flood relief

Project Shakthi lends Gopi Strength in the Aftermath of Floods

Kerala, home to serene backwaters, was rattled by torrential rains, which caused heavy flash floods in August 2018. The state had not seen floods of this magnitude in a century. Although thousands of humanitarian organisations flocked to Kerala to lend a hand to the flood victims, the state needed support to reconstruct and revive its economy, which was reeling from the effects of the horrendous deluge.

During this time, Wipro Cares joined the rehabilitation efforts of CBM India’s ‘Project Shakthi’ to rebuild the lives of 150 fishing families, including persons with disabilities. The primary interventions revolved around providing reparations for boats: 49 fishermen received new boats; 48 had their boats repaired. All 150 families were also given fishing gear and nets to replace those damaged during the floods. Furthermore, 50 women-headed families were able to restore mollusc processing units, which ensured additional income. Setting up a cold storage unit helped optimise and strengthen the existing value chain of fish products.

The project strengthened community structure and interactions by forming Disabled Peoples Organizations and new Self Help Groups. Above all, the training on Disability Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction has enabled communities residing closer to the backwaters to be better prepared to handle similar disasters in future with minimum damage. CBM India’s community partner Kottayam Social Service Society has also played a crucial role in rehabilitating these families.

54-year-old fisherman Gopi P. K. stays with his wife Shylaja, three sons, and his sick mother. “Project Shakthi has indeed provided the community hope to rebuild our lives and the strength to unite in the face of future danger,” says Gopi of Vechoor Panchayat, Kerala. Shylaja Gopi was diagnosed with uterus cancer and has been under treatment for five years. With his fishing earnings, Gopi, the sole earner of the family, constructed a house recently. He was also able to meet his sons’ educational needs and his wife’s medical expenses. However, the deluge has left him without an income.

“The floods washed away all my belongings,” says Gopi, who used to fish daily and earn nearly INR 500 daily. Three weeks of water logging took away his livelihood: and damaged his house, belongings, and most importantly, his boat. “I was shocked to see the damage to the boat, engine, and nets. Initially, we stayed at the camp and got timely food.

But since returning, we struggled to find food and have been managing with just a meal a day,” continues Gopi; “I have lost everything we have accumulated with our hard work… but if my boat were there, it would have been a ray of hope for us.”

During this time, field workers from the Kottayam Social Service Society visited Gopi’s house. “The visit turned out to be a blessing for my family and the community. There was a moment when I felt my life had ended, but by returning our livelihood to us, Wipro Cares and CBM have helped us start anew. Thanks to them, I received boats, engines, and a net. I am proud that I can support my family,” narrates a beaming Gopi. He adds that he goes fishing regularly with his friends now and can bring home an income of INR 700 daily. “The invaluable support not only helped us restart our lives but also to lead more dignified lives than before. My family and I join hands to express our heartfelt thanks to the CBM-Wipro team for bringing back smiles to our faces,” says Gopi.

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