The COVID-19 pandemic, especially the second wave, had a dire impact on the entire nation and it emerged as one of the biggest health crises the country has ever witnessed. With constrained movements, people were desperate for ration, patients needed cooked meals, critical patients needed oxygen, and communities needed preventive equipment.
However, many NGOs came out of their way to serve humanity and aid the distressed communities. One among them is 'Sewa International'-a global non-profit organisation that provides hands-on disaster relief. The NGO has already swung into action to prepare for the third wave of COVID by setting over 35 oxygen plants, providing more than 1 lakh villages with diagnostic equipment and developing telemedicine systems to make quality healthcare accessible across India.
Motivated by the spirit of 'Sewa', or selfless service, the organisation began in London as a global humanitarian movement in 1993 to provide relief after the Latur (Maharashtra) earthquake. Later, it was set up in India in 1997, engaging the Indian diaspora across the globe to stay connected with their roots while contributing to development causes in the country.
"At Sewa, we work in the domain of health, education, skill development, women empowerment, livelihood generation, rural development, and aid in times of natural calamities and large-scale distress situations," Shyam Parande, Managing Trustee and Secretary at Sewa International told The Logical Indian.
Spread Across 20 States And 25 Countries
Presently, branches of Sewa International are present in more than 20 states in the country and over 25 countries globally, including America, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa. The organisation has an enthusiastic team and thousands of volunteers as a part of the Sewa Movement.
Within the 60-day period of the COVID-19 surge, the organisation distributed over 10,000 oxygen concentrators, more than 77400 masks, 3,000+ Arogya health kits, over 1,70,000 food kits in 340+ districts, and provided free primary health care to 15,160 people in India.
"We feel proud that we were one of the first respondents to the COVID-19 wave and continue the work as COVID-19 rehabilitation projects are being initiated across 15+ states. Currently, we are preparing for the third wave of COVID-19 by distributing more critical care equipment and setting up oxygen plants at hospitals, the impact of which would reap long-term benefits to the underserved societies at large," Parande added while speaking with The Logical Indian.
The NGO works actively with governments in the rescue operations with their ground volunteers and medical teams acting as a layer of added health support. It also works with a network of 1200+ NGOs across the nation to get ground support and access local needs in times of disaster. To get financial support, it works with multiple CSR arms, Grant-making bodies, and Foundations to get humanitarian aids.
Saviour During Natural Disasters
At an organisation level, the NGO works with the action framework of Rescue, Relief, and Rehabilitation during natural calamities and disasters. "Once we access the affected area to understand the immediate ground needs, we immediately try to ensure that we provide the affected people with necessities like food, water, clothing, etc. We have a team of volunteers and medical professionals who set up camps for the injured and provide emergency shelters for the rescued victims," Parande said.
Till now, Sewa International has served communities through more than 20 major disasters in states, including the Gujarat earthquake, Tsunami in the Southern States, Uttarakhand floods, Kerala floods, Tamil Nadu floods, Odisha cyclone, Bihar floods, and Maharashtra droughts and floods, to name a few.
Currently, with the ongoing pandemic across the country, the organisation has devised a four-fold plan to minimise the effect if it hits India again. These four-fold areas where it directing its efforts include oxygenation, telemedicine, medical infrastructure and rural prevention
Work During COVID-19
"At the beginning of the second wave, half of our team got COVID positive, leading to massive pressure on the team, both emotionally and physically. While the majority of them continued to work despite the fever, the stress of COVID-19 and the disturbing stories from the ground kept us all on the edge," explains Parande.
With the lack of availability of transporters and labour, sending the medical equipment became a massive challenge. Within a couple of days, the demands for concentrators went much beyond capacity, and prioritisation became very important. It was then that the Sewa team had to set up a process for requests and their verification.
"Despite suffering from COVID themselves and being unable to gather resources for themselves, our teammates were working around the clock to help provide resources for others across the country. This is the spirit of Sewa that we take immense yet humble pride in," Parande told The Logical Indian.
The organisation has strategised a four-tier approach to help the government fight against the pandemic. Sewa has supplied over 170 ventilators, portable ECG machines, humidifiers, and other critical care equipment to hospitals in over eight states to strengthen India's healthcare infrastructure.
Besides this, the organisation has launched a Free Telemedicine Service, SAATH (Supportive Action Across Telemedicine and Healthcare), offering free consultations from a panel of experienced doctors. This initiative aims to reach people across the country, providing best-in-class allopathy, Ayurvedic, nutritional advice, and medical services. Over the next year, it also plans to expand its nationwide footprint in India, building relationships with new partners in non-profit and CSR domains.
The second wave of COVID-19 claimed many lives, out of which 64% were men and around 40% were the sole earning members of the family. This affected a large number of women, emotionally as well as financially.
"With Sewa's new initiative, SHE-CAF, we aim to empower these women. We set up skill-development camps in which we provided free courses for tailoring, computers, language, etc., menstruation awareness camps, and even counseling sessions for the aged people and women who were mourning the loss of their family members. More than 2000 women have completed their training and were also supported in getting placed at reputable organisations," Parande share.
The NGO also has a campaign called SaC-CAF (Sponsor a Child-for Covid affected family). They help children who lost both or either of their parents to COVID-19 to complete their education, get active in extracurricular activities, and hand-hold them until they are independent enough. So far, over 3000 cases have been identified.