Care in times of Covid-19: Self-driven crusaders extend a helping hand during lockdown
Delhities are self-organising a fightback against Corona, trying to create a collective, sustainable social response to the pandemic by mobilising volunteers, raising funds online and coordinating the delivery of food and medicines to the needy, especially the elderly and daily wagers.Updated: Mar 27, 2020 14:50 IST
It is early morning and Harpreet Singh is busy preparing a list of people and places he and his community of volunteers called ‘Brothers For all’ have to visit during the day to deliver food kits containing flour, rice, pulses oil, salt, etc. He has already delivered about 150 such kits in the past two days to the poor reeling under the ongoing coronavirus lockdown. Besides, since Wednesday, he has opened two kitchens to prepare 1,000 meals every day and deliver them to various locations across the city.
“These are difficult times for the poor. Thousands of them are going hungry. I am getting so many calls pointing me to people who are either unable to go out or do not have the money to buy essential commodities. We are in the midst of a gigantic crisis and we all need to chip in and act fast,” says 34- year old Singh, a resident of Tilak Nagar in Delhi, who runs a Knowledge Processing Outsourcing firm.
Singh is among people in Delhi and other cities who are self-organising a fightback against Corona, trying to create a collective, sustainable social response to the pandemic by mobilising volunteers, raising funds online and coordinating the delivery of food and medicines to the needy, especially the elderly and daily wagers.
“Though we get calls for help from all over Delhi and NCR, we are currently focusing on west Delhi. I am trying to mobilise citizens groups in different parts across Delhi to coordinate aid in their localities. Today, I got a call from a person, requesting us to urgently deliver food kits to people in a jhuggi cluster in Matiala, west Delhi.” says Singh. “Thankfully, the police are cooperating with us and letting us move around in our cars. We take all precautions to ensure social distancing so that we do not put our volunteers as well as those we are trying to help at risk.”
Similarly, the Delhi Youth Welfare Association, a community organisation in the Walled City on Monday launched Covid- 19 Community Support Fund, to help daily wage workers across the city by providing them cash assistance of Rs 3,000 a month. “We thought that in the current lockdown, it would be best to extend cash support to people. We are collecting funds through 40- odd members of our organisation and also running an online crowdfunding campaign, ” says Mohammad Naeem, president, the Delhi Youth Welfare Association (DYWA).
“We have created a Google form, on which the people can give the details of the needy, and tell why and where they need support. We have already disbursed Rs 3000 each to about 100 daily wage workers in Delhi who include darners, out- of- job taxi drivers, roadside vendors. “We have raised about Rs 13 lakh in three days on a crowdfunding platform,and wish to raise a total of Rs 20 lakh in next few days,” says Abu Sufiyan, 28, a Walled City blogger, who is raising funds for the campaign. “ We intend to help about 200 families over the next two months and, if need be, we will extend this help further.”
Gurgaon–based Venkat Iyer, who runs an HR consultancy firm, says he realised early on that the corona crisis would be prolonged and hit people in the unorganised sector the most such as daily wagers, maids, house helps, construction site workers, plumbers and electricians.
“We are tying up with cloud kitchens to provide meals and with NGOs for last-mile distribution in vulnerable areas in Delhi such as Bara Tooti, Usmanpur, JJ Colony, Madanpur Khadar, Sangam Vihar, Govindpuri Cluster, Chandni Chowk labour market,” says Iyer, who will start food distribution this Friday from Sangam Vihar.
Iyer, who has already raised over Rs 28 lakh in the past five days on a crowdfunding platform, plans to raise about Rs 1 crore. “We will be following all safety protocols and social distancing rules; our volunteers will wear gloves, safety suits and carry all necessary equipment. While distributing food, we will coordinate with authorities and also be checking the temperature of these daily wage workers for infection.”
In the past few days, many corona-related fund-raising campaigns –Coronavirus Support Initiative for Food & Medical Aid to Daily Wagers, Support The Victims Of Coronavirus; Together WE Can, among others—have been initiated on online platforms such as Milaap , Ketto , Our Democracy. The stated objectives of these campaigns include providing food to the daily wagers, create awareness about the virus and the disease, give free masks, soaps, and sanitisers to the poor to help prevent the spread of the virus, and support the Covid 19 patients who need financial help.
Most of crowdfunding platforms have waived off the campaign fee for corona-related fund-raisers. “ Currently, we have over 50 Corona - related fundraisers on our platform; in fact, we have created a dedicated microsite on our platform for this purpose. Unlike other fundraisers, which get support from people in certain locations, corona related fundraisers, which are being run by both common people and organisations, are getting widespread support, both from commoners and celebrities, ” says Varun Seth , co-founder Ketto.
Harpreet Singh of Brothers For all believes that the community response to the pandemic will help form bonds that will outlast the current crisis. “It will help build relationships in communities, which will have the potential for a long- term change,” he says.