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Bangladeshi Catholic youth groups help Covid-hit families

Diocesan units distribute food among poor families as the pandemic spirals out of control

Bangladeshi Catholic youth groups help Covid-hit families

Bangladeshi Catholic groups extend a helping hand to poor families affected by the pandemic. (Photo: BCSM Khulna unit)

Catholic youth organizations are chipping in to help Covid-affected people in Bangladesh as the pandemic spirals out of control in the densely populated Muslim-majority nation.

Bangladesh Catholic Students’ Movement’s (BCSM) St. Joseph unit of Khulna Diocese has provided packages of food for poor families during the pandemic.

On July 22, members distributed packages containing 5 kilograms of rice, 1 liter of oil, 1kg of flour, 1kg of pulses, salt and soap among 100 families. The day before, they provided such packages for 22 Muslim, Hindu and Christian families, according to the food distribution wing of the unit.

This BCSM unit has distributed food items to about 1,200 poor families.

“I receive rice, oil, pulses, soap and flour which are essential for my family,” said Manik Adhikary, 35, a Catholic from St. Joseph Cathedral Parish.

Adhikary is an electrician and the sole breadwinner for his five-member family but due to Covid-19 he cannot work.

Khulna is an industrial area but many industries closed due to the lockdown and workers do not have food at home

“We, the poor people, have benefited a lot from getting these food items and we hope to get more help in the days ahead,” Adhikary told UCA News.

The organization had planned to provide oxygen to Covid patients but the plan could not be implemented due to the financial crunch.

“Khulna is an industrial area but many industries closed due to the lockdown and workers do not have food at home. We try to help as much as we can on behalf of BCSM. Our activities are mainly conducted by BCSM members with the help of volunteers from outside,” Hubert Sony Ratna, organizer of the food distribution wing of BCSM St. Joseph, told UCA News.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, many people extended a helping hand, but since Covid-19 has continued for so long, everyone's condition is bad. Fewer people are helping and raising funds is a big challenge. At the same time, it is very difficult to get volunteers because parents want their children to stay at home safely.”

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BCSM is a lay apostolic movement of tertiary-level students founded in 1991 to promote Christian values and motivate youngsters to uphold moral values. It is affiliated with the International Movement for Catholic Students’ and Episcopal Commission for Youth.

Like BCSM's St. Joseph unit, every diocesan unit helps poor people during the pandemic but they are struggling for funds.

“BCSM Barishal Diocese, Chittagong Diocese unit and Rajshahi Diocese unit are continuing their work. They help the poor,” said BCSM national president Patrick Purification.

“All members of BCSM's central committee are members of other dioceses and all are now in their respective areas due to Covid-19. However, this time raising funds has become a major challenge for us. We are working on a small scale,” he told UCA News.

“The Barishal unit provided packages of food to 72 transgender people. The Rajshahi and Chittagong units are also helping the poor but other diocesan units are trying to raise funds to help poor people.”

The government will impose strict restrictions from July 23 to Aug. 5 to stem infections. Almost 18,500 people have died from the contagion so far.

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