Pune: Volunteer groups spread cheer, help the most vulnerable in locked-in city

Pune: Volunteer groups spread cheer, help the most vulnerable in locked-in city

They have even urged elderly people, who face difficulties in commuting amid the lockdown, to approach them.

Written by Alifiya Nalwala

With most housing societies having restricted the entry of helpers into their premises in times of social distancing, senior citizens are struggling to get hold of essentials. Coming as a ray of hope for these seniors and vulnerable groups — including foreign students and those from other cities working in Pune — are numerous volunteer groups which have sprung up in the city.

One such group is the Friends of Senior Citizens, spread all across the city, which is ready to help senior citizens by delivering essentials at their doorsteps. From day-to-day stuff, grocery, medicines and even home-made tiffins, these groups offer all.

They have even urged elderly people, who face difficulties in commuting amid the lockdown, to approach them.

“Mostly they want grocery, vegetables and medicines to be collected and delivered to them. In most cases, we call local chemists and wellness stores. But cooked meals are becoming a challenge... because even if restaurants or people are making food, then they are not delivering,” said Babita Kankariya, a volunteer in Koregaon Park area.

Sonali Rasal ,who started the group with another friend, said the biggest need right now is for housing societies to

form volunteer groups. “Sometimes, we just drop the parcel at the gate due to restrictions on outsiders coming in. But seniors find it difficult to even come to the gate, so we need more volunteers from within housing societies,” she said.

Aakash Shah, a student of international relations at Symbiosis, is also working with 60 volunteers to take medicines and groceries to senior citizens under the head of Action for Pune Development. They have served 350 senior citizens in the last seven days.

In some communities, leaders have themselves taken up the responsibility of establishing volunteer networks that will help community members. For example, the Dawoodi Bohra community has established a centralised helpline and volunteer group. “Ration and essential supplies were provided to 600 homes. By tomorrow, a helpline number will be declared, on which community members can call for any help, right from medical to transport, food and other needs. We are also starting a medical and counselling helpline, which will be manned by community doctors. Today, people are scared to report symptoms, fearing quarantine. We need to build their confidence. We will encourage our members to call and report if they have any symptoms or doubts. If needed, they will then be connected to hospital doctors on conference calls,” said Janab Abdealy bhaisaheb Nooruddin, head of the Dawoodi Bohra community, Camp.

Even political parties and their volunteers have stepped up to the occasion. Rohan Gaikwad, MNS volunteer from Wanowrie-NIBM Road, has put together a big group of volunteers offering a range of services, right from pick-up and drop of groceries and medicines, tiffins for senior citizens and those living alone, and even a sanitised rickshaw complete with masks and hand sanitiser facility. “We have catered to hundreds of requests. Since housing societies have restricted the entry of maids, it is becoming difficult for elders to cope. In fact, we are now facing a problem since petrol pumps are not selling fuel and our volunteers need to attend to so many calls, “ he said.