In the wake of the coronavirus lockdown, Sarvahitey, an NGO based in Delhi, has been relentlessly carrying out relief works to help those in need across the country.
Sarvahitey was established in 2015 with an aim to eradicate illiteracy, unemployment, cultural seclusion and poverty in India.
The brainchild of a group of socially conscientious members, the NGO was formed to cater to the underprivileged, their needs, and gradually making them self-sufficient to fulfil their personal, familial, financial and societal obligations.
Since its inception, the NGO has established 10 education centres and over 200 libraries/cultural centres across 11 states and union territories in India.
Amid the coronavirus crisis, the NGO started their relief work with the distribution of dry ration to the families of nearly 450 students studying in their centres in Delhi, Noida and Gurgaon. They also helped the families with filling their gas cylinders, as either the shops filling gas cylinders had closed or they did not have money to get the cylinders filled.
"We started with the education centres we have in Delhi, Noida and Gurgaon, which we have been running for around four years. All the kids in the centres come from underprivileged backgrounds, so their parents were the first ones to lose jobs as drivers, gardeners, maids, rickshaw pullers, and hawkers. So we could see the problem which was expected to spiral up in the coming weeks," Prem Prakash, co-founder of Sarvahitey, tells The Logical Indian.
After this, they started a project called '#MyPincode' in collaboration with Social Media Matters, an organisation that works on detecting fake news, online safety, and women empowerment. Together, they made 213 Facebook groups in those districts which had the most number of COVID-19 hotspots. At present, they have mobilised over 500 volunteers who are working across the country and their core team of 25 people coordinate and manage everything across the country.
"The purpose of these groups was mainly centred around four or five things. One - to ensure that no fake news is shared. Whatever fake news is being shared at the local level, we called that out. Secondly, whatever notifications are issued by district magistrates, state governments, or central government, they are presented in local language in simplified form. Where it was needed, we also made videos in the local language," explains Prakash.
As blood donations were facing a huge problem amid the lockdown, the groups also reached out to blood donor network of Facebook and started taking in blood donation requests. Till date, they have helped complete 50 blood donation requests.
"We also started taking in distress calls for food. Under this, we reached out to over 2,500 families, right from Kashmir to Kerala, Nagaland, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Andhra, Maharashtra, Karnataka, etc. There were a few Kashmiri students stranded in Delhi and we ensured that food packets reached them," says Prakash.
They also help in paying the rent of students and migrant workers stranded in various parts of the country.
"Most of the migrant workers we see walking on the roads because the landlord was pressurising them to evict the property. In some cases, their stuff was thrown out. So, these poor souls did not have any other option but to risk everything and walk on highways. So, in some cases, we paid rent to the most vulnerable ones," says Prem.
In addition, in collaboration with the Railway Police Force, Ghaziabad, the NGO is distributing food packets to those around Ghaziabad railway station and the migrant workers walking on foot to their native place. The food kits include three Glucose biscuit packets, one water bottle, one namkeen, one ORS sachet, two bananas and a couple of bandages. Daily, they feed 500 such migrants.
In a bid to help the stray animals left starving due to the lockdown, the team also started the #FeedThemToo Campaign.
"The strays survived on the leftover food around restaurants or whatever was given to them. Since everything is locked and nobody is venturing out, many strays are going hungry. So, we started a campaign called 'Feed Them Too'. Under this, we encouraged our volunteers across the country to feed these animals," explains Prakash.
Going forward, the team plans to arrange transport for migrant workers to return from Ghaziabad or Delhi border to Bihar. In addition, as there are many vulnerable families who have lost their jobs, Sarvahitey is trying to get them employed somewhere. For this, they have also started training some people in sanitising places.