Cold Weather Relief

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Harvest Bridge Podcast Episode 2: Cold Weather Relief

February 2024

Below you will find the transcript for the second episode of our podcast! You can listen to the recording on Spotify or watch it on Youtube below.

Welcome to the Harvest Bridge podcast. A part of our work here at Harvest Bridge is connecting local leaders in South Asia with people like you, here in the United States. Through our podcast we want to provide a place where you can hear their voices and listen to their stories in their own words. There is a transcription available for those who prefer to read these stories.

For our second episode, we will hear from one of our leaders in northeastern India. We’ll call him Pastor Suraj* to protect his identity. This winter brought extremely cold temperatures to several areas in South Asia, and especially in India. For many of us here in the United States, cold weather means grabbing an extra blanket or turning up the heat in our homes. But in India, the plunging temperatures left people exposed to the weather, and simple items like blankets and space heaters became critical.

As the ministry leaders reached out to Harvest Bridge, we shared the crisis with you. Funds started coming in from supporters here in the states, which allowed us to quickly send resources to help them support their neighbors. Today we will listen to a conversation between Kate, our Executive Director at Harvest Bridge, and one of these leaders, Pastor Suraj.

Pastor: Good morning!

Kate: Yes, good evening! It’s good to see you. It’s been a while. I’m well, how are you doing after all the distributions?

Pastor: Yes, we are also being fine.

Kate: How’s the weather now?

Pastor: This year it was very fierce and severe cold. It is still going on. . .   you know, people are very exposed like, like just now Padma* came from buying vegetables from the market. So she was telling me about the ladies who were selling vegetables on the roadside. They were wearing a simple thin, open Sari. The body is open. You know, the Saris that they wear? The bodies are open. Well, so she was telling her that she was not having any kind of shawl or sweaters or anything. So actually, they live like they are in summer time. They are exposed and that’s why they catch colds and get sick.

Pastor Suraj just talked about how, despite the cold weather, his wife had just spoken to  women selling vegetables on the side of the road wearing only a sari. Saris are pieces of cloth wrapped around the body, worn by women in India. They are beautiful, but lightweight. They are not meant for protection from the cold.

Kate: Anywhere you’re in a place where people aren’t used to that level of temperature. I mean, even in the US when there was an ice storm in Texas, no one was prepared for it. The electricity shut down. It’s hard that they don’t have the tools.

Pastor: Some of them, they’re homeless also. And their houses are also like open windows and walls and everything. Same with our house. Though, we have cemented house and roof, still somehow the cold comes in. Like, right now, I can show you, like right now, where I’m sitting with a heater.  The last whole month Padma*  was sick due to cold, like having cough and cold. And just two or three days ago, snowfall started.

As you just heard from Pastor Suraj, the cold temperatures have continued, even bringing some snow to the area. The homes there are not built for this type of weather. While some people have homes made of concrete block, others, especially in rural areas, are homeless or live in huts with no insulation from the weather.

Pastor: But once again, thank you very much, Kate, for providing us funds for blankets that we were able to distribute, more than 500 blankets.

Kate: I’m really happy. You did some of it in December or was it all in January?

Pastor: Yes, December and then I thought that maybe then it will not be very cold. But again, the cold has started. Yeah. During distribution, I found out, I found some handicapped people.

Kate: I saw that.

Pastor: More than 20, I found, different places, three, four places and every place I found like six people, they were handicapped.  . . And even some old people. One person was coming to receive blanket and he was like shivering, cold. I went forward and gave him, yeah.

Here Pastor Suraj is talking about his experience during the distribution. Some areas had a list for who would receive a blanket. Other times word of mouth spread and individuals would come in hopes of receiving help. Getting to many of the villages outside of the cities was challenging.

Pastor: Some places it was very difficult to reach because there was no road. At one place my car was stuck in a pit. I was wondering what to do now. I started praying, somehow, somehow it came out. And then, the villagers were also misguided. Because they don’t understand how far our car can go. And actually the bigger tractors used to go, like bigger, with the bigger tire tractors. Those are meant for field, and can go, but not my car.

Pastor Suraj just talked about how difficult the roads were to navigate in getting to the villages. This didn’t stop him and his team from their work. In his report that he submitted later, Pastor Suraj shared about one village that was particularly hard to reach. There wasn’t a passable road to get there, so Pastor Suraj and his team walked to the villages, carrying the blankets. He shared about a young man from a poor Hindu family who lived there. He was extremely vulnerable to the cold due to a physical disability. He was one of the recipients of the blankets distributed that day.

This relief project was made possible by the dedication of Pastor Suraj and his team, and the generosity of people like you here in the United States. With just $3600 he was able to provide 525 blankets to distribute to families in seven different areas. The recipients were Hindus, Muslims, Christians and tribal members. All came from the most vulnerable groups in their communities: the lowest castes, the poorest families, those with disabilities, and in the most difficult to reach villages. He wrote to us later and said “I wholeheartedly thank Harvest Bridge and its leadership for opening the doors for the poor and needy people to provide relief in the form of winter blankets during this severe cold wave.”

Thank you for listening to the Harvest Bridge podcast. Follow us on social media, or subscribe to our email list to learn more about the ministry of leaders throughout South Asia who are doing much, with little.