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Usiru: A 24/7 COVID-19 helpline

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The storm seems to have passed. Karnataka has finally reached the below 5% mark when it comes to new COVID-19 cases. There seems to be sigh of relief. To reach this state, people from all walks of life came together to reach out to the needy.

One such group is Usiru (Breath), which was started by noted Kannada lyricist and director Kaviraj.

The man, who has written lyrics for over 2000 Kannada films, also turned director with Maduveya Mamteya Kareyole (featuring Suraj Gowda and Amulya in the lead). He says that Usiru was formed as an SOS group when the cases peaked in the State.

“A few friends and I were providing groceries and essentials to the daily wage workers. People started reaching out to us for help for hospital beds and oxygen. We did manage to help a small group. It however, became overwhelming. We were not able to help everyone, including friends and relatives. The situation looked grim.”

The death of 24 patients in Chamarajnagar due to lack of oxygen, became the trigger point for Usiru to come to life, says Kaviraj. “The news turned my stomach. That very day I got on to my social media platform and posted a note saying that I was willing to provide oxygen and that anyone could reach out to me.”

Soon, Kaviraj said, friends and colleagues from the industry such as directors Kavitha Lankesh, KM Chaitanya and Dinakar Thoogudeepa, and actors such as Sundar, and Sanchari Vijay joined in. “We decided to join hands and provide oxygen to those in need. We first thought of buying cylinders. The problem with oxygen cylinders is that we needed six to seven cylinders per person. That is when a friend was infected and we tried out the oxygen concentrator. It worked and was also feasible financially, as we could pool in money and help more people. One concentrator provides oxygen for 24 hours.”

Kaviraj, adds the Usiru team started meeting virtually every day and created small teams of volunteers, who would reach the homes of the patients, who needed oxygen along with a nurse.

“We teamed up with a group of doctors and nurses and decided to provide crucial care for those with breathing problems till s/he got a bed in the hospital, so that they would at least have a fighting chance. We filled in the gap between having breathing difficulty and hospital admission. Our team would reach the house of the infected person, start off on the oxygen concentrator and help them settle down. While we would work here trying to get a hospital bed for them.”

And soon, he says the Usiru team was working 24/7 trying to cater to as many people as possible. “Usiru has managed to help 300-odd patients. Today, it is such a relief that the worst is over and the situation has come under control. We want to applaud our volunteers and nurses, who worked tirelessly to care for the suffering, who made Usiru’s come to life.”

Kaviraj says they want to keep Usiru alive. “Once we are done with helping COVID-19 patients, we want to continue working in the health sector, providing crucial care to the sick, in case they can not make it to the hospital.” Kaviraj says he and the Usiru team have brought all their cine activities to a halt. “When we are faced with so many deaths, how can one get creative and dream of making films? Dreams cannot be built when we see so much pain around us.”

Usiru helpline numbers are: 6366177171/ 9066478030.

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