I wanted to give you a general update of how we are doing in the middle of this global pandemic.
We have been on a self-imposed total lockdown since March 10. The government has made mandatory lockdowns half a dozen times for varying lengths, but we haven't left Shiloh for health reasons. My calculations are 24 weeks without venturing more than 50 feet out of our front door. I will say that 3 of the staff members have ventured out carefully to help get us cash and get supplies here and there. But none of the boys or I have gone out in 24 weeks! I have slowly been losing my mind.
The question we get asked the most is, "How is your food situation?" Even before we were locked down, I had a hunch that something might be brewing. I travel extensively and have flown through Japan and Italy since December, so I knew that things might get bad soon. So in February, I instructed the staff to buy six months of food. Everyone thought I was crazy. It was a hard-fought battle, but I held my ground and insisted that we have a stockpile of essential food, rice, wheat, oil, and lentils. Everything else was a luxury at the time.
Sure enough, we went on lockdown, and it became impossible to get food. When I say lockdown, I mean TOTAL lockdown. This was not a stay at home order. This was a TOTAL lockdown. There are videos on the internet of the police all over India that physically enforced this government-issued ALL INDIA lockdown. No one was allowed to go out unless they were the utmost essential personnel. All Amazon deliveries stopped, which was the hardest thing for me this whole time. You could not venture out to even buy food. Trucks that transport food from store to store were allowed, but they couldn't deliver to individual customers.
We have slowly become a beacon to our local community in the last few years. When the lockdown happened abruptly, many in our village were left with very little food. Even then, they were day laborers, and with no way to work, they couldn't afford to buy food anyway. So we started having a steady stream of people who would come to us in the cover of darkness to see if we could give them enough to survive. We never turned anyone away. Although I had a "hunker down" mentality and a small part of me wanted to save everything in case things got worse, the humanity in me kicked in, and we ended up helping every single person who came to us. Some times we gave food from our storeroom. Other times when the lockdown was lifted, we just gave cash to people so they could buy their own food. I don't think people in the West have understood the full impact of this for developing countries. It was estimated here in India that there would be more people starving than dying of COVID unless things were drastically changed.
Our name is No Longer Orphans. Our motto is, "Our name is our mission." This means not only do we take care of current orphans but also do everything we can to prevent there being more orphans. We saw firsthand people who were not eating so that their children could eat. Think about that. I don't think many people in the West have had to endure that. I am not demeaning the West by any means. I am just sharing the reality of what we and those around us have gone through the last six months.
When a proud family comes to us, begging for food to survive, we have to live out our name. So we care for these children and families by doing what we can to prevent them from being orphans. Would you rather take in an orphan whose mother died of starvation, or would you instead give the mother some rice from your surplus? If I had to venture a guess, I would say that between food and cash, we have given away well over 10,000 meals to local people since March.
This is what we have been through for the last six months. We have not had super nutritious food to eat. Our plates aren't filled with green leafy vegetables or even protein of any sort most times. But we are just trying to survive. And we are doing our best to help those around us survive too. This will not last forever. This will pass. Better days will come. We are holding on to that hope.
I will add this: Amazon has been sporadic at best. In the beginning, I feared the worst and had over 100 orders in limbo that were in dispatched and in transit to us. Some of those packages took three months to reach us. Here in August, it has gotten a little better, even though we just had a random 10-day lockdown that just ended earlier this week. I have tried to use Amazon to give us better nutrition through long-term storage foods such as peanut butter and protein powder for milkshakes for the boys.
Things have been off and on, and I have used the good times to stockpile. My office is currently filled with boxes full of Amazon deliveries of peanut butter, protein powder, ramen noodles, soups, and anything else that Amazon India has in stock (which ain't much these days). This is our nutrition stockpile.
One of my biggest fears is that something like this will happen again, and we will not be prepared. So I have been praying and brainstorming ways to be more sustainable. We do already have animals and farm our own wheat, mustard, and a few other crops. But we don't do enough to plant vegetables or have sustainability in our chickens.
So I researched Youtube and built my own egg incubator out of a fish tank. We have hatched ten chickens so far and are confident that we can keep making "new" chickens if something were to shut down the world again.
We also have been saving our seeds and planting them, and it has been a learning process. We have had a few seed deliveries from Amazon and are confident that we can plant vegetables from here onward to provide our own food.
We never really thought about how far along we were until this happened. We have chickens that can give us eggs to eat or to incubate for more chickens. We have water buffaloes for milk that we already turn into drinking milk, curd, yogurt, ghee, and butter. We grow our own wheat, which we grind ourselves to make roti, which are Indian flour tortillas. We grow mustard, which we grind to get mustard oil. So we have not been bad at being sustainable already. We have just made sure to brush up on our skills and to be prepared for anything the future throws at us.
The number one thing we have dealt with within the last six months is stress over food security. But we also prepared enough ahead where we have been able to feed hundreds of people. Not a day goes by that we do not praise God that He has provided for us in such a way that we can also provide for the at-risk around us. That is what life is about. It is not about a "hunker down" mentality. It is not about hoarding for yourself as the world dies around you. If I felt that way, I wouldn't have given my life to be on the other side of the world. Instead, life is about giving everything of yourself because you know that God is the one who provides. And as soon as you give everything you have, He will fill you back up again.
I pray we NEVER have something like this happen on a global scale again. But I am also thankful to God for the reminder of our humanity. We cannot go it alone. And we shouldn't want to.