By Casey Monteiro
A business operation that went wrong is how the founder of the non-government organisation (NGO), Street Providence, Donald Fernandes, describes the start. As a result of which, they were left with a couple of fridges, remembers Donald.
That’s when the brainwave to install fridges as food banks for surplus food began. These could be accessed by those wanting a meal – and who couldn't afford one – for free.
From 2017 till now, in a span of 5 years, Street Providence has diversified its services – offering shelter homes to the homeless on the streets of Goa, medical assistance, psychiatric care etc.
Recently, at the Liberation Day function, in Panjim, in December 2022, the Government of Goa bestowed the ‘Best NGO’ award on Street Providence.
Donald says, “It feels good to be recognised solely based on merit.”
“When we installed the fridges, we realised that there were people on the street who were homeless and needed to be sheltered. One thing led to another, somehow the dots were joined,” shares Donald describing how their NGO increased the list of services to the poor and marginalised. “Our services are all intertwined and interrelated,” he explains.
CHALLENGES & SUPPORT
Street Providence faced early challenges the way any new concept meets speculation from people. But, if you are consistent in your work, then it doesn't matter who says what, opines Donald on how they overcame the initial hiccups.
The support Street Providence has received from different authorities is beyond any dream, says Donald, “We have received a lot of help from the police, departments such as Social Welfare, Directorate of Women and Child, Directorate of Health Services and Institute of Psychiatry and Human Behaviour. Ninety per cent of our shelter inmates are receiving psychiatric treatment,” informs Donald.
FOOD BANKS: SOLUTION TO WASTE REDUCTION?
Donald rues how despite their efforts to install food banks, there is food that still goes waste in the state.
“We just hope that the food regulatory authorities in Goa understand that food is being wasted. There is a need for them to understand how a food bank is managed and how food industry stake holders have to be taken into confidence to ensure excess food reaches deserving people who can consume it,” says he.
Street Providence inmates recently participated in garbage cleaning drives at black spots. Donald points out how Goa's garbage problems can greatly be reduced if wet food is not wasted away and if food banks are set up.
What helps him stay motivated and grounded? “I do not believe we are doing anyone a favour. We believe we are doing service – service to our state, service to our country. I am obligated only to God. The moment you think you are doing someone a favour, things will not work,” he adds.
“Motivation for me, is how many lives can be touched in a day, and cheer and meaning be brought to their lives,” he shares.
Donald believes in positive energy. “I never go anywhere with a pre-conceived bias or with this 50-50 approach thinking if it happens, it will happen. I go with a positive mind-set and with a positive energy that I will get the job done.”
PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
Donald says their NGO getting recognition only means they have to work harder. Besides planning a dialysis centre for the poor, he reveals that their goal is opening a recovery facility for those who have suffered strokes and can't afford the means to recovery.
“We will soon start food banks and shelter homes in a couple of states outside Goa,” concludes Donald.
You can find out more about Street Providence at http://www.streetprovidencegoa.com