'Anyone Can Be A Care-monger. Think Of How You Can help'
The help we are able to provide as a community is far more important than figuring out your Netflix subscription
When people started practising social distancing in India, a few close friends of mine, one in the US and another in the UK, who’d seen how coronavirus had spread in their districts/cities, called. They asked if I could deliver medicines and grocery to their elderly parents in the city (Bengaluru) that would last them at least a month.
Sensing the urgency, I decided to put up a post on my Facebook wall for friends staying abroad—if you want me to check in on your parents back home, I am happy to help.
While I got a lot of requests from friends, I also received many from people I didn’t know. Then, messages starting pouring in from people volunteering to help.
Word got around and I decided to start a group, Caremongers India, on 17 March to better address such requests. In the first 24 hours, I got 363 calls on the helpline number. On Wednesday, the first day of the 21-day lockdown, I got 80 calls every hour.
I am an independent digital marketing professional, but I have stopped taking work now. The helpline number starts ringing from five in the morning and it never really stops. On some days, I barely get time to sleep.
But this doesn’t bother me, really. We are in middle of a crisis, and it is everybody’s fight now. Caremongers India now has over 8,500 volunteers across the country.
The help we are able to provide to people as a community is far more important than figuring out if we can afford the next few months’ subscription for Netflix.
For every call received on the helpline, the SoP is: verify the need, prioritize and then spread the word through the Facebook page, local WhatsApp groups and core volunteers.
Broadly, we have identified four high-risk categories: senior citizens, the physically challenged, those with pre-diagnosed medical conditions and parents with infants (less than a year old).
We are also trying to streamline the requests and have managed to put them under three big baskets, medication, grocery and food supply (this could include meals for those who are not in a position to cook).
Sometimes, we get a request to take someone to the hospital for their chemotherapy or dialysis. Of course, there are odd requests too, for plumbing or delivering a pizza or pasta!
But with the lockdown, the challenge now is to ensure the volunteers are safe and the government restrictions are not flouted.
We are trying to get government authorization certificates for our volunteers. We have managed to do it in Karnataka, but we are still in the process of getting this done in other states. We are also telling everyone that if your request can wait for a day or two, please do, the situation is evolving every day.
I am really hoping that in a post-corona world, the need for us to function doesn’t exist anymore. However, having said that, I can see the need that exists in society.
Anyone can be a care-monger. Think of how you can facilitate someone. It can be something as basic as helping someone make a digital transaction.
(As told to Kritika Banerjee)