Some 100 beggars ate at least one full meal a day in Bhopal, a central Indian city, thanks to efforts by a Catholic archdiocese.
“My grandchildren live because of it,” says Gangu Ram, a septuagenarian who begs on the streets in Bhopal, capital of Madhya Pradesh state.
Bhopal archdiocese launched the “God’s Kitchen” project a year ago. Father Anand Muttungal, the Church’s spokesperson who initiated the project, said witnessing two beggars fighting for a food packet inspired him to start it.
“We may not be able to feed all the hungry. But I am happy at least we can feed some,” he said.
Sheela Santiago, who directs it, said resources are “a great challenge” to the project. They depend on local donations. “Some were generous but many do not show interest,” she said.
She said they do not have savings but “providence” helps them find the money. Every day since April 2009, “we carry food packet to temples, mosques, rail and bus stations” and locations where we generally find beggars, she said.
Each day volunteers change the spot of distribution, lest people depend on charity for life.
However, Ram said his grandchildren, Paru, 10, and Gansu, 7, are exceptions, as they get the food packets daily.
Santiago said when she met the children they were too weak, “apparently suffering from food poisoning.” Santiago makes sure the children get food daily.
Paru said before the Church people came, he and his brother “had no chance of eating a full meal” of rice, bread and vegetables. He said they have now stopped searching roadside trashcans for food and eating leftovers.
Ajmal Singh Meena, a volunteer, says, “it is really a touching experience” to bring food to the beggars. He said it “is no big deal” to carry the packets on his motorbike.