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“I never felt so helpless in my life. This pandemic is getting worst day by day. There is too much fear, hunger and extreme stress making it worse for people. We must do something!”, said Annammal, Bal Raksha Bharat’s Community Wellness Telecaller.

Annammal (34) joined Bal Raksha Bharat just two months before as a Community Wellness Telecaller. The pandemic has disrupted all her plans of starting outreach work with the children and families belonging to the informal waste-picking community. Since her first day, Annammal has not been able to be present physically in the community, not because she didn’t want to, but it may put her community at risk of getting infected due to the exposure to an outsider. 

Annammal knows her community members for the past eight years as she was working in Cement Colony (Slum community) before joining with Bal Raksha Bharat in March 2021. This made her a fitting choice to be the key person for the ‘Community Wellness Call’- an initiative of Bal Raksha Bharat to remain connected with the community members and children cut off from regular outreach

Due to limited access to the information in the community, people were afraid of interacting with any outsiders. And the lockdown, made it difficult for them to sustain their livelihood. Many families had to survive on one meal a day. Covid-19 also brought in stigma within the community members that again pushed back the neighbours from supporting each other. Some of the community members were superstitious about the virus that added more misery to the existing challenges. 

It was an urgent need to establish a one-stop centre, which would provide relevant, reliable information and guidance to the community. Who could do that better than Annammal, who shares long standing, warm, rapport in her community? She went ahead and took on the responsibility of calling every single family – listening to their concerns, questions and sometimes just checking on them, providing much needed support and guidance.

Here’s How Annammal Narrated her Entire Experience in her Words

“It’s been eight years; I know most of the families in Cement Colony. I feel concerned about their well-being amid this pandemic, just like my own family”.

“When I speak to people on the phone, most of the time, they want someone to listen to their stress, challenges and offer solutions to their issues. Before making any phone call, I prepare myself to be an active listener to help the family and children cope with the current stress level. While listening to their stories, I find solutions to my issues and challenges. Because we all in the same boat, as we say”.

“The second wave of this pandemic has been devastating for many families who lost their loved ones. Community wellness call is an opportunity to extend our support to our community members. It gives me a great sense of satisfaction that I am still connected with my community members.”

“I was moved when I listened to Saroja (58), a waste picker, a sole earner of a five-member family. I dialled her number, and within three seconds, she picked up my phone as if she was waiting for me. Her voice was low, and she sounded a bit sad. I asked about her well-being and she burst into crying. I allowed her to express her emotions. I was silent and just heard her broken voice. I could hear the voice of her grandchildren in the background, Hemant Raj (seven-year-old), and Hindu (five-year-old), who were also crying. From the call, I could imagine the home environment of Saroja. Not just Saroja’s, I get to hear similar distress in most of the families.”

“After a pause, Saroja started sharing her feelings”. She said, “Amma (that’s how people in South greet their dear one with respect), it’s been almost a month, I have not been able to go to work and pick up wastes from the street. My daily earning Rs.100 (1.5$) has stopped. My son used to run an Auto Rickshaw, which has also lost rides due to lockdown. There is no money, how do we survive? Even getting a one-time meal has become very difficult. We are eating only boiled rice on most days. The rice we get from the Public Distribution System (PDS) at a subsidised rate from the Govt. of Karnataka. Amma, please do something for us! We need food!”.

Annamal could only listen to her sorrows at that moment. She calmed her and shared information on how to get registered for the vaccination and why that is very important. So far, Bal Raksha Bharat team has made more than 600 calls and provided educated people on the vaccination registration process. There are around 1,000 households in the Cement Colony who needs to be vaccinated, and supported with ration, cash and health care as most of the families are struggling to manage even a meal daily and the children are starving.

Bal Raksha Bharat is working to create a conducive learning environment for 9,300 most marginalised Children (3-18yrs) from Waste-Picking Community and other Neighbouring Families of Bengaluru, Karnataka. Through the programme, Bal Raksha Bharat ensures access to quality basic education with integrated child-friendly sanitation, handwashing, safe drinking water for all marginalised children from the waste-picking community and neighbouring communities living in the slums/streets of Bengaluru city.

Children at the Centre of COVID’s Second Surge – Help #ProtectAMillion

As the Coronavirus tsunami sweeps cities and towns across India, the vulnerable children who already grappled with issues like lack of education and healthcare, compromised safety and abuse, are at a high risk of suffering even more. The pandemic threatens to reverse the gains made for children and jeopardizes their future gravely.

Bal Raksha Bharat is geared up to respond to this unprecedented emergency and will be reaching 1 million children and their communities. Our response will cover providing Oxygen Support, COVID Care Kits, Hygiene Kits, Food Baskets, Education Support, Livelihood Support and Psycho-social Counselling. We cannot do this alone. Help us reach those in real need by making a contribution DONATE NOW.

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