Caritas India has been recognized for its front-line work against the new coronavirus pandemic when it was named best NGO in the country during the India Today Healthgiri Awards 2020.
Caritas India Executive Director Father Paul Moonjely was presented the award by Federal Minister of Health and Family Welfare Harsh Vardhan during a virtual ceremony in New Delhi, the national capital on Oct. 2, the birth anniversary of Mohandas Gandhi.
Instituted by media conglomerate India Today the award salutes efforts made by those battling against the pandemic which has claimed the lives of more than 101,000 people in the country.
The award “is recognition of the good response by the Catholic Church which reached out to millions of people following the pandemic,” Father Moonjely said.
“As a collective team the Church — Caritas India, parishes of 174 diocese and religious congregations — reached out to the poor, the vulnerable, the marginalised and others focussing on the health needs of the people,” he said.
“I dedicate this award to all our COVID warriors, health workers and volunteers. It will provide a big boost to our mission of love and care even amid new challenges. We believe that serving humanity is serving God,” said the priest.
As part of its efforts in dealing with the crisis, Father Moonjely said the Church concentrated on spreading awareness about the virus throughout the country.
Caritas India adhered to the strategy of: “Be informed, be trained, be cautioned, be connected and be compassionate,” in line with Caritas Internationalis, Father Moonjely said.
“We reached out to people in need irrespective of caste or creed. Spreading vital information on how to be safe and stop the spread of infection besides providing them with protective kits, food, shelter and solace among other things,” he said.
“Our institutions manufactured and distributed 2.5 million free masks,” he added.
Caritas India gave special attention to the plight of returning migrants who lost their work when the country went into a national lockdown towards the end of March. Services were also provided to others badly impacted by the lockdown including the elderly, street beggars and those in quarantine.
For those suffering psychological problems, while forced to stay in their homes for extensive periods, Caritas India offered psycho-social support. Some 7,000 people are believed to have benefitted through online counselling provided by Caritas India volunteers during the pandemic.
Father Jolly Puthenpura, assistant executive director of Caritas India, said that with India’s large population the government can’t be expected to manage everything. “They need civil society help, so we plunge head on into relief services when any kind of disaster strikes,” said Father Puthenpura.
Over the last decade, Caritas India has touched the lives of many people during times of emergency, he said.