COVID Action by ISDM Students
Arpita Sur, PGP DM 2020-21
The year 2021 had started on a high note for ISDM's students, as many students trickled into the campus for offline classes. Discussions were livelier, clubs were formed, and everyone made sure that COVID-19 appropriate behaviour was followed. However, the last leg of this cohort's journey had to be shifted entirely online since India started grappling with the pandemic's second wave. Given the grave nature of the situation, ISDM's faculty facilitated spaces for students to reflect on their experiences and create a network of support for one another.
Three students from the cohort initiated and actively supported resource mobilisation efforts for citizens affected by COVID-19. They have been pouring all their energy into relief work while also coping with challenges that come with grassroots work during these testing times.
Krishna Vamshi, Blood warriors
Krishna had started Blood warriors to support Thalassemia patients who need blood every twenty days. These patients' lives have become uncertain due to the lockdown and the scarcity of blood donors. He and his team are using platforms like social media to mobilise blood donors who can support at-risk Thalassemia patients.
Apart from working with Blood Warriors, Krishna supports multiple organisations and individuals who are working full-time in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Hyderabad. He has been volunteering to fill gaps in information, resources and mobilisation. He has launched fundraisers with the community to raise more than 10 Lakhs to support patients who do not have the means to afford emergency treatment. Together with his team, he has raised funds to get oxygen concentrators, PPE kits and Pulse Oximeters for communities in need.
Investing time and effort into relief work has taken a toll on Krishna's mental health. Confronting news of people's death and suffering due to lack of resources have caused him multiple panic attacks for the first time. He feels that he is failing to remain strong despite trying to centre himself. However, his passion keeps him going:
"I always believe that I have a limited time on this planet, which technically means I can only do limited things in life. If I am lazy and don't do anything in this limited time, I am cutting down on my experience of doing things. This keeps me going."
Sandeep Kumar, DigiSwasthya
Sandeep, a cancer survivor, started DigiSwasthya, a section 8 registered telemedicine centre for people to access medical support remotely. The organisation is located in Sant Kabir Nagar, UP and is currently also operating as a COVID relief centre. Sandeep has been communicating with COVID patients since April 2021 to check their vital statistics and connecting them with doctors, hospitals, NGOs and resources for further care.
He finds the relief work a tremendously powerful experience wherein he juggles managing his organisation and attending to coursework, among other responsibilities. In collaboration with the team at DigiSwasthya, Sandeep has raised about 1.4 lakhs in funds for supporting patients with oxygen cylinders, oxygen concentrators, oximeters and other medical equipment. The organisation has also received support from donors. Their efforts have brought smiles to the faces of patients and their families. Moments like these are precious to him and keep him motivated.
Sandeep prioritises taking care of himself in these challenging times; sound sleep, proper diet and exercise have kept him going. He also finds solace in the support provided by his team and friends. They have been helping him with references, making phone calls, designing posters and other awareness-raising materials.
A highly committed and positive person, Sandeep says:
"It's a journey; keep going! Together we can!"
Shashwat Kotambkar, Kazwa
Shashwat's organisation, Kazwa, has been working on the ground for a year to mobilise resources for COVID patients. Initially, they struggled to mobilise contacts to create a network, and that caused multiple logistical challenges. However, over the course of a year, they connected with willing volunteers who were eager to pour in time and energy for Kazwa's initiative.
The second wave of the pandemic brought with it new challenges. His team of volunteers was losing motivation when available resources were exhausted at a rapid pace. To motivate his team of on-ground volunteers, Kazwa collaborated with other NGOs who helped them tide over challenges and raised the team's morale.
Focusing on the mechanical aspects of the operation kept Shashwat from dwelling on the dystopian condition of the ecosystem around him. Leading Kazwa was a cathartic process that allowed him to reflect on the power of a collective and gain new perspectives.
Someone once told Shashwat, "Least you can do is own your privileges", and it has stayed with him since.