Panchapandwa, the community supported by the Just One Hunger Initiative on October 26th, is a small community along a long dirt street that runs off the main road out of Varanasi. When our rickshaw reaches the community we park in a trash covered open area with very humble, dilapidated buildings on either side. At first it is not clear where the program is being held, and I approach some women making dried papadums. Their faces are open with a smile and a welcome as they redirect us to the program at the other side of the park.
One such hard-worker is a widow with 5 children under 18 – 3 girls and 2 boys. She sells boiled eggs and bread from a cart each night. Together this family of 6 live in a rundown, dark building, with little inside but they are constantly busy, happily offering assistance to others and are an inspiration to other community members. The eldest daughter is physically handicapped with retarded growth and in India such children are often neglected and left alone. Here not only is she lovingly included in everything, but her mother has taken a loan from ASMITA to give her a small stall where she can sit and sell snacks. This community also attends to the needs of another severely handicapped child, ensuring that he is always safe and not left alone.
At 1.00pm a simple hot Indian meal consisting of puri (fried Indian bread) and a rich nutritious vegetable curry is ready to be served along with a banana for dessert. Watching the children eat, they seem to be very hungry. The rounds take much longer that usual as the children eat 3-4 servings o vegetables and as many as 10 or 12 puris before their hunger is satisfied. With the first round complete, it then seems more children are arriving from all directions as their friends share news of the bounty. What originally looks like a small group soon swells in size. All the children leave with their hunger satisfied, and only then do we serve the elderly women and those who assisted in the preparations to reach a total of 160 meals served to support this community.