• Manipur Covid Stories

The Youth Kitchen - UBC Ukhrul

Updated: Jul 8, 2020

Ever since Covid19 made its landfall in India, we have seen thousands of our people moving back home - by road, by rail and plane. Ukhrul district, being one of the major districts that received the majority of the returnees, we (the Youth Department of Union Baptist Church, Ukhrul) have stepped in to cater to returnees.

My name is Shangcham Shangjam and I'm the Youth Chairman of Union Baptist Church, Ukhrul, Manipur. I, along with a big team (youth volunteers and mothers) are making sure that returnees (falling under our catering centres) are being fed well on time, and hygienically.

Since the budget was meagre and there were no food caterers in town with the capacity to feed these many returnees, our church youth department was entrusted to cook and to provide meals for the returnees at these Quarantine Centres. We did not foresee this and we were unprepared. After gathering all the needed resources, we opened our church kitchen on 23 May and today is the 42nd day, i.e. 4 July 2020.

Most of the things we need in this kitchen are provided and are to be provided by the state government. It is a situation where none of us was prepared for this including our state government, nevertheless with a firm belief that our government and everyone involved are doing its best, even though we face challenges every single day, we keep going.

It was initially very difficult since we had never done this before and there were days when our volunteers would go for days without sleep. But with time, we have become more systematic in the way we operate things now.

There are more than 150 volunteers involved who take turns and are working in shifts. Our volunteers are a mix of young professionals including entrepreneurs, educationist, govt. servants and students. Our day starts at 3:00 am and ends at 8 to 9:00 pm. Our volunteers are the department's biggest strength. They are not paid a single rupee but many of these volunteers have not missed a day since day one.

Our youth department has 6 office bearers, 32 youth executives,1 youth pastor and 2 youth Evangelist as our staff. Under this leadership, about 50 people including youth members, church staffs and our mothers are working in this kitchen every shift.

Kaphungam Awungshi is one of our volunteers who is a baker and runs a small pastry shop. Aside from his shop, he rears pigs and chicken. Being one of the youth executives, he has been one of our biggest strength - and has barely missed a day. Out of curiosity, we asked how he managed his time and found out that he lives alone and has a busy routine. He wakes up at 5, cook meals for the pigs, feed his 40+ chicken and joins us at Church by 7 am. Then when he gets off from the kitchen, i.e. by 7-8 pm, he cooks a meal for the pigs and prepares chicken feed. Then he bakes before he finally calls it a day.

Yarmipei Shangh is a professional footballer who has played for top Indian clubs such as Mumbai FC, Neroca FC and now plies his traits for Yarkhok United FC in the Manipur State League. He is also a sports entrepreneur who is also the co-founder and co-owner of Ukhrul Soccer Basic Foundation. With football and other sporting activities on hold, he is one of the volunteers who has devoted his time and energy since day one.

Thanmaling TH is one of our young volunteers. He is one of the first to reach the kitchen and the last one to leave. Before the new-normal set in, he would often help in the fields and at home. When our youth department started catering, he was among the first youth to show up apart from our team of executives and office-bearers.

We have educationists who are juggling between online classes and volunteering, we have proprietors who come in the morning before heading off to their business and come back in the evening, we have young students who religiously show up.

Nimshimwon Keishing is employed as a Manager at a private (construction) company and is one of the volunteers at our kitchen. She is juggling between work and volunteering where she comes in the morning, leaves for work in the noon and returns to the kitchen in the evening.

We are encouraged by such dedication and this only reminds us of the selfless community that we are when we are called beyond duty.

With these strong volunteers that we have, we have been able to improvise and shorten the process and now with 40 plus days of experience we are able to prepare, cook, pack and deliver hot meals on time for 500 to 1000 people every day for 10 different Quarantine Centres in our town.

With many more returnees still to come home, with more positive cases emerging and patients increasing every day, we have decided to give more and are more determined. We are ready to gather more strength to overcome this pandemic.

Submitted by: UBC Ukhrul

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