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Food For Life – The Feeding of a Nation

The Meal-Giveaway Campaign Saving Lives in the Dominican Republic

As the Covid-19 virus pandemic began sweeping across the world earlier this year, it proved that no border, no country and not even islands were safe from its devastating grip. As many in well developed countries bemoaned the closures of everyday conveniences and services that many of us until recently took for granted, others locked themselves away safely ensconced in their homes to self-isolate from the frightening realities of this invisible killer. At the same time a far harsher reality was being faced by those in the vulnerable working classes of the Dominican Republic for whom the reality of daily life is that of hand-to-mouth existence, often tirelessly combining three or four jobs in order to provide the essentials for survival for their families.

The global pandemic found them confronted with an inconceivable choice, risk their lives to infection from the deadly virus (basic PPE equipment was scarce globally even to medical professionals let alone low-wage workers), or starve and face eviction from their homes with their families. The choice seems impossible because it is. Many found themselves forced to work in extremely risky circumstances in order to survive, with the constant looming fear that everyone on this planet shared simultaneously, the possibility that they could not only get infected, but pass the lethal virus onto their families. Healthcare is extremely limited in the Dominican Republic to those without medical insurance which is prohibitively expensive to those on low incomes. The state run hospitals they do have access to are greatly overcrowded, the waiting rooms are often a higgledy-piggledy assortment of random chairs outside the building, failing that the concrete steps, the waiting time ranges from several hours to several days. I have witnessed 3 sometimes even 4 sick children crammed into a hospital bed like origami sardines. This is why there is such great importance for charity work to be continued in this country, now more than ever.

With this knowledge of what average Dominicans were facing at the forefront of their conscious, Lucy Doughty joined forces with Jochy Fersobe to urgently raise funding and support to create a way in which to nourish the most vulnerable families during this challenging time. They quickly devised a campaign of supplying one week meal giveaways per family, entitled #YoMeQuedoEnCasaRD (I stay home Republica Dominicana) and all run through their GoFundMe page online. The system then creates supermarket food vouchers that can be safely distributed to individual families whilst maintaining social distancing guidelines crucial for everyone’s safety. The monetary vouchers have been made available in supermarkets across the country in four major provinces. Social distancing is maintained by individuals presenting their names and I.D. at the location of choice, where they can claim the vouchers and proceed to shop safely. Individuals as well as philanthropic organisations and homes for the elderly are encouraged to email in their requests and concerns. The first attempt at the start of the pandemic managed to feed 500 families, this number has now increased well into the thousands.

The response from supporters of the campaign has been overwhelming. Many Dominican and Latin celebrities around the world have joined in including J.Balvin, Clarissa Molina, Eduardo Verastegui, Alex Sensation, Eddy Herrera, Victor Manuelle, Greeicy, Mike Bahia, Sebastian Yatra, Mariela Encarnacion amongst many others.

The campaign to feed vulnerable families continues and will continue until the world’s health safety returns to a place in which they can return without risking their lives and those of the communities around them.

The global pandemic has certainly not only highlighted the extreme fragility of our own comfortable societies, but given us the time and awareness to witness, acknowledge and help those more vulnerable around us, whether in our direct communities or abroad. The fear of this invisible threat has brought the world closer in a more compassionate and understanding way, the expansion of which is yet to be seen as it grows into a new consciousness for all.