Acid attack survivors help others survive during pandemic

Lucknow /Agra (UP), June 3 (IANS) In a heart-warming gesture, the acid attack survivors of the now closed Sheroes Hangout Cafe in Agra have started a free food service for the poor from the donations they got to restart the eatery.
The 30-odd acid attack survivors who worked at the cafe, are now busy preparing food and distributing it to the poor on the streets.
Their initiative began last month when the ‘Sheroes’ of Agra and Lucknow cafes came together to help the underprivileged.
The survivors have divided their duties – some go to buy vegetables, others cook the food while some do the packing and the rest are involved in distribution.
Each member takes care of hygiene standards, wears mask, gloves and caps.
“We reach out to at least 100 people a day. We are preparing to increase that number. We want the food to taste good and ensure a variation in the menu. We want them to like our food,” said Rupa, manager of Sheroes Cafe Agra and an acid attack survivor.
The survivors do not know if they can revive the Sheroes Cafe now.
“Shutting down Sheroes Cafe was very painful. After the pandemic struck, we tried online delivery for a while but got few orders. Both cafes in Agra and Lucknow incurred heavy losses with about 80 per cent drop in total revenues. We were left with no other option,” said Ashish Shukla, founder of Sheroes Cafe and director of Chhanv Foundation, the non-profit organisation that backs the initiative.
“The idea to provide food to the homeless came from the cafe members. They wanted to help those in need. We are getting immense support for this from a Spanish NGO, Bekoz Neko.”
In Lucknow, acid attack survivor Kunti is leading the food distribution programme.
“The thought behind this was that we received a lot of love and support from people over the years. We had to do our bit for the people in need,” she said.
The Chhanv Foundation has secured funding to see the 30 survivors through for 12 months with a Rs 10,000 monthly salary.
In addition, some of the money is being used to pay for the treatment and rehabilitation of 70 other acid attack survivors.
Shukla further said that “the survivors (who run Sheroes Cafe) want to expand the food distribution initiative and keep it going. They want to do more.”
Another survivor in Lucknow said: “We may not be able to run the cafe in these circumstances but we are thinking of changing the business-maybe tiffin services for homes and offices or even catering for small get togethers.”

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