MAUK Front-line Activities

Message from the Chairperson: MAUK’s response to COVID-19 Pandemic

Dear friends,

The world, as we knew, was turned on its head by COVID-19. We are living through unprecedented times that require an equally thoughtful and responsible response from individuals, governments and NGOs. It is the deeds of individuals and organisations during such challenges times that justifies their existence. As the Pandemic challenged the survival of humanity, the resolve of human spirit also strengthened, with compassionate people from all walks joining hands to beat this indiscriminate invisible enemy. Like any other reputable community organisation, MAUK rose to the challenge posed by the Pandemic.

Realising the gravity of the issue, MAUK sprang into action, cancelling its regular activities to focus on helping those who are affected by COVID-19. We started by taking care of the well-being of the users of our Elders Services. Even before the government declared a national lockdown on 21 March 2020, MAUK encouraged our elders and vulnerable members of our community to self-isolate for their safety.  During the initial days of confusion and disarray, we did their regular shopping and delivered essential items to their doorsteps. We then trained them to do online shopping and arranged delivery slots with local supermarkets and speciality grocery shops.  We started checking up on them every week and later remotely trained them to participate in weekly online activities, including mindfulness, yoga, cooking shows, social meetings, etc.

We have teamed up with Loka Kerala Sabha and other prominent organisations to provide nationwide support including food, advice and reassurance to international students and undocumented migrants who have been severely affected by the crisis but have no recourse to public fund.

We have been referred to as a key service provider by the High Commission of India’s website, and our services have been tweeted and highlighted in the Houses of Parliament by our local MP Stephen Timms.

Working at the grassroots level, we were able to recognise the severe impact of COVID-19 on the local community.  Hence, we started a Food Bank as early as the first week of April, to support those struggling with food shortage; a situation that was exacerbated by the loss of income caused by the national lockdown. During the height of the lockdown, over 600 people were regularly queuing up to collect food from MAUK Food Bank, and on 19 May, we served an astonishing 664 people in a single day. Our humble endeavour even caught the attention of BBC news and was featured on the 6 PM and 10 PM on 05 May.  This news coverage helped us to raise around £40K to continue with our Food Bank operations. Over six months on, the Food Bank is still functioning from Kerala House every Saturday as part of Newham Food Alliance, a body set up by the London Borough of Newham. The Docklands and Carpenters Centre, based in Stratford, also provides support for our Food Bank.

As days progressed, people came to grip with the new normal and adjusted their lifestyle accordingly, MAUK volunteers held their spirits high and devised new ways to reintroduce some of our regular activities that were interrupted by COVID 19 restrictions. Our music classes, Women’s Forum and activities for elders shifted to the virtual platform.

To thank the courageous frontline staff and to raise funds for our Food Bank, MAUK held NisariNiswanam on 19 July 2020. The show brought together the most gifted Malayalee musicians from across the UK for a three-hour stage show broadcasted live through many social media platforms. The show watched by over 22000 people was a testament that although COVID-19 restricted our scope and forced us to change our practices, it wasn’t going to stop MAUK fulfilling its core objectives as a social and cultural organisation.

The Pandemic wasn’t going to stop MAUK celebrating Onam either. MAUK has been celebrating Onam in grand splendour in the UK since the mid-1970s. This year, we held our Onam celebration on 13 September connecting Malayalees from across the globe, educating and entertaining them while encouraging a sense of normalcy.

As we couldn’t do our annual Onasadhya (vegetarian feast), on Pooradam day, we delivered special Onam Food Kits to all our Elders Services users who were shielding and distributed further 120 kits from MAUK Food Food Bank the following day. We also provided special kits for Eid and Vishu.

Even in the middle of this crisis, our volunteers in Kerala, India, successfully oversaw the completion of a house for Nirmala Rajan, a low-income family in Thiruvanathapuram. Encouraged by this success, MAUK embarked on building two more homes for families in similar situations; in Konni and Chengunnur in Kerala.

We have been at the forefront of serving the essential and changing needs of the community since the crisis began. In this dynamic and uncertain environment, we have adapted, built on our strength and found innovative ways to deliver our services to more significant and diverse beneficiaries. 

We hope to continue with most of these services until things are back to normal. Through our noble thoughts and timely actions, we were able to lead, inspire and unite our community while delivering new and essential services as stipulated by the present challenges.

Although it has consumed the best part of my life since mid-March, I feel privileged to be anchoring MAUK’s response to COVID-19.  From the initial chaos to the gradual realisation of the severity of the Pandemic, we were working in an evolving and unpredictable situation that required responsible common-sense approach and prompt and at times, bold decision making.  As a team, we have strived our best to do everything possible for an organisation of our size and calibre in a fair and dignified manner.  We thank the community-spirited individuals and businesses for their valuable time, financial contributions, encouragement and appreciation. We proudly accept all the approbations that came with our dedicated and sincere service.  At the same time, we humbly request for your continued blessings, support and help, so that our volunteers can sustain the vital services we are providing to the most vulnerable sections of our society during this time of grave concern and uncertainty.

This Pandemic has affected all our lives in unthought-of ways, and we are in it for the long-haul. Every one of us is morally obliged to keep each other safe. It is vital that we follow government guidelines to see us through this. To avoid endangering lives, it is equally important that we refrain from promoting fake news and misguiding advice, especially through social media. 

Finally, may I remind you that as the dark days of winter loom, it is essential that we look out for our family, friends and neighbours who might be finding it hard to cope with the uncertainties and restrictions during this Pandemic.

Yours sincerely

Sreejith Sreedharan
Chairperson | MAUK

Last updated on Friday, 16 October 2020

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