Providing a helping hand

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Started on April 24, COVID-19 Service Goa has been doing the rounds on social media for its generous efforts to assist those affected by the pandemic. NT BUZZ learns more

RAMANDEEP KAUR|NT BUZZ

Santa Cruz-based couple, Disha and Siddharth Sardesai’s intention behind the concept of the social media page COVID-19 Service Goa, is to provide a space where requirements, leads and distress calls can be attended to promptly through a network of organisations, groups, and volunteers. This, they say, not only helps in saving time and in turn saving lives, but also creates an awareness which helps fight the war against COVID-19. “We are working around the clock to gather leads and resolve requirements from any part of Goa. In addition to this, COVID-19 Service Goa is a platform from which we spread awareness about the COVID-19 guidelines, plasma donation, importance of vaccinations and also try to bust the myths related to COVID-19 related issues,” says Disha, an assistant professor at V M Salgaocar College of Law, Miramar adding that they have a team of doctors, who voluntarily provide them with informative videos.

The idea of this page was born, when the duo faced a grave issue of finding a plasma donor for their aunt who was in a critical condition in the ICU. “It was a task to reach out to donors and at the same time be there at the hospital. We thought to ourselves, ‘What about those who do not have support of a family or friends?’ ‘What about those who don’t have people running around for them?’” says Siddharth, who is a practising lawyer in the High Court of Bombay at Goa. And thus the duo decided that they needed to devise a way where requirements, leads and distress calls can be attended to and tried to be resolved. And COVID-19 Service Goa was born.

While initially it was just the two of them, the couple were then approached by their current core team members Neha Sahakari, Kashyap Bandodkar and Rajeshwari Naik Rasaikar, who voluntarily came forward to help and support the initiative. Presently, they have a group of 30 plus volunteers who work tirelessly for the initiative. Various personalities and groups have also supported them. “In fact, recently we have the Corporation of the City of Panaji and Rotary Club of Miramar who have extended their assistance. The Panchayat of Taleigao also did the same. Such voluntary acts of kindness help us in promptly reaching out to those in distress or in shortage of essentials like medicines, or who cannot move out to collect their home isolation kits,” says Disha, while requesting that more organisations come forward to aid them.

“Social media is the best platform to make people aware about anything today,” says Siddharth. “With a majority percentage of youth in India surfing social media constantly, it is pertinent and crucial to activate the vigilant citizen in them by providing them with a path with which they can serve the majority of people around them from their home. Social media if used sensibly is a Brahmastra.”

He further says that sharing of content is the need of the hour, as it helps reaching many in need. “But sharing verified content is of utmost importance as it can make or break a given situation. For instance, we keep receiving the many requirements from many sources, some of which are not verified and just forwarded as received. We verify our content and thus suggest all people forwarding such COVID-19 related content to self verify or refrain from forwarding the same,” he says, adding that instead of forwarding unverified content or funny videos, people could instead make a list of senior citizens, persons with physical disabilities or people in need and keep in touch with them. This, he says, will not only give the elderly and those in need the much needed morale, but will also help figure out what their needs and necessities are. “Forward the same to us on WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook and we will set our network of volunteers in motion for prompt action,” he says.

And they have had many experiences that have boosted their morale and kept them going.

“We received a call from an old lady to thank us for the information she received from an image she received via WhatsApp with our logo on it. The image was neither sent by us nor by our volunteers, but some vigilant person who followed our volunteer post on Instagram where we requested that those interested in helping can make a list of senior citizens in the vicinity and keep in constant touch with them,” says Disha, adding that they have also put out a call for people interested in helping to make COVID care kits themselves in their own respective budget and distribute these to their maids, watchmen, delivery agents, etc. “If every person takes care of only 10 different people in their vicinity, we will be in a better position to tackle COVID-19 before it takes a grip on people around us,” says Disha.

And being Goans, says Siddharth, they know the pulse of their people and how they can reach out to them as either the second person is related to them somehow or is a friend/acquaintance. “We need to tap this very feature Goans have to extend help and awareness to each other in these times and fight this war as one big family,” he says, while also doling out a few pointers to Goans to help them stay safe during the pandemic. “We would request Goans to firstly, avoid social gatherings. Secondly, take all possible precautions, be prompt in getting tested and setting a plan of further course of medical attention. And most importantly, wear a worthy N-95 multi-layered/double mask in the correct way. Mask-up, that’s the least and best we can do to win this war against COVID.”

And although the duo recently lost their aunt, the inspiration for the page, they pledge firmly to continue to help win this war against COVID-19.

Suggestions for the government

While the duo believes that the government is doing its best in these unprecedented situations, the couple have a few humble

suggestions:

1.            As schools and colleges are closed and by latest notification, the teaching staff is no longer required to report to school for duty, use the huge infrastructure at Cujira Educational Complex, Goa University, and other such institutions as COVID facilities.

2.            Keep a ceiling price for private institutions and laboratories for home testing or otherwise.

3.            Make people aware about plasma donation as the government has a ready list of those patients who recovered and can save the lives of many.

4.            Make available new infrastructure for beds with oxygen and ventilator facilities or upgrade the present infrastructure.

5.            Prioritise the physical and mental health of the frontline warriors.

6.            Increase the helpline/ control room/ hotline numbers so that families and home isolated patients can get prompt assistance/ updates of admitted patients without congestion in network.

7.            Having a vast network via municipalities or panchayats, home isolation kits can be delivered to the patients without a worry “as to who will collect it?” from the respective PHC, UHC or CHC.

8.            Have a representative of the patient get timely updates of the patient. This would decongest the crowd outside hospitals and ease those in tremendous stress.

9.            Increase ambulance facilities by double or triple.

10.          Increase the hours of the Blood Bank at GMC for donation of plasma or blood to at least 12 hours availability. “Screening takes an hour’s time and not all donors are eligible for plasma donation. Thus, keeping the odds in consideration, there is a need to increase the machines which extracts such plasma as we need much more than what is already in place. We have come across instances where private hospitals have charged the patients `7,000 for a unit of plasma, adding up to `14,000 for two. This needs to be reduced drastically as the cost is astronomical.”