#Covid volunteer experiences & stories back home
Stories from Manpho
The humdrum of the afternoon was broken by the shrill sirens of an ambulance. There was buzz as everyone rushed to find out what had happened. A guest worker in advanced stages of pregnancy was in labour and was whisked away in the ambulance. Heard that a healthy baby boy was born just 30 min later.
In less than 24 hours, the family, new mother and neonate was in Manpho today to take the train home. Despite many counselling sessions by doctors and volunteers, they were adamant to board today. Such is the desperation to reach home.
*WR Positive Stories: June 18, 2020*
A team from Whitefield Rising, Rotary Indiranagar, Fuel a Dream and Mumbai-based NLS alumni has sent 24 people by air to Kolkata in the last two weeks. The passengers were mainly sick children, cancer patients and pregnant women along with their families.
The first batch had 17 passengers, including a 15-year-old with a brain tumour and a 4-year-old who had one kidney removed.
The second batch had 5 persons including an expectant mother with a young kid, a male patient who had undergone eye surgery and another male patient with an internal leg infection.
Yesterday’s flight had a couple, one of whom is a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy.
In the next 10 days, we still have 8 more people to send out to Bengal (mainly chemotherapy patients) and 4 to Manipur, but we await their fit-to-fly certificates.
For many of these people, it’s been a struggle not only to deal with their loved ones being sick, but also the trauma of running out of money through the lockdown and then the fear to travel by train so soon after their treatment.
Stories of their travels back home. May 23 am
Nothing could convince them to stay. So we did what we could to help our police and the travelers undertaking such an arduous journey back home. At 10 pm last night, 48 hours after we had seen them off with relief, we received word that they were badly in need of water and food. The train was late. V late. 20 hours late. We learnt they were about to approach Prayagraj. A resident angel who has been instrumental in providing food for 1,00,000 people to date since the lockdown started kicked into action. He knew people in Prayagraj. Working furiously he set everything in motion and by 1.35 am he sent the below message
"Water and biscuits will be served again at Mughalsarai " They got water and 5 Samosas each. Also train water tank is full. Washrooms also cleaned."
Nitya & George
60,000+ cooked meals served That’s what these quiet people have done. Meet George, and through George, meet Asad. I have known quiet, mellow, gentle and kind George for a long while now because his wife Ritu has been such a key part of all our work for so many years. George met Asad per chance when helping drive Ritu to the bank in relation to our relief work. Blown away by Asad’s humility and ability, he chose to jump in to with both feet, roped in Anandi and a few more volunteers and together helped Asad serve more people. And during the whole lockdown period, they have collectively devised ways to improve their reach and methods!
Here in his own words, he describes Asad.
“Till a few weeks ago, none of us had heard of Asad. But over the last few weeks Asad has been a cornerstone of most of our relief efforts. All of us on this group do what we do without expectation of thanks or recognition and normally we do not write about people. But given how much of a pivot a relative stranger, Asad has become in most of what we do, I wanted to take some time out to know for myself a bit more of him and share with you all. Asad, a 26 year old boy from Bihar, an engineer by education along with some partners and friends run a company called Food Crate that has a chain of 18 kitchens in Bangalore supplying food under various brands based on internet / phone orders. A few days before the lockout, he posted a message offering free food to the needy, giving his personal no as contact. This went viral and his number became one of the early hunger helplines. Various organisations / people began calling and ordering and they began supplying / funding it as best as they could. WR connected with him in the early days to help source, pack and distribute staples from his kitchen, before we scaled it up and moved to Gopalan. A chance meeting between Asad and one of our core volunteers resulted in a partnership to scale up what Asad had started. With a group of our volunteers, WR hooked up his phone number to an IVR, organised volunteers for packing and distribution of hot food and funding the operation of his Whitefield kitchen. His story has inspired many volunteers to join our efforts and for us to scale up operations on all fronts. The attitude and ability of one so young is remarkable!”
Anandi Iyer (firstname.lastname@example.org)
These are indeed extraordinary times. On the one hand a terrible unknown Virus has crippled the world, and on the other hand we have experienced some amazing stories of positivity, empathy and solidarity emerging from every part of the same globe.
Fraunhofer in India has been, like others on a “work from home” mode ever since the lockdown has been declared in India. We are using this time to reach out to our clients and partners through digital and online tools. We have developed a series of communique around new technologies which we share with relevant client constituencies, and also conduct webinars and online meetings with our experts and researchers. We are also using this time to reassess our internal process and relook at our strategy and goals so that we are prepared to adapt to the new normal in the most effective manner.
The message on my phone, blandly said,” To date we have distributed : Non perishable bi weekly and monthly rations to 25,761 people. Ready to eat hot meals : 57,901. Vegetables purchased from farmers for distribution : 11,550 kgs”.I had been initially at the periphery and later, a little more involved in a couple of areas of the entire operation and I knew that the figures were quite impressive.
I don’t think many agencies that had gamely stepped in to help the affected had much experience in this sort of an activity. How many in the metros would have had the experience to provide relief while a crisis is actually unfolding around you ? Real time. Heck…forget an Indian metro, not many agencies anywhere in the world would have much experience in this.
However, forget pride, there was not even a remote level of satisfaction that I felt.
The last 35 -40 days had passed like a blur. It was towards the end of March…or was it early April, that I had gone on my first distribution trip. Delivering around 14 bags of monthly rations at two different locations.
It has been a perplexing mix of an emotional journey – a little bit of shame and guilt about my lack of awareness of their troubles… their existence in many ways, a growing sense of despair at their situation and soon a mounting mixture of indignation and anger at the powers that be, who never factored in the situation of millions of such people, in their game plan.
While Covid 19 has truly overturned the world order, it has also provided humanity a unique opportunity to pause, reflect and re calibrate. For me, a volunteering opportunity to deliver food to slums in Bangalore, provided many insights I would not have ordinarily imagined.
As the lockdown was announced, a pair of 25 year olds, got together to donate free meals to nearby slum dwellers / daily wage earners. In less than a week the project scaled up to over 3000 lunch packs daily from a mere 500. This crisis management team transformed a high end kitchen, to a bustling high performance high energy food factory that’s feeding thousands of people.
Moving from the paranoia of getting infected to voluntarily diving into the depths of the local slums in order to provide the dwellers what they need in an orderly manner, here are some insights I gathered.
I thought I would give the continuing story on my life & career a small break and write a small piece on TODAY. The COVID Times…
I do not know about others but I did my best, over the last fifty days, to limit my concern on the effects of the Lock Down to what I felt I could control and what was my first responsibility. This happens to be the payment of salaries and ensuring the well being of my team of colleagues. I have tried to do what I could to the best of my ability. I think that is the best that anyone can do. Eventually, they will be harmed more if I stuck my neck out to do things that may put my ability to run the company, when I need to be at the front, at risk. Hence, I followed the advise given to me by strangers on LinkedIn and my own views and ensured that those at the lowest levels of pay in the company were taken care of through monies and provisions and the others got enough towards sustenance. Of course I have been frustrated at not being prepared but could I have been prepared? In reality, we had hardly any warning and there was so much coming out from the various ministries, the RBI and all sorts of people, after we were locked down, that it was very difficult to understand the situation let alone plan properly.