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“We are in the same storm. Not in the same boat.”
This simple line effectively conveys the privilege that many of us hold. The COVID-19 lockdown life isn’t exactly ‘normal’ but those who have the means to sustain themselves, have it relatively easy.
Even as we are all being tested in ways we could never have imagined, there are ways in which we can help out. It may not be a big gesture, but a small act of kindness can brighten up someone’s day, and create a sense of community, support and hope.
Here are some suggestions:
1. Reach Out To Your Friends in Need
Several reports have confirmed that the COVID-19-necessitated lockdown has led to a spike in mental illness and suicides in India. In fact, a recent study by the Indian Psychiatry Society (IPS) confirmed that there was a 20 per cent rise in mental illness cases, which means at least one in five people are suffering from depression, anxiety, severe loneliness etc.
While these issues are quite common in our society even in normal circumstances, it is possible that the lockdown and its resultant effects may exacerbate stress, and this is not going to stop anytime soon.
So, get in touch with the friend, cousin or relative you know has battled, or continues to battle, mental health issues. Talk to them and be respectful of their space, but if they open up, assure them of your support. Many psychologists, NGOs and mental health professionals have started initiatives, especially during the lockdown period, and if needed, you can refer those to them as well.
2. Call your domestic help and ensure they have COVID-19 essentials
Chances are your domestic help needs much more than their monthly salary. Their rents, daily essentials and other expenses may have increased in the last couple of months. Many have also lost their jobs in this period. Even if they haven’t resumed work at your place, ensure that they get their salary on time, either via bank transfer or someone from either family visiting homes to pay in cash.
Additionally, ask them if they need any more money or essentials that you can arrange for. If you can arrange for food, medicines, menstrual hygiene kits etc. separately, that could ease their expenses by a large margin.
If you have been following the news closely, you would also know that domestic violence cases have risen by 21 per cent during the lockdown. The helpline by the National Commission for Women (NCW) has already reported a rise in the number of complaints during the COVID-19 lockdown (396 from February 27 to March 22 and 587 from March 23 to April 16). These, of course, include women from all economic demographics. However, those from poorer backgrounds tend to have limited access to helpful resources and so, keeping in touch with your domestic help becomes all the more crucial.
3. Stitch and distribute COVID-19 masks
Laxmi Das, a 56-year-old homemaker in Delhi, has been stitching face masks since the first lockdown was announced, and her son, Sourav, has installed “mask dispensaries” in their locality for shopkeepers, daily wage earners and others to collect masks for free. So far, the duo has distributed over 1000 such masks.
Masks have become a necessity in these times, but not everyone can buy them. Street vendors, shopkeepers, labourers, auto drivers, delivery agents and other workers may be frequenting your area, and you can help them stay safe with a single mask. All you have to do is carry them with you (preferably wrapped) and every time you see someone without a mask, hand them out!
Not sure how to make a mask? Take a look here.
4. Support an initiative that is helping migrant workers
Every day, thousands of labourers are taking a journey back home—from one destination of uncertainty to another. Not only have thousands lost their livelihood, but are also putting their lives in grave danger.
On an individual basis, we may or may not have the resources to help them. But together, you and I can contribute to their safety. The Better India has partnered with IAS and IRS officers across the country and is raising funds to provide food, essentials and safety kits for frontline workers and daily wage earners. You can contribute to our efforts by clicking here. Alternatively, choose any initiative of your choice and keep supporting it financially to help the affected communities during the COVID-19 lockdown.
5. Volunteer for local initiatives
If you don’t have the financial resources to support COVID-19 initiatives, there’s still so much to do! Take this ‘Roti Seva’ initiative, for example. In Surat, about 26,000 households are taking turns to make just five extra rotis every day. These extra rotis are given to migrant labourers. About 1 lakh rotis are distributed every day, ensuring that the needy don’t go hungry.
Every city and town has started some initiative of this sort. It could be delivering medicines, feeding the poor or taking online classes for underprivileged students. Get hunting for such opportunities, and volunteer your time and skills for them.
6. Take care of the strays in your area
Stray dogs and cats are a crucial part of the urban ecosystem, and largely depend on food remains from restaurants, butcher shops, and street food vendors to survive. Since most of them have shut shop, they are starving.
While you don’t have to splurge on pet food (although it would be a delightful treat for them), you can take out some time during the day to feed them biscuits, bread, rotis, rice or such other basic foods and ensure that they don’t go hungry.
Want some motivation to start such an initiative? Here are some animal lovers who have dedicated their efforts to help strays during the COVID-19 lockdown.
7. Be a chaperone for elderly, vulnerable neighbours
People above the age of 60 are the most vulnerable to COVID-19. Many also require support to walk, are not very tech-savvy and also suffer from other illnesses—and all of this combined puts them in a precarious situation.
If you are looking to utilise this COVID-19 lockdown to help the needy, don’t forget the elderly! Identify vulnerable neighbours—senior citizens, people living alone, those who have lost jobs or those with lifestyle diseases and keep in touch with them. Every time you are out to buy essentials, ask them if they need anything.
Not only will this restrict crowding in the shops, but it will also keep those at risk safe. And bring your community closer!
8. Read up and bust myths about COVID-19
In the world that we live in, fake news, misinformation and rumours are always a hair’s breadth away—so much so, that it gets difficult to separate the truth from the hoaxes. Yet, it is necessary to do so because if stopped in their tracks, hoaxes have the potential to put someone’s life at risk.
So, only read credible sources, research by scientists and statements by the World Health Organisation (WHO) etc. If you spot something dubious on your social media feed, study it, find the truth behind it and if it turns out to be a rumour, inform it to the sender. This may seem like a small initiative, but you never know how far a message has travelled. It is always helpful to spread the truth rather than let the hoaxes go uninspected.
Do you have more ideas on how one can help the needy while staying at home? Do share with us!
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)