After a hard day’s work, Anubhav Singh, 26, heads for his bedroom a little later than midnight. His body signals him to rest but he continues to scroll through the slew of requests that surface on his WhatsApp group – for the past month Singh has been on COVID-19 volunteering duty, something that he makes time for in between his taxing day job. He has accomplished more than his fair share of tasks for the day and yet, he feels guilty about going to bed, resting when hundreds of people in his country are falling prey to the virus – either to its severity or to the lack of access to basic amenities such as oxygen cylinders, medicines, or simply food. Just as he is about to put his phone away and call it a day, another request pops up on his screen.
It’s almost 1 am now. Rita, who is afflicted by COVID-19, starts experiencing some complexities pertaining to her pregnancy. Something doesn’t feel right. Although she is already surrounded by medical care, the doctors there insist that she be upgraded to a hospital that could provide her with better care facilities. The need for an ICU could also arise any minute and her current clinic will not be able to accommodate her then. As Singh scans through her very specific request, he feels helpless once again. However, the team at Citizens’ Covid War-Room – a bunch of millennials and zoomers who got together to verify leads and provide resources to coronavirus patients in need – that he works with leave no stone unturned. It is a long harrowing night of making innumerable calls to find a medical care facility that could help a pregnant Rita. Hours later, it is only around 4.30 am that Singh and his team find a hospital, where she is shifted to the ICU. Singh breathes a sigh of relief before preparing himself for another day to just do his bit.
However, the team at Citizens’ Covid War-Room – a bunch of millennials and zoomers who got together to verify leads and provide resources to coronavirus patients in need – that he works with leave no stone unturned.
Singh has never done anything of the sort before – worked with social services or been an activist. He is just one of the many volunteers who have risen to the COVID-19 crisis around the country. He currently splits his time between his day job as an IT banking consultant and volunteering by verifying resources with Citizens’ Covid War-Room. Country-wide protocols demand that one not leave their houses and so, these volunteers take these restrictions in their stride. A majority of these volunteers make phone calls verifying resources available through the internet. Their main aim is to bridge the gap between patients and their needs.
Citizens’ Covid War-Room (CCWR) was started by Ankit Virdi (27), Arbaaz Khan (28) , and Chinmay Patkar (28). Over the past few weeks, their initiative has gathered much momentum. As this trio started putting out requests for volunteers, they were introduced to a host of people who were willing to do whatever it took to provide some much-needed relief during this deadly second wave. Most of them know one another only through mutual friends, Facebook, WhatsApp groups, or Twitter but their ultimate goal remains common. Within a handful of days they were able to accumulate over 100 volunteer entries which has now grown into a repository of 600+.
Their main aim is to bridge the gap between patients and their needs.
Chinmay Patkar, one of the founding members of CCWR, has been a medical practitioner for three years now. Ever since he has undertaken this initiative, he has conducted over 400 telephonic consultations for coronavirus patients free of charge. Distressed patients from all over the country call him; their questions are plagued with fatigue, sickness, and paranoia. However, Patkar only extends his help to those whom he gauges as mild to moderate patients. If he reckons their sickness beyond his control, he insists that they seek physical help immediately. “Whenever I’m doing corporate consultations catering to large audiences, at least one tenth of the people have been hit by COVID-19 and have a slew of doubts. They, by default, think they need injections and medicines. They’re panicking because they’re so worried about their families. We also try to assuage a lot of the common concerns by putting out informational posts and videos regarding homecare on our social media pages so that the patients stay informed and don’t necessarily need to make calls,” says Patkar.
Running a volunteer group that relies so heavily on social media comes with its own set of challenges. Pratika Prabhune, 27, who handles communications at CCWR, insists that the volunteer first-responders undergo a few training sessions before getting recruited to the team. This ensures that sensitivity and assistance go hand in hand. “Right now, there are no caps for the kind of help we can provide to people. Our aid extends from medicines to meals. We are also trying to reach out to the tribal areas in the country where healthcare is not easily available. We do not want to pick and choose the kind of aid we can offer; we want to help as many people as possible,” says Prabhune.
At Citizens’ Covid War-Room, volunteers come from diverse professional backgrounds, most of their co-helpers are anonymous to them.
At any given moment, CCWR has a team of 30-35 volunteers actively working as first responders for the myriad requests that they receive – from requests for beds and meds to providing food to street-dwellers.In an effort to take their initiative forward, they have also started an online fundraiser to help the underprivileged by providing monetary relief to families that have lost their breadwinners. What started out as a goal of raising ₹5 lakh swiftly increased to that of ₹12 lakh of which, too, they are more than 50 per cent through. At Citizens’ Covid War-Room, volunteers come from diverse professional backgrounds, most of their co-helpers are anonymous to them. However, what helps them carry on their good fight is the solidarity that each person feels towards their compatriots. They humbly claim to have had an approximate of 200-250 beneficiaries in the short period that they have been active but it is needless to say that their impact has been resounding.