The 2018 floods devastated Kerala, claiming 480+ lives. When transport facilities shut down, the supply of essentials and medical facilities became difficult. Fortunately, one group of volunteers showed a lot of courage in the Alappuzha district during that time. Called the Flood Volunteers Family (FVF), the group vowed to extend aid whenever any disaster hits Kerala.
Nearly two years after the group first met, the COVID-19 pandemic hit us. On 30 January, Kerala reported the first positive case in India – a student who had returned from Wuhan, China. And in the next four days, the number had risen to three cases – all of them from the coastal state.
The seriousness of COVID-19 was becoming evident across the country, and by the following month, several states, including Kerala, had imposed a statewide lockdown.
FVF knew this was a call for action. This time, they took up the cause to deliver medicines and other essentials to patients who either cannot step out of their homes, cannot afford to purchase medication or those localities that have run out of essential daily goods. No delivery is too difficult for them – even if it meant interdistrict travel or skipping a meal.
Since this initiative began, FVF has successfully delivered to 119 patients in over 90 spots in Kerala.
Keeping Kerala Fit
The FVF volunteers know how important it is to maintain social distance in these times. As travel passes, documentation and travelling solo has become a norm now, of the 250+ volunteers in the group, four have come forward to deliver essential medicines in Ernakulam, Kollam and Kottayam, apart from their hometown, Alappuzha.
“Medicines are a part of essential services, but a nationwide lockdown means that their supplies are dwindling, that pharmacies are running out of supplies and that some people cannot step out to get them. When we realised this, we took up the responsibility to deliver medicines in these three major districts of Kerala,” Rahul Roy, a mechanical technician by profession, tells The Better India (TBI).
Begun in mid-March, the four volunteers have put up their contact numbers on social media. Calls have been coming in since then. “One delivery very close to my heart is that of a cancer patient in the Punnapra village of Alappuzha. The patient was unable to get any medicines in the village. The nearest supply was in Thiruvananthapuram,” Fazal Muhamed Sali, another volunteer shared.
Thiruvananthapuram is over 130 km away from Punnapra – a journey of three and a half hours one way. FVF volunteers fulfilled the request on 25 April.
Foot Soldiers in the Line of Duty
Rahul, Fazal, Arun Narayana Panicker and Athul MV visit the patients and deliver medicines. But 10 more are on standby, in case these four have to be quarantined. It’s a health risk the volunteers are ready to take during the crisis. Besides, the 250+ volunteers who had first come together during the 2018 Kerala floods are providing financial backing for these missions.
“We generally go on bikes and alone. But when we have too many medicines to pick up, and they are not available at the same place, we go in pairs. Only for long-distance interdistrict travel do we take the car,” Fazal shares. The car, he adds, is volunteered by Shyam Kurup, another one of the FVF volunteers.
Shyam had a significant role to play in evacuating 14 Indian students stuck in Rome. You can read all about it here.
One cannot travel in Kerala without an authorised travelling pass. And since over half of the requests for travel passes are getting rejected, FVF’s work becomes all the more critical.
“We contacted the District Collector of Alappuzha district who was only too happy to help us out with the passes. The traffic police frequently stop us, but since we have the pass, we have faced no issue so far,” shares Rahul. Fazal adds that the patients send their prescription over WhatsApp to the volunteers so procuring medicines also becomes easy.
These Kerala Warriors Won’t Back Down
Rahul recalls how a young single mother called them up to ask if they could deliver food for her 9-month-old baby. “The food packages contained rice and dal, but the baby required milk formula. The mother too required some basic medicines. She sustains her family selling lottery tickets, and the lockdown has hurt her business. There was absolutely no doubt about our help. We did it without charging her even for the supplies.”
He also mentions that on a busy day, they deliver to 10-15 spots in one go. When asked about how they manage food and water, Rahul reluctantly shares that they have breakfast at home before they leave. Since the hotels and restaurants are all shut, they cannot stop anywhere for meals. So if they forget to carry their lunch, it’s no food until they get back home. “But who has the time to think about food when we have essential medicines to deliver?” he asks.
In these trying times, such heartwarming initiatives are a source of comfort. We will never tire of sharing the stories of these selfless people who are risking their health while ensuring the safety of others.
To get in touch with the FVF team, call at any of the following numbers:
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)