Ride for Ceylon (R4C) Food Aid – an example of a vital secondary frontline


By : Indaka Nanayakkara

This website, thesundayreader.lk, supports stories about ‘positive vibes’ in Sri Lanka. Well, here’s one about a small group of helping hands – R4C Food Aid (R4C FA) –  who are involved in distributing essential food items to the very needy in Sri Lanka during this unprecedented period of disruption and dislocation. We rightly applaud this nation’s health sector, its tri-forces and police: the visible primary frontline in our nation’s face-off with COVID-19 (our common enemy). What is highlighted here is the vital secondary frontline, hidden from the public’s eye, complementing the effort of the nation’s state apparatus through private funding and distribution of food to needy segments of this country.

The very needy are unlikely to go online to order food. They are very likely to be desperately short of cash as most are daily wage earners deprived of their meagre earnings due to the impact of curfew. Yet, they have themselves and their families to support. Many private groups have stepped up to help. I think we Should acknowledge and appreciate the efforts and identify these groups as they are the ‘secondary frontline facing the impact of COVID-19’. I do mean to give a ‘shout out’ to all groups involved in this effort and encourage you to acknowledge groups you know, applaud them for their efforts and highlight the vital role they play in making the lives of the very needy a wee bit better.

My glimpse into this secondary frontline is through R4C FA, a group that did not wake up in March with a tried-and-tested battle plan to distribute essentials to the needy. (If anyone tells you their private group had a super plan sorted all along, just grin, roll your eyes and ignore them for they are being disingenuous.) Nope. It is learning ‘on the job’ and learning very fast.

It is a genuine collective effort of individual passions to help the very vulnerable, mixed with a healthy dose of can-do attitude; a great bunch of friends of diverse backgrounds with different views on optimal distribution strategy, the ability and willingness to debate those views yet not lose sight of the goal: distribute without delay for time is of essence.

This requires raising funds quickly, identifying vulnerable groups and their locations, arranging all food sourcing, storing, packing and transport; and of course getting requisite permissions from the police. The R4C FA team has done this very well so far. The good news is that they are still distributing.

You may rightly ask for more detail. Where have they distributed so far? How do they select vulnerable groups? What are their plans for the immediate future? Sorry, I am not going to elaborate here – the very purpose of writing this mini note is to raise high-level awareness of something wholesome happening right now in our country by our people for our less privileged and vulnerable. I will say this though. R4C has been active in Sri Lanka for a few years, albeit initially under a slightly different name, raising funds through an annual charity cycle ride to maintain and upgrade the Green Memorial Hospital (GMH), Manipay, Jaffna. The R4C Food Aid group comprises a number of those who rode to Manipay in late February this year.

I have been on two trips with R4C FA and it is humbling to see the gratitude of the most vulnerable, to share a cup of tea and a slice of butter cake with them, to hear their stories. I was moved. I dare say you will be too.

If you are intrigued to find out more about R4C Food Aid, please contact ride4ceylon@gmail.com

Proud to be Sri Lankan!