Over 4,000 volunteers from across India came together this April to start a Covid 24X7 Helpline Family. (Photo: Jessie Wardarski/AP)
Over 4,000 volunteers from across India came together this April to start a Covid 24X7 Helpline Family. (Photo: Jessie Wardarski/AP)

Delhi’s Covid 24X7 helpline family: A call of compassion

With more than 4,000 volunteers across India, the single WhatsApp group has multiplied to a total of 16 groups comprising 13 helplines — one leads group, one verification group and one group of core team members.
By Naina Arora, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAY 28, 2021 01:50 PM IST

When the intentions are good, even a small effort in the right direction goes a long way in bringing a significant change. That’s exactly what happened when more than 4,000 volunteers from across India came together this April, to start a helpline that has become a family of sorts. As part of Delhi’s Covid 24X7 Helpline Family, these volunteers have been helping people find and source oxygen cylinders and concentrators, arrange hospital beds, source medication and even provide food and other essential services to those facing the challenges posed by Covid, in the second wave.

Leading the way to set-up this platform was a core group of volunteers namely Karan Sikka, Dr Shirin Khanna, Tarpan Sehgal, Naveen Bagri, Upasana Bora, Damanjeet Singh, Manish Bagga and Gaurav Dhaundiyal. Their set-up involved formation of a separate WhatsApp group, specifically for users, to post leads from any social media platform and even the internet. And from a single group, they have multiplied to a total of 16 groups comprising 13 helplines — one leads group, one verification group and one group for their core team.

The initiative is led by a core group of volunteers namely Karan Sikka, Dr Shirin Khanna, Tarpan Sehgal, Naveen Bagri, Upasana Bora, Damanjeet Singh, Manish Bagga and Gaurav Dhaundiyal.
The initiative is led by a core group of volunteers namely Karan Sikka, Dr Shirin Khanna, Tarpan Sehgal, Naveen Bagri, Upasana Bora, Damanjeet Singh, Manish Bagga and Gaurav Dhaundiyal.

Karan Sikka, one of the core volunteers, says, “It started with one WhatsApp group, which later multiplied and grew. We started on April 19, just when cases began skyrocketing. We tried to organise everything, and personally verified all information. Sometimes the information we got would be old, or nobody would answer the number that we got. So a special team would call on these numbers, day and night, to verify them all. This way we were also able to help set-up Covid care centres in Delhi-NCR by procuring oxygen cylinders and concentrators.”

Another Delhi-based volunteer, Tarpan Sehgal, an advocate by profession, has helped arrange more than 150 beds, about 500 oxygen cylinders, arrange more than 20 Remdisiver alongside helping people get vital drugs and medicines. He says, “You don’t need a cape to be a hero. We initiated the chain of connecting people with each other via social media specifically Instagram, WhatsApp and other social media platforms. Like our chain of volunteers, who are gathering information from various leads on different platforms, I’ve also been working day and night. I’ve lost a few close one during this time, but I want to help others as much as I can.”

“We were able to provide help to thousands of people in need and by God’s grace many lives were saved,” says Upasana Bora, a social media influencer, who has been able to arrange leads using her social media presence. She adds, “By using my social media influence and reach, we have been able to spread the word just at the right time.”

Helping the patients get access to professional advice on self medication is Dr Shirin Khanna. The Delhi-based medical practitioner came forward to be part of this initiative, to ensure that people are disseminated the right information, and says: “Sometimes people cannot reach out to doctors in time, and they ask their peers questions like ‘What should I do?’ ‘Saturation is falling, what should I do’. People were calling me saying they are out of breath. It was really haphazard. Twice I had to tell people about ventilator, whether they need it or not. It’s very important to know when one needs a ventilator or oxygen. And then I thought, why not help those who are putting out their queries in the groups!”

Author tweets @Nainaarora8

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