Everyday we are reminded of our gratitude for our ability to be safe, ensure our babies don’t grow hungry or sick and know that clean water awaits us at home. Nonetheless, these privileges are inaccessible to so many and simply fighting for survival has become an increasing reality amidst the coronavirus, population increase and natural resource scarcity. We must do what we can for our brothers and sisters around the world and ensure that not only their life and health are prioritized but their cultural longevity and environmental sustainability too.
The Kogui Tribe in Colombia are some of the greatest teachers in how humans can coexist in reciprocity with the land while preserving the health of their bodies, soil and their ancient traditions. They know “it is imperative to understand that the earth is a living body and if a part of it is damaged, in turn the whole body is damaged.” While they witness their lakes dry out, Native forests prayed upon by loggers, and peace disrupted by drug traffickers and militant groups, they are fighting to maintain their existence just as they did when the Spanish ruthlessly colonized their people and land. Obviously their isolated nature makes them more vulnerable to COVID-19 as well should it enter their communities.
As the Kogui remain true to their traditional sustainable relationship with the Earth, they rarely interact with modern society. Nonetheless, access to light is a simple yet vital tool for their communities. As they coexist with their natural environment, they are vulnerable to poisonous insects and predators in the high forest that may endanger their well-being. They have communicated that having access to solar power light sources makes a significant difference in their ability to live safely, especially at night. We have also begun to strategize with them about implementing a long-term solar-based electricity solution for an entire village. In the meantime, OBF is grateful for the opportunity to support them with a large supply of solar powered lanterns.
The lived reality in the crowded slums of Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) is a stark contrast to the Kogui’s existence in the rural Colombian mountains. Especially now amidst an ongoing wave of COVID-19 spread within these high-density neighborhoods, access to basic resources including quality healthcare, potable water and nutritious food is a daily challenge. Fortunately numerous humanitarian organizations, including Mumbai Smiles/Sonrisas de Bombay, have and continue to provide essential support to these communities while proving flexible in their service provision.
Mumbai Smiles has provided both community health care and educational courses through their Smiling Bus– a mobile classroom and healthcare clinic that’s able to traverse the city and engage various communities to ensure that street children have safe access to educational programming and are empowered to safely express their identities without fear, despite current ethnic conflict. Amidst the pandemic, the teachers continue to provide online courses and activities for the students...
The organization also continues to host pop-up clinics throughout the city, addressing the health concerns of houseless families and children that have been the most vulnerable to COVID-19. Apart from distributing essential food and PPE kits to these communities, people’s mental health and wellbeing continues to be a great challenge while most are unable to maintain stable work or shelter. Fortunately the Mumbai Smiles team continues to engage families via phone calls to promote their LSE (Life Skill Empowerment) curriculum which coaches children and adults on different educational aspects such as “communication, decision making, empathy, sympathy” and self-awareness.
Through it all, the reality of human trafficking must not be forgotten. Mumbai Smiles continues to provide tele mental health counseling to individuals who have been victim to human trafficking. Additionally they work to ensure survivors are aware of their human rights and have the capacity to build other life and vocational skills.
The vitality of the Kogui and vulnerable families in Mumbai relies not only on courageous people doing the ground work but also on wider community support that strengthens their efforts.
Please join us in supporting the children and families of Mumbai Smiles by contributing to their donation page here: https://www.mumbaismiles.org/donor-rest-world. At a later date, we will announce the most appropriate way so show solidarity with the Kogui Tribe. In the meantime, feel free to dig deeper into their traditional way of life here.
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