"For most of us, the idea of winter means cozy nights, warm blankets & a cup of hot chocolate near the fire, but for those on the streets the drop in temperature becomes a fight for survival," said Svetadvip Das, the main representative of ISKCON Port Elizabeth's Food for Life project.
The ISKCON Port Elizabeth, South Africa, congregation, and Food for Life team moved hearts with the Blanket Drive Initiative. The initiative consists of donating blankets to poor people in the harsh winter season, a time where these people are helpless against both their financial and environmental situations. Many cannot afford warm clothes.
“Port Elizabeth is called windy city. Thousand and thousands of people are living in shacks on the outskirts of the city. I just came today from Food for life, we could hardly stand for long because it was so cold and windy,” Svetadvip Das said.
People lining up for free food and blankets
In a bid to alleviate the suffering of the helpless souls and especially the children living in shacks, two benevolent and kind-hearted young ladies of Port Elizabeth, Nikita Raga and Raquel Van Noie Doraswami mobilized to serve the poor by offering blankets during the winter. Svetadvip Das, who oversees the operations of Blanket Drive, is a veteran of the All India Padayatra and manages the Food for Life programs in the outskirts of Port Elizabeth with the help of a dedicated team.
Svetadvipa Das offers perspective in the way Blanket Drive and Food for Life has helped the local people grow fond and appreciative of ISKCON in South Africa. “People would hardly listen to us or take books. For many years they have been trying. But then when we started this food for life and through this, we started to reach out, do kirtan, harinaam and make people chant, then people started to respect and accept ISKCON here and they started to get involved and coming to the center here [ISKCON Port Elizabeth],” he said.
Various organizations come forward to offer their support and financial help in these initiatives. However, none of these would have been possible without Gaurasundar Das and her wife Vrinda Devi Dasi donated the land and building for the center where ISKCON Port Elizabeth stands today.
ISKCON Port Elizabeth showcases the compassionate quality of the devotee who first and foremost feels empathy for souls in suffering and gradually elevates them to the mode of goodness. The Blanket Drive initiative has been going on for some years now, and this year the campaign was held in July 2021.
However, the devotees sometimes face dangers in their service. Since the outskirts of the city consists mainly of poor people, and violence is prevalent, most congregation devotees do not go out. The distribution process is carried out by the two resident monks who brave the danger and rely on Sri Narsinghadev for their protection. They were robbed only once in the last ten years. The robbers came during a Food for Life program and threatened them at gunpoint. The devotees were not hurt. Fortunately, they could not rob the huge pot of sumptuous kichiri which was destined for those in need.
Today the people of Port Elizabeth and its outskirts are overjoyed at the mere sight of an ISKCON devotee. Slowly but surely ISKCON is making an auspicious imprint in the local fabric of South African society.
If you wish to donate to the Blanket Drive, Svetadvipa Das: firstname.lastname@example.org
Food for Life contact the team: https://iskconza.com/iskcon-temples/iskcon-port-elizabeth/
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