Imphal Review of Arts and Politics


Sunbird Trust, With Big Presence in Manipur, Opens Relief Centre For Food Distressed Young NE Professionals stranded in Bangalore

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In the wake of the 21-day nationwide lockdown to arrest the spread of the deadly pandemic COVID-19, the worst sufferers have been and are still migrant workers in the many metropolises of the country. Not spared of the distress are many persons from the North East living and working in other parts of the country and now stranded because of the halt of all air and surface transport services.

Retired Army Colonel Christopher Rego, the founder and CEO of Sunbird Trust or Col. Chris as he is popularly known, who has served in Manipur as a serviceman for four years, and the after retirement has been working in the state since 2012 spoke to FPSJ on phone this afternoon and said he was shocked to see many from the Northeast, a good number of them from Manipur, left almost to begging for food in the streets of Bangalore recently.

Because all shops are closed, and there no restaurants or other eating places open, many of them, especially those with no home kitchens, are in extreme hardship, he said.

He said he considers Manipur as his second home and has travelled across the state helping set up schools and hostels, and the plight of these young men and women shocked him.

Col. Rego’s organisation later also sent out a statement describing the situation at Bengaluru, where many North East persons including large numbers working in the hospitality industry, shops and students are severely impacted. Many people have run out of rations with all hotels, restaurants and even provision shops closed, the statement said.

Among the worst hit are people who do not have cooking facilities in their accommodation and who require cooked food, it said. Many people of Bengaluru however rose to the occasion to support their North Eastern brethren, and volunteers of Sunbird Trust were at the forefront.

Sunbird Trust has now opened a relief centre.  Over the last 3 days alone, the trust has, along with its partner organisations, distributed as much as seven tons of food bringing relief to nearly 500 people, the statement said. It said each pack contains rice, dal, oil, sugar, salt, condiments and even bathing soap!

For those requiring cooked food, Col. Rego said food parcels prepared by local donors are being delivered. Given the vast dispersion of NE people across Bengaluru and its suburbs, Sunbird has overcome this challenge by partnering with the local organisations such as Manipuri Diaspora and Northeast Solidarity for distributing the food. Additionally, various NE nodal community organisations are partnering in this effort.

Col. Rego said he is most grateful to Bengaluru based organisations Hasirudala and the citizens collective WithBengaluru for donating most of the aid. Sunbird Trust donors too have pitched in generously.

Col. Rego said he is also proud of the volunteers of Sunbird Trust and the Manipuri nodal organisations, who, at considerable risk, are packing and distributing the aid through the day and night. “The task is not easy with the lack of larger vehicles, so most use scooters and even cycles as they work through the day and night,’ he said. He made a special mention of Sunbird adminstrator, Jonny Manikho from Karong in Senapati distric who is coordinating the vast relief effort across the city, day and night. He also extended gratitude to the local administration and city police who are providing all facilitation including passes for the vehicles and volunteers.

The organisation’s statement said its motto is Peace Through Education, Sunbird Trust seeks to foster friendship and amity through educating and empowering children and youth especially in conflict-affected areas of North East India. While the Trust is spearheading the relief effort for NE people at Bangalore, most of its team of 18 young professionals from across India are based in Manipur, it said.

The team is now helping raise Sunbird Trust partner institutions in the state, assisting them in their administration, improving the pedagogy and setting up educational infrastructure.

Dr. Sonal Sethia, the COO of Sunbird Trust, an IIT post-graduate with a doctorate, said that with the current uncertainty, it would appear that the relief effort at Bengaluru has only just begun, the statement noted.

Given the huge crunch on resources and the logistical challenge of delivering relief supplies, she expects that the task ahead will be difficult at best. She is however confident that with the support of Bengaluru citizens and the energy of its team members, partner organisations and volunteers, Sunbird Trust will be able to rise to the occasion and meet the challenges ahead, the statement added.

For any information or help on the current relief work, Sunbird Trust can be contacted at its Bangalore office at 23/2, Rest House Crescent, Bangalore – 560001, or Email: [email protected], and  Phone: +91-702226078

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