A women’s group has helped rescue over 9605 people stranded during the floods in Kerala by tracking trending flood hashtags on social media platforms. From a mother and her premature-month-old baby to a bedridden aged couple stuck for over a week inside their house, the group’s efforts are an example of a community coming together to support each other in difficult times.
These ten women met at change.org‘s ‘She Creates Change’ programme. A conversation on WhatsApp about the devastation caused by the floods and the desire to do more than just donate lead them to formulate a plan. Putting their learnings from the programme into action they searched social media for rescue requests, verified and then forwarded them to teams on the ground. These women reside in different parts of the country. Many of them are also working professionals that have still managed to contribute their time and efforts to this cause.
Noida based IT professional Parul Mathur and advocate Sagina Walyat from Chandigarh went through hashtags on platforms like Twitter and Facebook, searching for distress messages from those stranded or their relatives. The stories of pain, loss and trauma that were pouring in were heart-rending. By joining Facebook groups dedicated to the flood rescue and relief efforts they expanded their outreach. In due time, journalists and social workers started connecting with them, thereby creating a larger network.
Documenting and verifying requests
The requests were then documented to facilitate smooth functioning and easier accessibility. Pracheta Budhwar, an executive coach and Pranay Manjari, a CSR professional from Bangalore maintained this database. Malayalam speakers Shilpa Shree a Mumbai based writer, software engineer Jincy Varghese, media professional Nirmala Nair and a Banglore based journalist, later joined by student volunteer Vidhya Nair were then tasked with calling up the phone numbers to verify details and obtain location and the immediate medical aid required. “My family and I were frustrated that we could do nothing except donate. With rising death toll we felt helpless. Which is why when I heard about this opportunity I leapt forward to volunteer,” said Vidya.
Connecting with rescue operations
The verified numbers were then connected by Namita Sood to her friend in Banglore who was coordinating with rescue teams of the Army, Navy and NDRF. Ms Sood gets teary-eyed remembering the selfless service of an army man who lost his life in a flash flood. He was on his last rescue mission.
Jincy narrates an incident where she spoke to a man whose mother had passed away 24 hours before. Her body was still with them. He was waiting to be rescued. “I could hear the pain in his voice, he was trying so hard not to cry,” says Jincy.
One of the speakers recalls helping a man suffering from cancer. He was critically ill and had to be transferred to another hospital for a better treatment facility. They had tried to transport him in an ambulance but the poor road conditions made that impossible. With her help, the man was airlifted.
Once the rescue requests started tapering the group called back those they had connected to check if the rescue operations had, in fact, reached them. They later focused on relief efforts and in connecting organisations on the ground with donors. Vijaya Moorthy who was also involved in the rescue efforts was leading this front. The official government website for victims was used to send out requests for materials needed and the donation channels coordinated.
The Logical Indian lauds the effort of these women. This story shows the power of social media and the potential within each of us to create change. Despite geographical barriers, these women came together to innovatively use resources at their disposal. In a world where cynicism is the new trend for challenging social issues here is an inspiring example disproving the naysayers.