Supporting the Migrants: In Conversation with Inchara Foundation’s Preetham Rodrigues

The Inchara Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation based in Mangalore, Karnataka that works to enhance children’s health and safety and address the issue of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA). The organisation strives to protect children from abuse, equip children and their caregivers with strategies for prevention and self-help, and provide survivors of CSA with support, care and rehabilitation. It provides capacity building, legal support, care and awareness programmes in order to help build a safe ecosystem for children. Inchara Foundation runs the Inchara Home for Children, which provides a safe home for girls and equips them with rehabilitation, counseling, education and nutrition services. The organisation works to strengthen child safety mechanisms in schools to create safe places and infrastructure. In addition, the organisation conducts health programmes for children, skill development programmes, and educational programmes. Inchara Foundation is well versed in conducting needs assessments, content development and research studies.


The COVID Action Collaborative spoke with Preetham Rodrigues, Director of the Inchara Foundation, to further understand the organisation’s experiences surrounding their COVID-19 response. 


What have been your key actions, initiatives and outcomes around the COVID-19 response?

When the COVID-19 outbreak came to India, the government instituted a nation-wide lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus. The Inchara Foundation was faced with the question of how the organisation most effectively could provide support to the communities it serves during this challenging time. Volunteers from the organisation working on ground reported that there was a significant need to provide food free-of-cost to those affected by the lockdown and the associated economic repercussions.

Prior to the outbreak, Inchara Foundation had done significant work with the school children of migrant workers in an industrial area of Mangalore. This area is where the team decided to begin their COVID-19 response operations one week into the lockdown period. The organisation set up an initiative to feed 1,000 people by distributing food and delivering it to beneficiaries’ doorsteps. The team began distributing ration and sanitation kits in Mangalore, and have since expanded their distribution to Bangalore. Over 500 kits have been distributed so far. They intend to begin distributing these kits in Orissa and Delhi shortly. The primary beneficiaries of the ration kits are migrant workers, who are one of the demographics that have been the most adversely impacted by the lockdown. However, the organisation also has supported auto-drivers and other workers and laborers that have been left particularly vulnerable by the shutdown. Some families have reached out to Inchara Foundation over social media asking for support, and the organisation provided them with help and resources. 

In order to help finance these activities, the Inchara Foundation started online fundraising campaigns and outreach through WhatsApp and other channels in order to solicit direct donations. Still, funding and resources remained a challenge for the initiative. Initially, the organisation had difficulty obtaining CSR funding as many CSR funds had been distributed elsewhere. Eventually, it was able to find a CSR partner, which now will enable the operation to significantly expand. Inchara Foundation will now be providing ration and sanitation kits to 5,000 families. In addition, it will be supplying a COVID-19 hospital in Mangalore with 1,000 PPE kits. 


What are your biggest learnings/challenges?

While the Inchara Foundation is highly experienced and respected in the field of child protection and support, it did not have prior experience conducting this type of work with migrants. These activities were new to the organisation, so operations needed to adapt. Inchara Foundation had no supplier networks previously set up, and it did not have expertise in developing PPE kits. Therefore, these limitations were key challenges that needed to be addressed.

COVID-19 also caused significant disruptions in the organisation’s routine programming. Since the Inchara Foundation has diverted the bulk of its resources to providing these ration, sanitation and PPE kits, its regular programming has largely halted. It is still continuing operations in its home for girls for sexual abuse rehabilitation, but programmes such as its model safe school initiative have temporarily stalled as focus has been shifted to COVID-19 response activities. 


Any stories/insights emerged from the field or from your work?

This initiative has highlighted the significant challenges that migrants are facing during this lockdown and more broadly. Many migrants and laborers do not have proper government documentation, including ration cards. Without these documents, they face challenges accessing services and entitlements. Enhancing access to social security measures for laborers is key. In the future, Inchara Foundation would like to help beneficiaries strengthen their ability to access social protection. Engaging in this type of work requires networks and ecosystem support and resources. Prior to the lockdown, Inchara Foundation’s work had focused on children, and so it did not have the database of contacts or knowledge of the ecosystem needed to pursue this line of engagement. These components may need to be further strengthened as the organisation is interested in helping migrants with savings in the future. 

*The Inchara Foundation is in the process of collecting stories from their volunteers working on this initiative in the field. 


How did you leverage the COVID Action Collaborative? How do you plan on doing so in the future?

Being part of the COVID Action Collaborative proved fruitful in helping the Inchara Foundation with its COVID-19 response. The organisation was able to leverage the Collaborative’s network to find volunteers and resources. Some Collaborative members had PPE kits, which they were able to supply to the Inchara Foundation for distribution. Another key benefit of the Collaborative was the platform it provided for knowledge exchange and knowledge sharing. This component allowed the Inchara Foundation to reach people more quickly as it was able to more efficiently direct its resources. Finally, it is important to note that tapping into the Collaborative network and connecting with other members helped to prevent duplication of work and efforts. The Inchara Foundation was able to see what beneficiaries had already been reached. Consequently, it was able to distribute resources more effectively.



*All photos provided courtesy of the Inchara Foundation.


Written by Catherine Cove, COVID Action Collab.


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