(CNN) — Up until recently, many travelers visiting India’s famed monument of love, the Taj Mahal, would also add a stop at the nearby Sheroes Hangout to their itinerary.

Located just a few kilometers from the famed Indian icon in the northern city of Agra, this cafe is managed and staffed by acid attack survivors.

Most of the smiling women working in the venue, founded by India’s Chhanv Foundation in 2014, have visibly scarred skin, some bearing damaged eyes, others appearing as if their entire faces have been melted by the horrifying acts of violence.

The cafe — which also has a library, radio station and informational displays — has provided them with more than just employment. It has given them the confidence to face society without shame, while learning valuable career skills.

But the Covid-19 pandemic and its subsequent lockdown have taken their toll on the Sheroes Hangout Café. Since the start of the pandemic, revenues have dropped by 80%, forcing the café to close indefinitely in April.

“Our visitors were mainly tourists,” Ashish Shukla, director of the Chhanv foundation and Sheroes Hangout co-founder, tells CNN Travel.

“But, with travel impacted, our sales went down drastically. Therefore, we didn’t have any other option but to stop the operation.”

The women haven’t let the closure break their spirits. Using the donation money that has still been coming in from supporters, staff rallied to prepare food for the area’s needy.

Every day for the past seven weeks they have been putting together around 100 food packets for daily distribution.

Early in the morning, a team from the foundation and employees of Sheroes gathers at the café and delegates work among themselves. Some go to the market to buy vegetables while some cook. Others go to some of the city’s worst-hit areas to distribute the food packets.

Every person has a specific role to play in the “assembly line.”

Learning new skills

The women of Sheroes have also utilized the lockdown period to diversify their skills, exploring different avenues that will allow them to follow their passions.

Shukla says a few of the younger women signed up for beautician courses, as they want to open their own salons. Some of the women are interested in fashion, so they’ve been learning to design and stitch garments with the hopes of opening a boutique. Others are focusing on making jewelry.

Women employed by Agra's Sheroes Hangout are using their downtime to learn new skills.

Women employed by Agra’s Sheroes Hangout are using their downtime to learn new skills.

Courtesy Chhanv Foundation

Rupa, 26, from the city of Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh, has undergone seven surgeries since the age of 13, when her stepmother splashed acid on her. The restaurant, she says, has given women like her recognition and power to fight the world.

When the lockdown was imposed earlier this year, Rupa took the time to learn basic computer skills, English and sewing.

“I always loved new and stylish clothes and hoped to become a fashion designer. Now I stitch my own clothes,” she says.

Fellow Sheroes

Ryanair has issued a new plea for the reopening of UK borders as the threat from Covid-19 recedes.

Michael O’Leary, chief executive of the low-cost carrier, criticised a “mismanagement” of the pandemic and reopening of the economy by prime minister, Boris Johnson.

He said: “The Covid-19 travel policy is a shambles.

“The green list is non-existent because countries such as Malta and Portugal, with lower Covid-19 case numbers than the UK and rapidly rising vaccination rates, remain on amber.

“Meanwhile, UK citizens almost 80 per cent of whom will be vaccinated by the end of June, continue to face Covid-19 restrictions on travel to and from the European Union, despite the fact that the majority of the European Union citizens will also be vaccinated by the end of June.”

O’Leary raised particular concern over the removal of Portugal from the green list earlier this month, effectively banning outbound travel.

He continued: “UK tourism and aviation needs a pragmatic travel policy, which permits vaccinated UK and EU citizens to travel between the UK and the EU without the need for quarantine or negative PCR tests.

“This will at least allow the UK tourism industry to plan for what is left of the summer season and get hundreds of thousands of people back to work.

“It is time for Boris Johnson to end his gross mismanagement of Covid-19 and the recovery from Covid-19, and take advantage of the successful vaccine programme to allow the restoration of free movement of vaccinated UK citizens and their families to and from the EU, where Covid-19 case rates are lower than the UK and vaccination rates are rising rapidly.”

Happy Friday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I’m Rebecca Kheel, and here’s your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

THE TOPLINE: Former Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite was in the job for just eight months during the Trump administration, but reportedly spent about $2.4 million on air travel for 22 trips.

USA TODAY reported that Braithwaite, who was sworn in last May and resigned when President BidenJoe BidenAtlanta mayor won’t run for reelection South Carolina governor to end pandemic unemployment benefits in June Airplane pollution set to soar with post-pandemic travel boom MORE took office on January 21, traveled to more foreign and domestic locations than any other senior Pentagon civilian amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

By comparison: Other service secretaries took fewer trips in the same period, with then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthyRyan McCarthyArmy report confirms Vanessa Guillén was sexually harassed before her death Pence pleaded with military officials to ‘clear the Capitol’ on Jan. 6: AP Alarming threat prompts early exit, underscoring security fears MORE embarking on 17 trips that cost roughly $900,000 and then-Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett traveling to 19 destinations for a total $1.6 million, according to spokespeople from each service.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark MilleyMark MilleyOvernight Defense: US may keep training Afghan forces in other countries | Defense chief tight-lipped on sexual assault decision | ‘Swift’ return to Iran deal possible, US says US adds 12 fighter jets to protect Afghanistan withdrawal McConnell: Taliban could take over Afghanistan by ‘the end of the year’ MORE, meanwhile, took four trips in that time frame, and then-Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperCourt declines to dismiss Amazon challenge against JEDI decision Inspector general chose not to investigate Secret Service in clearing of Lafayette Square: report The paradox of US-India relations MORE and his successor, acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, took a combined 15 trips.

Where did he go?: Among Braithwaite’s trips was a $232,000 excursion in January to the South Pacific’s Wake Island to record a farewell message to the Navy and Marine Corps.

The island is essentially a refueling stop and emergency landing strip thousands of miles from Hawaii where no sailors or Marines are stationed, Navy spokesman Capt. Jereal Dorsey told the outlet.

Braithwaite also flew to Norway, Italy, Greece, Japan and India, as well as several trips to Hawaii and a more than $24,000 flight to attend the Army-Navy football game with his family.

Braithwaite’s response: Braithwaite defended his travels in a statement to USA Today, claiming they were necessary to strengthen the Navy after recent crises, likely alluding to the scandal surrounding the coronavirus outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier.

“I am extremely proud of the record of accomplishments of Our Sailors and Marines during my tenure as Secretary, especially following such a tumultuous chapter in the Navy’s recent history of crisis following crisis as compared to our other