Poor people benefit from Delhi Catholics' walkathon

Interest free loan from Delhi Archdiocese program helps fund small businesses run by the disadvantaged
Poor people benefit from Delhi Catholics' walkathon

Joginder Kumar on his tricycle which he uses to sell tobacco products from. A church group helped him start his small business from the money collected thorough a Lenten campaign. (Photo supplied)

Joginder Kumar is a happy man. With a smiling face, he rides around his tricycle festooned with tobacco sachets of all sizes and colors that he sells.

Though physically challenged, Kumar has made enough money through selling tobacco near a local court in New Delhi to sustain himself over the past year.

He began the small business after Chetanalaya — the Delhi Archdiocese’s social service wing — loaned him 5,000 rupees (US$70) interest free.

“Before then I was just begging around. Now I earn around 1,000 rupees each day,” he told ucanews.com.

Kumar said he is not only self-sufficient now but manages to payback some of the loan each month.

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“I have almost cleared the loan amount and I can take out more loans to replenish my stock. So, I have no worries,” he said.

Kumar said had no issues with a Catholic organization helping him sell an unhealthy product such as tobacco.

“Is it not better than begging? In any case many are using it. Will it stop if I stop it? What problem if it helps a poor man get food?” he asked.

The loan for Kumar’s business came from donations collected through a Lenten walkathon program conducted last year.

The program consisted of local Catholics saving money by walking instead of paying for transport during part of their daily work travel.

Last year was the walkathon’s first effort, and it proved to be a success, said Father John Britto, Chetanalaya director.

The priest said someone participating in the walkathon usually walked the last part of their journey to work. “The money saved from walking would become the donation,” he said.

Last year the program collected around 70,000 rupees which allowed them to fund nine physically challenged people plus two elderly people start small businesses similar to Kumar’s.

The achievements of that program inspired participants to continue the walkathon this Lent, Father Britto said.

Through the money made this year, the priest said that the program will aim at helping women — single women, widows or women with disability. But Father Britto added that those who participated in the March 6 to April 21 walkathon can propose beneficiaries.

Several who participated in this year’s program said it was a joyful experience.

“It gives added joy when we see the smile on a beneficiary’s face. The thought that the sacrifice does not go in vain goads you on take up the challenge,” said Sister Annie Davis, 50, of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary.

During the walkathon program, Sister Davis walked a kilometer instead of hiring her usual tricycle-rickshaw.

“The money saved is only one part. Now I feel so fit to walk more and it will benefit a poor,” she said.

The walkathon concept was likewise appealing to Leena Sunny, a teacher of St. Mary’s High School in the capital.

“Walking a short distance after alighting from a bus or train to the workplace is doable. We don’t have to take time out for that and yet we are walking our way to good health,” Sunny said.

The 47-year-old woman even shed some weight as she raised money for the program that also included many participants from the Legion of Mary.

Ajay Kapoor, a former Hindu, said the walkathon concept was “appealing” as “infectious.” 

“Our ancient sages took long walks for the good of the community,” said Kapoor whose family are mostly Hindus.

Shaukat Ali, who works with Chetanalaya, said he saved 50 rupees a day by walking 2-3 km from office to home.

“Initially I joined the effort because everybody was taking part but now it has become a way of life,” Ali said.

Nihal Pedric, a government employee, said he mainly sits for hours in front of the computer during work. “So, the idea of walking for a good cause was welcomed,” Pedric said.

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