Volunteer Diary, Maitreya Blanket Project Day 1: Night of 27th December, 2014
We walked the streets of Kushinagar after 11pm and found people sleeping on the road side and some in verandas of shops, others in bus shelters, and covered them with blankets.
Some woke up and thanked us, others were fast asleep and they would discover the blankets whenever they got up. Another strange phenomenon that we encountered was the rickshaw pullers. We saw a lot of them sleeping next to their rickshaws out in the open in the freezing winter night. We talked to some of them and realized that most rickshaw pullers come to cities from their villages and pull rickshaws for their living .They have no home here and sleep on the streets. However for the safety of their rickshaws they cannot sleep away from them in the night and have to sleep right next to the rickshaw.
There are no organized rickshaw parking lots in small cities and they just find a convenient place on the street and sleep next to their rickshaws.This is ok in summer but in this freezing cold it’s very difficult.
Also more than 56 deaths have been reported in our state last week and the number keeps growing. We will distribute the balance left over blankets by walking the streets every night after 11 pm when the temperature is at its lowest.
The going is tough as we have to be out in the open for hours at a stretch. We started at about 10.30 in the night and returned home at 2.00 AM in the morning last night.
However this has to be done as we can come back to our warm homes in the night but the homeless who are suffering in the extreme cold must be cared for.
Atul Chopra, Legal Counsel and Volunteer, Maitreya Project Trust – Kushinagar