BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha in the UK has launched a national community care programme to support individuals and communities in response to the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 
These times of uncertainty have brought unprecedented challenge and unrest across the world. His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, the current spiritual leader of BAPS, has issued a call for all volunteers to act upon their dharma (duty) in this time of need. BAPS has mobilised more than 580 volunteers in over 30 areas around the UK to help support the elderly and needy in local communities. This ‘Connect and Care’ initiative is a holistic offering to the community to ensure they are informed, safe and supported. The multi-faceted initiative includes:
Public announcements and publications, including summaries of government guidance, to provide important advice on remaining stable and healthy, and support people in various other aspects of their lives that have been impacted by the pandemic
A series of health awareness videos and presentations in English and Gujarati to educate the public on its collective responsibility to help stem the rapid spread of this deadly virus
More than 12,300 phone calls to over 6,700 families across the UK to enquire about their welfare and provide any support that they require
Reaching out to over 1,500 elderly and vulnerable people in the community on a regular basis to collect shopping, dropping off medication, and running essential errands, where required
More than 1,300 letters hand-delivered (before the official lockdown) to residents of local communities neighbouring all BAPS mandirs in the UK, offering support during this difficult period
More than 530 ‘tiffins’ (packed meals) prepared and home-delivered daily to the very vulnerable in London
More than 5,500 meals prepared and home-delivered to the needy in London
Supporting 8 hospitals in the UK, including the newly opened Nightingale Hospital, by providing food and supplies as well as letters of appreciation for their heroic staff 
Providing packed food and support to the local fire brigade, police and other emergency workers and frontline personnel
Supporting other charitable organisations by delivering more than 75 tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as grocery bags to the needy in the local community
BAPS has also participated in national initiatives related to the pandemic. A special Nilkanth Varni abhishek was performed by swamis at the Mandir, and simultaneously by devotees in their homes, on 22 March as part of BAPS’s observance of the UK’s National Day of Prayer and Action. Various mandirs in the UK, including the Neasden Temple, were illuminated in blue on 25 March as a mark of respect and gratitude for the tireless and selfless NHS workers. Swamis at the Mandir, as well as devotees in their respective homes, join the nationwide ‘Clap for Carers’ initiative at 8pm every Thursday for collective applause to thank the NHS and all key frontline workers. 
Alongside this relief effort, BAPS continues to fulfil the spiritual needs of people in communities across the country through innovative means, including webcasts, online murti darshan, social media and other digital platforms, bringing people together and providing a spiritual connection even amid these times of social distancing and lockdown. This is explemified in the celebration of Hindu festivals such as Shri Swaminarayan Jayanti and Shri Rama Navami, and the 'Matru-Devo Bhava' celebration of  the mother-child bond.
Yogen Shah, a volunteer at the Mandir, shared, “His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj has inspired and energised us to serve and support the people of this country and stand by them in this time of need. We’re praying together for this pandemic to subside and for God to provide strength to all.”
BAPS has set up a Coronavirus Relief Fund to allow others to support this timely cause. Those who wish to donate should visit neasdentemple.org or the JustGiving website here
 

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