Million Dollar Vegan’s international food donation entered its third week, as we took delicious, immunity-boosting foods to those most in need across Latin America and in India, while our work in Italy also continued.
Our work in Argentina got underway with aid packages distributed among communities in two separate districts of Buenos Aires – Villa 31 and Villa Cildañez – as well as to 100 families living in two precarious homes in Almagro.
Villa 31 is home to more than 40,000 people and is the area of the city worst hit area by the Covid-19 pandemic. During the first 12 days of quarantine, there were water and electricity shortages, which made hand-washing impossible. In its crowded confines, and with limited mobility, social distancing cannot be enacted. We knew this was a community we needed to help.
With the food supplied by UTT, we put together aid packages for 100 families. Alongside 5kg of fresh organic vegetables, we provided each family with hand sanitizer and masks, as well as information about pandemics and a booklet containing plant-based recipes that could be made simply and easily. Huge thanks must go to Aula Vereda for distributing these packages.
Tragically, the day after we visited Villa 31, one of its spokespeople Ramona passed away after becoming infected with Covid-19. The rest of her family is also infected.
Partnering with Aula Vereda and Centro Cultural Salvador Herrera, we were able to donate 50 aid packages to families living in Villa Cildañez. We met with the community coordinator, Aurora, who works with local families at the cultural centre, and she told us what was most needed: pasta, rice and vegetables, as well as hygiene products. We are glad to be able to supply these much-needed items.
Carmen, one of the residents at Almagro, told us about the conditions there and how the pandemic had affected her neighbors. “The situation in this house is very tough,” she said, “because most of the people here work on the streets or at markets. Some of them also work as housekeepers and now they cannot go outside. There are many elders and people in risk groups.” When asked about the importance of the giveaway, she told us: “This help gives us the will to go on.”
As we passed, another resident called out to us: “Heroes!”
Our Argentina coordinator, Jacqueline found these actions incredibly moving. “It is a mixture of happiness because you can see the families are very grateful for the donations, but it is also very sad not to be able to help everyone who comes looking for food. One of the toughest things during the activity in Villa 31 was having to tell people who were queuing that we couldn’t give them anything, and that the aid packs had already been given out.”
Our work in São Paulo continued this week, with a donation of more than 700 meals in the community of Portelinha, an impoverished area far from the city center.
Again, Pimp My Carroça helped us by picking up the meals and driving them to the community, while Base Colaborativa, a non-profit that works in this community, helped us get the food to the families in their houses. Jobson Gomes from Base Colaborativa told us that they had already been fighting hunger for 40-50 days in this region. “When I received the contact about the delivery of these 700 meals,” he said, “I won’t tell you I didn’t cry because I did. Many of the meals that we delivered today, I know that they were, in many cases, the only food these families ate today. When I see the smiles and the joy of the residents of this community because of this work, it is a very beautiful thing. And that motivates me. I am very grateful to the work that was done here today by Million Dollar Vegan.”
Our Brazil manager, Isabel, who arranged the donations, was also deeply moved. “It took a lot of work to be able to coordinate this aid but it was worth it to be able to reach this community that needed help so badly. The support of Instituto Luisa Mell was also invaluable. It is very moving for all of us.”
In Mexico, we continue to feed those who need help most. In Playa del Carmen we partnered with Casa Animal, the first vegan community center in the country, where we are providing more than 300 meals per day.
A recipient told us: “I worked at a grocery store that closed due to Covid-19. My dad also lost his job and my mom is disabled. It is difficult. Thanks to this soup kitchen and the donors we have been able to eat breakfast during May.”
And in Saltillo, we visited another vulnerable community, where kids ran up to us for food and fruits. For this giveaway, we partnered with Veganos en Saltillo, which provided more than 400 dishes at a community center for children and women suffering from gender violence. The work here will continue in June, and we are so grateful to the volunteers who helped make this happen.
India is in lockdown with many areas in the red zone. So many people have lost their jobs and are now desperate for food for their families and themselves. We started the food giveaway by helping people in Krishna Nagar, Pune, a city in the state of Maharashtra. This is a community of around 200 families where conditions are barely better than a slum. With most people earning daily wages, families here live hand to mouth.
We partnered with Ammucare Charitable Trust and Get Moksha, a vegan delivery service, to take food to 50 households – enough for two meals a day for an entire month. This included 10kgs wheat and 5kgs rice, along with rations of poha (flattened rice), split peas, lentils, peanuts, onions, potatoes, oil and other basics.
There were many more families in need of rations who had heard about the food distribution and started gathering. Our India manager, Darshana told us: “It was with a heavy heart that we ended the food giveaway telling people we didn’t have any more rations. It was absolutely heartbreaking to realize that it would be next to impossible to help everyone who was stressed out, wondering how they would earn a living the next few months. In the end the police had to disperse the crowd.”
Housing Society Support
We were able to provide dry foods to another 50 families in a housing society club in Pune. These families included out-of-work rickshaw drivers and those with very little or no income at all. One recipient told us that receiving the food would help her sleep better that night.
Many migrant laborers working in Pune had been stranded there when lockdown was announced and when it was lifted, they set out to return to their families hundreds of miles away. One local charity had arranged packed food for 60 workers to take with them on their two-day bus journey home. They asked Million Dollar Vegan to supply fruits to keep the travelers hydrated, which we were pleased to do.
Our work continues in Turin, with the delivery of 700 meals to health workers, which includes a special dessert – a coconut panna cotta – as a thank you treat for all they are doing to protect citizens’ health. The response we received was beautiful. One local worker told us that frontline workers had been breathing in so much sadness and pain that this gesture felt like a cuddle, and was truly appreciated.
The managing director who coordinates the various Covid-19 units called personally to thank us, saying that the food is fantastic and very high quality, and they really feel taken care of. Luca André, our chef at Soul Kitchen who created these wonderful dishes, will donate any food remaining to homeless shelters in the city.
Our work for Turin health workers will continue all this week, and then our focus will move to Lombardy where we will provide much-needed meals for vulnerable families in the region.
It is very encouraging that the local health authorities are taking notice of our message. Says our Italy campaign manager, Stefania: “The fact that the official channel of the health district launched our campaign theme is very important to me, because it means we have succeeded in explaining the reasons behind our action and the importance of taking time to ponder the root causes of pandemics and possibly eliminate them.”
Our aid work supports those impacted by Covid-19 but we always believed the real value of our work lies in education, and we are delighted this message is getting through.