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Relu Vasave, a 27-year old Anganwadi worker from Nashik, has seen the strong current of Narmada river all her life. When COVID-19 prevented a group of tribals from coming to the Anganwadi centres by boat for their food and medical check-ups, she decided to go with them.
Vasave works in the Anganwadi situated in the remote tribal village of Chimalkhadi in Nandurbar district of Maharashtra.
The only way to reach these villages is through the boat, and the entire trip is up to 18 km. But it doesn't stop her from executing her duties. For travelling to the village, she borrowed a small boat from a local fisherman.
She visits the hamlets of Aligat and Dadar and ensures that 25 newborn and malnourished children, as well as seven pregnant women, get nutrition. She has been continuing with this since April. Now, she travels by boat to these villages for five days a week to check on the tribals.
Vasave's primary role is to take care of the health and growth of newborns, especially children under six years of age and pregnant women. She provides them with nutritional supplements given by the government.
The tribals from these villages across the backwaters of the Narmada stopped coming to the Anganwadi after the lockdown was imposed.
She is proficient at swimming and rowing since her childhood. She has been continuing with this work across the tribal villages regularly for six months. Her usual routine involves reaching the Anganwadi at 7.30 am, and she works theirs till noon.
After lunch, she sets off in her boat returns only late in the evening. She goes alone rowing the boat carrying the food supplements and baby-weighing equipment. At times, her relative Sangita, who also works in an Anganwadi, joins her in the travelling to villages, reported Times of India.
However, her journey is not just limited to the boat ride. After that, Relu has to trek up the hilly terrain to reach these villages finally. She shares that rowing every day is not easy for her. Her hands ache when she comes back home in the evening. However, the thought that it's crucial for the babies and the expecting mothers to eat nutritious food keeps her going.
The tribals are thankful for her selfless service. She has even been praised by chief minister Uddhav Thackeray for the extraordinary efforts that she has taken for the welfare of others.
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