Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic struck the world, a lot of services got suspended, businesses shut down, and most people in the shanty towns and suburbs remained starved for at least one time in a day. United Nations World Food Programme
had reported that people starving with food insecurity were expected to surge up to 265 million in 2020, which is 130 million more against 135 million in 2019.
Despite strict lockdowns across the world, from celebrities to NGOs to the common public, everyone had come to rescue the ones in need. As we still grapple with the current situation, one of those living creatures, stray animals, have been completely ignored. But, Vibha Tomar, a 4th-year veterinary student from Arawali Veterinary college, came as a saviour to aid these strays.
Saviour for the speechless
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the only creatures that Vibha thought were about the strays and their survival. She said, "The strays only depend on the leftover food that was given by the people on the side streets. They eat food from the garbage bins outside the houses. If people aren't out of their homes, then no food for these strays". That's when Vibha realized to do something for them.
Being a veterinary student, she took it as her duty on her shoulders like a good Samaritan to help the poor stray babies by feeding them food on a daily basis. Thanks to her parents, Vijay Tomar and Kiran Tomar who have been extremely supportive during the initiative taken by Vibha since day one.
When she was in class 2, they bought her dog, named Oscar. The time she realized to be a veterinarian, her parents contended about her decision. Talking about the initiative, she shared, "The unavailability of the food at the places where they found earlier has got me thinking that someone has to step out to do something about it".
Initially, Vibha started with 50 strays and ended up feeding 350 strays on a daily basis throughout the lockdown. She covered as many areas as she possibly could, including South Delhi and Central Delhi to feed the strays. To reach a wider audience, she also made posters conveying a message which said that strays do not transmit COVID-19 virus, and asked to help those innocent ones.
In quick time, Vibha's posters went viral on social media and garnered lakhs of views. Even Bollywood actors helped Vibha in circulating her message. "I'm grateful to everyone who shared the pictures", as she expressed her gratitude to all the supporters who had been a helping-hand throughout her initiative.
When it comes to preparing the food, it used to take 3-4 hours of time for Vibha, where she used to pack up the food in her car and go in the evening hours all ready to feed the strays. "I usually left home at around 8 pm and came back around 2 a.m. Sometimes, the time of going back to her house extended to 4 or 5 am., as she used to end up either rescuing animals or treating the injured stray souls", she asserted.
Furthermore, Vibha has done above and beyond her call of serving the strays by putting stories on social media platforms asking people about the strays and their locations. Her inbox was flooded with messages from people telling her the route to those places where strays are spotted.
"Whenever I went to a particular place, I used to press the car horn multiple times. At first, I used to call them out going to where they were. Then they recognized the honking. So, it was the moment they used to hear the horn and came running to me, as they knew that it was the time to get food. It worked with all the stray dogs, including the cats and the monkeys too" shared Vibha.
The places where Vibha wasn't able to traverse, she posted on social media asking for help from the people living in those areas, where they could feed those dogs. And it worked well.
However, there were some studies which showed that dogs could get infected with the virus. With that thought, we asked Vibha the same, and she swiftly replied, "There were many false articles online that stated the opposite and got so much far by abandoning the pets at their home".
Speaking of the safety norms, she said, "The only precautions I took were wearing masks and gloves, and kept sanitizing my hands all the time. If the animals were to transmit the COVID-19 virus, I think I would've been dead by now. And asked to refer to the WHO website for more info on the same"
Oscar For Life
Well, Vibha has a true story behind the whole initiative and the reason why she wanted to be a veterinarian. It was a bygone incident where Vibha was in her 7th class sitting outside of her house. A stray doing, named Coco, ran towards here. She played with him and found out that he was injured. Still being a schooler, she couldn't do anything about it, as her parents were not at home.
With a kind heart, Vibha waited for her parents to come home so that she could take the dog to the clinic to get him treated. During that moment, she was hapless about the situation, as it turned out to be an eye-opener. At that juncture, she decided to be a veterinarian with a primitive goal to save animals.
The 22-year-old life has completely changed after her pet dog, Oscar, came into her life. Vibha considered her pet dog, Oscar, as everything - "best friend, my family, my love who was there in every single phase of my life". Being with Oscar made her realize the true meaning of love. He not only motivated Vibha but also inspired her to pursue veterinary as her course of study ahead after her high school. Oscar's caring nature, unconditional love, affection, and selflessness encouraged Vibha to rescue and cure the animals in need.
Going forward, in the loving memory of Oscar, Vibha has also opened "Oscar For Life Charitable Trust". She does all sorts of aid work through her trust, such as rescuing, treating, feeding, fostering, and adoptions for the strays. Vibha has also started a project named "Winter Homes For Strays" in which she's providing homes made of tyres for the strays along with the rugs to keep them warm. Added to that, since last year, Vibha has also been providing reflective collars to the strays to avoid road accidents.
During the lockdown period, Oscar For Life Charitable Trust got donations from people, including her family & friends, where Vibha has spent around 100000/- rupees per month feeding the strays. Currently, she feeds around 20-25 strays daily, costing around 40000/- rupees, as they are being fed twice a day.
Down the line
Well, Vibha has some great plans that are cooking hot right now. After her degree, she has plans to open up her own shelter home and a pet clinic for the animals. Vibha kept going with her plans - "there would be all sorts of facilities for the strays and many modifications in the clinical department for faster recovery of the injured animals".
"I have a dream that no animal dies waiting for help. I want that when someone calls at Oscar For Life For Help, the answer would always be yes at any hour of the day, including midnight" avows Vibha on extending her help to the fullest to save the animals
Vibha ended by thanking her parents for being a great support system as always, and all her social media followers who helped throughout her journey to make this initiative successful.
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