Manna on Weels - St Peter Church, Bandra
STORIES OF COURAGE AND COMPASSION
The St Peter’s ‘Manna on Weels’ outreach programme was an initiative led completely by the Holy Spirit, to help meet the needs of hungry people on the streets of Bandra West. It started with our own car, with my wife Canice and Fr Gerard Rodricks SJ, handing out 25 lunch packets on March 30, soon after the lockdown began. It slowly developed, adding more cars and volunteers, especially the youth from St Peter’s Church and volunteers from other faiths, ultimately reaching out to people in Bandra West, Khar, Santa Cruz and Bandra East, through 14 cars, 30+ volunteers and 1850 food packets served per day, by the first week of May. Partnering with St Joseph the Worker Church helped us reach out to the needy in Bandra East area as well. ‘Manna on Weels’ was mentored by Fr Gerard, and hugely appreciated by Fr Frazer Mascarenhas SJ, Parish Priest of St Peter’s Church.
Cumulatively, more than 40,000 meals were distributed, helping to meet the nutrition needs of migrant labourers, the homeless and others in need. More than 200 donors came forward to chip in generously, despite the harsh economic slowdown, providing around Rs 25 lakhs in finance. The funds helped this project serve piping hot, fresh, quality standard meals. Many others offered their cars, drivers, facemasks and other ways to support the project.
The need was felt, when we saw our own watchmen not being able to get a snack from the local food-stall because of the lockdown. From that beginning, the way the project scaled up was itself a huge testimony of faith. When we raised a request for sponsorships, little did we imagine that Rs 25 lakhs would come in, and that was the exact cost of the project till the end; it was God who worked out the spread-sheet for us. Even the closure of the programme was put by the Lord in our hearts when we saw the cases of COVID-19 spiralling and the police became more strict, restricting our vehicular movement.
I am confident that this activity was inspired by God’s Spirit, and that “where God guides, He provides” (Isaiah 58:11). The project has been a testimony to team work and service with Christ-like love.
Note: ‘Manna on Weels’ (sic; Weels emphasizes the ‘We’ of Community)
Dr Richard Pereira St Peter Church, Bandra