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How We Did It: Providing COVID-19 Relief to 300+ Families in 48 Hours

Trigger warning: Mentions of crematoriums, death

With 300,000 new cases reported each day, India has crossed the 19.5 million mark of active COVID-19 cases. Hospitals are running out of medication, oxygen and beds. With facilities overrun and a nation weeping with grief, I can only imagine the continuous peril of migrant workers, crematorium staffers, frontline workers, doctors, nurses, and families who remain in constant battles with life and death to save their loved ones from this deadly virus.

There was no way I could just sit and just watch this catastrophe unfold.

Amid the Indian healthcare system collapsing, Global Volunteers Action Network (GVAN) — like many other citizens, influencers, and organizations in the country — took up the challenge to provide and amplify verified resources, to supply help in any way possible and to use our forum for aid. We identify as a volunteer-matching platform with the focus of contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals. Think Bumble, but instead for volunteers and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Volunteers are matched based on their interests and hobbies so that they can have a fulfilling volunteering experience. The COVID-19 crisis drove our purpose to a cause that demanded both widespread attention and immediate action. It was surprising and heartwarming how social media became a piece of invaluable machinery, opening up channels of communication and connecting those in need with provisions. Similarly, we hoped to use our platforms to provide COVID-19 aid to all of those in need.

[bf_image id="vt739sx5h3mksbpvkw9rh2h"] Along with our volunteers, we made available a Pan-India Repository — which covered resources, helpline numbers, and weblinks — and started messaging groups assisting with provisions of immediate COVID-19 requirements. The first few days were critical. My colleagues and I became administrators for these groups, replying to desperate pleas for help way past midnight. Waking up late the next morning was not a risk I could take knowing that there were so many who required a helping hand. We created and followed a standard protocol: replying to messages, sharing them for amplification, sending leads we found on social media or via friends and family, and maintaining verification checks for our repository. We managed to help more than 300 families in 48 hours, and impact 937 individuals directly last week itself!

As the numbers keep rising, we've formed another support group to reach as many people as possible. On one end, knowing that my privilege, access, agency and capital is fueling something bigger than myself instills hope and confidence in me. On the other hand, as health care sectors collapse all over the country, every unresponsive lead leaves me crushed.

[bf_image id="vrg89qxrsmpbcwpsk7s9xp"] Additionally, there are many to whom the stress, anxiety, and hopelessness of the entire situation turns unbearable, including myself and our team. For them, we’ve started a Discord Server that targets the upliftment of mental health. I created a resource kit that outlined contacts and information regarding therapists, distress helplines, initiatives, queer-friendly therapy, and support groups. Regularly posting content that touched upon ways to cope with the emergency helped me and the community find ways to process the thoughts, feelings, and emotions surrounding grief and pandemic stress.

Arundhati Roy writes with a heavy heart, “How we in India pride ourselves on our capacity to endure.”

[bf_image id="5kb6f6xhpb5hpp42gwtk6b"] We need help and all hope isn’t lost. India is receiving international help in every shape and form, and I urge you all to take some time out and do your bit; whether it be through donations, amplifying the work of on-ground organizations, or through sharing and commenting. Use your platform! Empathy and compassion will bring this ocean of humanity back to healthier times.

Rhea Mukherjee

U Mass Amherst '24

Rhea Mukherjee is a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, she is majoring in Psychology and double minoring in English and Biology. A people's person, Rhea has a deep passion for mental health, awareness and adolescent wellness. When she's not nose-deep in work, you can find her strumming her ukulele, reading memoirs or writing poetry!
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