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In a bid to reach out to maximum children and communities during the ongoing COVID outbreak, Bal Raksha Bharat has adopted a Community Outreach Approach through tele-calling. Colleagues across state offices nominated and participated in the national level Training of Trainers (ToT) for this tele-calling approach. Further, this approach was piloted in various state through our Partner NGOs (PNGOs).

In West Bengal, considering the severity of COVID-19 in Kolkata and Howrah districts, 2 of the Partner NGOs (PNGOs) were oriented on this tele-calling approach. Following it, over 215 stakeholders have been identified (till 14.05.2020) from different sections of the population, including children and youths, community-based group members, government school teachers, school committee members, and others. To date, PNGO colleagues have communicated with 206 stakeholders over the telephone. They have disseminated the message of regular handwashing tips, maintaining social distancing and other relevant information circulated through government bulletin or notification.

Under our education program, Kolkata-based PNGO has been piloting this tele-calling approach towards maintaining close contact with children from 25 government primary schools, where we are imparting our urban education intervention. Children and other stakeholders communicate over the phone. They have been oriented on maintaining safety measures like proper hand washing, staying at home, and social distancing in public space to be safe from the deadly virus. A call log of all stakeholders contacted along with the follow-up calls made is maintained. School facilitators from our programme intervention area are mainly conducting this community outreach through tele-calling and keeping constant touch with children and communities. Apart from health safety measures or social distancing, school facilitators also provide remote learning support to children from the 25 Government Primary Schools in Kolkata over the telephone. They have been the bridge between schools and children continuing their learning during the lockdown. Teachers from these intervened schools are also well connected with children through our school facilitators. They circulate worksheets and other instructions with the help of school facilitators so that children remain in the remit of school education, and regular learning habits continue.

Here is one such, positive fall-out of the tele-calling reach out amidst lockdown situation.

Rinki Khatun (name changed), a class 5 student of Indranarayan Kiranbala school (morning section), resides in Kolkata Municipal Corporation Ward no. 58 near Muslim Camp area. She lives with her father, younger brother, and grandmother. Her father is a local goon and earns money through illegal activities. Rinki’s mother had left when both the siblings were too small. Since then, these children are taken care of by their grandmother. Their father is an addict and spends all his money on buying alcohol. He even does not provide basic amenities like food to these children. At present, during Ramadan, both the children have to arrange the Iftar meal on their own and also provide for their grandmother.

Rinki and her brother begged for their Iftar meal from their neighborhood. One of the tele-callers got to know of the situation. They contacted our outreach workers who, in turn, contacted the local community support group members so that these children could receive help. The children were then counseled about the ongoing situation, and they are keeping off Roza for this year.

The children’s father was also reached out to. Presently the situation has improved a little, following intervention by community members. Rinki is not keeping Roza, and her father is arranging their food. Bal Raksha Bharat hopes to continue providing support to these vulnerable children through the tele-calling approach.

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