The value of helping others – By Pramod De Silva
These are difficult times indeed. This trying period started with the onset of the Covid pandemic two years ago and it still continues as a result of the resulting economic slump. In the meantime, our foreign reserves have plummeted, expat earnings have fallen drastically and tourism has declined. We cannot regularly import many of the things we have taken for granted such as fuel, LP Gas and certain essential foods, leading to massive queues all around the island.
This depressed economic environment has taken a heavy toll, with many people having lost their jobs and means of income and many surviving on two or even one meal a day. This has also raised malnutrition levels among children. Every sector has been adversely impacted, from farming to fisheries. One cannot even imagine how daily wage earners and the unemployed make ends meet under these conditions.
Sri Lankans have generous hearts by nature and the trait of helping others is literally in their blood – talking of which, Sri Lankans are among the leading blood donors in the world. But not everyone can donate blood and there are plenty of other ways in which you can help more vulnerable sections of the population at this crucial time.
Talk to them
TV news bulletins often show the miserable lives led by poor families, some without parents or a breadwinner. The newscasters give details on how these families can be helped, either via a bank account or in kind. If everyone who can help sponsors at least one of these families, they will be able to survive the present economic storm which has seen the Cost of Living (CoL) reaching the Stratosphere, making most essentials out of the reach of many people. Such appeals can also be found in the national newspapers, with all details of how they can be helped.
But you do not necessarily have to watch TV or read the newspapers to find families who need help. If you do a walk around your town or the neighbourhood, you will find plenty of families and persons who need help at this time. Talk to families or individuals who, in your opinion, are having a difficult time and inquire into their needs. Perhaps they might need a few kilos of rice or other goods such as dhal every week. If it is within your power and reach to help them, go for it without any hesitation.
There is another segment that cannot be forgotten at any time, leave alone right now. That is the differently abled community, which is finding it even more difficult to survive in today’s economic conditions. There are many organisations and federations that represent their interests, so you can reach out to them if you want to help any segment of the differently abled. As mentioned above, you can also look out for any differently abled individuals in your neighbourhood who need assistance. Apart from making just a one-time donation, you can try to help them on a regular basis through monetary or other means.
With the skyrocketing prices of most medicines, there is another segment that is at their wit’s end – the pensioners and the elders. Some of them will be at the mercy of the Grim Reaper before long if they can no longer afford certain life-saving medications which must be taken regularly for hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and other such chronic or Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). It is therefore advisable to find at least one such elderly person and foot that person’s monthly bill for medications. If you can find such a person during this Poson Week, it will be a very meritorious act regardless of your or their faith.
Many TV and radio stations, companies and supermarkets have also begun charity drives to which you can also contribute either in cash or kind. With such contributions, they package dry rations (rice, dhal, gram, sugar, dried fish etc.) which are adequate for a family of four for two weeks or so. If you do not have the time to go on a donation round yourself, this is the next best alternative. At least one supermarket lets you do this online from the comfort of your armchair, so you do not even have to walk or travel there.
We have all seen the huge queues for fuel, Kerosene, LP Gas and other essentials and several persons have already died as a result of various complications that have arisen out of the long hours spent in them. Many companies and organisations, not to mention individuals, have come forward to give food and water to those queuing up in this manner. Spending long hours in the sun (and sometimes heavy rain) is definitely not healthy for anyone, especially the elderly, so even a little bit of water to quench one’s thirst is most welcome.
Talking of queues and shortages, we must not only help each other but also the country too. Whenever we face a shortage of anything in our household, we tend to use it sparingly at least until we get a new stock. At a time when the country is faced with a shortage of fuel, it is our responsibility to conserve fuel as much as possible. This means cutting down on any extra or unnecessary journeys by personal vehicles. Also, options such as carpooling, ride sharing and public transport must be used. Sometimes a journey may not be needed at all – a telephone call can always solve many problems.
The same goes for electricity. Everyone must be encouraged to replace any incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs, turn off any unwanted ACs, fans and light bulbs in empty rooms and otherwise minimise electricity usage. If everyone turns off one unwanted bulb, imagine the combined effect of five million households doing that across the country. That alone can save a lot of power – and by extension, a huge quantity of fossil fuel that powers our thermal plants. Thus, as we have seen, there are plenty of ways in which we can ride out this storm if we help each other and also the Nation.