waste. Even when he is on a leave, he ensures the dogs are fed by his colleagues.
Malleshwar Rao with the ration packets to be distributed.
Malleshwar Rao from Hyderabad hails from a poor family of farmers. Heavy rains destroyed all their harvest in 1998, and all they were left with was suffering, poverty, and hunger.
Despite these hardships, the 27-year-old is now actively working to curb hunger. He sources food from eateries, PGs, hostels, and weddings and distributes 500 to 2,000 food packets per day.
He started the initiative ‘Don’t waste food’ in 2012, which has now been registered as a non-profit.
In fact, he expanded his work during COVID-19 by providing oxygen cylinders, ration kits, and cooked meals for the needy. With donations, he was able to serve 20,000 meals to people every day and also distributed about 4,000 food packets to dogs.
Seeing his work, Hyderabad-based travel agency NK Travels donated 25 vehicles for two months to help him distribute the food.
Dr Tapas Panda and Rajashree Panda
Representational image (Credits: Pexels)
During the devastating second wave, Odisha-based couple Tapas Panda and Rajashree Panda travelled for over 100 km, providing food to over 60 COVID-19 hit families every day.
The food packets contained rice, chapattis, fried veggies, dal, and curry. Initially, the couple had started helping a few COVID-19 hit families, which later rose to 60 families every day. Besides families, Tapas and Rajashree also helped out many single individuals who were self-isolating at home.
Rajashree cooked four times a day to prepare such a large number of meals.
He was inspired to take up this cause when he saw his friends go into depression and hopelessness once infected with COVID-19. They lost all motivation to cook or eat, and he knew he had to do something to make their journey easier.