The global Coronavirus crisis has brought out the best and worst out of people across the world. We have seen medical workers being beaten up while testing civilians for COVID-19; we have also seen people across classes working to prevent the spread of the dangerous pathogen too.
For Bengaluru-based digital marketer Mahita Nagaraj, the emergency situation in the country was the chance to bring people together and help each other. Her initiative, Caremongers India, has brought together around 28,000 volunteers from across the country to help their fellow citizens in this difficult time.
Mahita tells MAKERS India, “When social distancing was advised in India, we found that many senior citizens and people with medical conditions had no access to daily essentials or medical supplies. Given that they were also advised to isolate themselves, we decided to pull together volunteers who could assist people in isolation with procurement and delivery of essential supplies.”
She was surprised to see how quickly the group has grown in popularity. “The number of people that come forward asking for assistance is probably not as many as the number of people coming forward to offer assistance!” she says.
But the group that Caremongers India cater to were not very Facebook-savvy/ digitally-savvy. So, expecting them to reach out on a Facebook group for assistance was impractical. Also, Caremongers India mostly caters to senior citizens, who are uncomfortable seeking assistance publicly. But the helpline gave them anonymity and assurance that whatever they required would reach them.
Mahita claims that within the first 24 hours of establishing the helpline, the team received over 350 calls. “As soon as the lockdown was announced, we were averaging close to 900 calls and about 2000 messages daily. They were requesting for assistance, enquiring what kind of services we had to offer, and seeking information about services in and around their locality.”
Mahita, 38, is a freelance digital marketing professional with a degree in Mass Communication, Psychology and English literature. She has earlier held marketing roles in Corporate sector and, more recently, program management roles in non-profit organizations.
Caremongers is not the first social initiative Mahita has undertaken. In 2015, around the time of Dussehra, she organised ‘Feed Your Neighbour’ initiative on Facebook. By mobilising the community, she had managed to feed 1,22,937 meals to the hungry at the time.
About her inspiration for such initiatives, Mahita says, “I am a believer in community and kindness, in the ability to create change at an individual level, in the ability to help people, whether at an individual level or institutional level. I’ve been lucky to have been born into a family that values integrity over all else, and I’ve grown up watching my parents assist everyone they can, whether with knowledge or physical assistance. So the belief that assistance doesn’t always have to be financial probably came from this.”
The good fight
As she spends a lot of time on the field, she has isolated herself from her mother and her 12-year-old son, whom she lives with. “To be unable to see my family for this long is tough. All three of us are in three different homes; but technology has made it easier to be connected, and we manage with video calls and WhatsApp exchanges. I’m blessed to be surrounded by so much love,” she says.
Despite the personal hardships, Mahita realises that the crisis we are going through now is so much bigger. “It calls for everyone to rally together to fight it, and I’m happy that I’m able to make a difference, however small, in somebody’s life,” she tells MAKERS India.
Asked about her plans for Caremongers India once the Coronavirus pandemic is over, Mahita noted, “Honestly, I’m not sure what shape or form Caremongers India will evolve into. There is such a need currently that we are catering to, and the sheer volume of requests keeps us all on our toes all day. Perhaps once the Covid crisis passes, there will be time to think about the future of Caremongers India,” she signs off.