Life & Style

Behind the network: the people who are stepping up during the second wave

They may not be on the frontline, but meet a few poeple who are making a huge difference rallying volunteers, helping furries, and helping disseminate verified leads and information.

Neysa Mendes

Neysa Mendes   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Neysa Mendes, Mumbai

#BakeForIndia

The hashtag opens a gorgeous page full of tarts, cookies, brownies and more. All of that deliciousness, however, has an interesting origin story. “I was channelling the anger, despair and grief [at the disastrous situation we are in] into action,” says Mendes, 37, a food stylist and recipe developer, who decided to use her skills as a baker to raise funds. When she posted about 12 dark chocolate tarts that she was making, though, she also extended an invitation to others to join her in raising money for Covid relief work. “If I can organise a bake sale for myself, I knew I could create a system for others,” she shares. Her tarts sold out in an hour; in the next few hours a café in Pune reached out to ask if they could replicate her idea; and over the next three days, her post was shared countless times and has since seen over 150 people signing up. “I guess the purposeful positivity of the initiative resonated,” she laughs.

Behind the network: the people who are stepping up during the second wave

Mendes shares her guidelines with each person who signs up [for example, to make at least 10 items of each product], and she amplifies each sale. “I’ve had people from Jammu, Vizag, Panipat, and many other small towns joining.” She has collected over ₹9 lakh already. “There are many heart-warming stories, too. A12-year-old in Mumbai baked cookie cakes and sent me a donation slip for ₹50,000; she’s on her second bake sale now. Veruschka Foundation, who empowers the differently-abled, sold out their baked goods in a day. The situation is so hard now, but this process has brought in some positivity. I think it’s very empowering for people and they feel good to be part of a collective movement.” Details: @goodslice

Also read: Cheering from the sidelines - good Samaritans who are proving that kindness is contagious

Miti Desai and Piyush Jain

Miti Desai and Piyush Jain   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Miti Desai, Bengaluru

Recipe of Hope

Last lockdown, Desai volunteered to cook for the elderly from her home kitchen, and the idea later evolved into Recipe of Hope (RoH). “I started off by taking orders for rotis [for anyone who wanted them], and used the money to start the RoH Covid Drive this year,” says the designer and classical dancer. When the second wave struck, she roped in a friend, Piyush Jain (who is now head of operations) to send food to Covid-positive people in home quarantine. “We put up a poster on Facebook and got 200+ calls on the first day. We then invited other home cooks to join and we now have over 75 cooks,” adds Desai, 40.

Behind the network: the people who are stepping up during the second wave

Home cooks can sign up for anywhere between three-30 meals a week, and as of this week, RoH has sent out close to 100 meals a day. “This will increase as we now have more cooks on-board. We’re also working on going digital and including a service for dinner, too,” she says, adding that since the cooks don’t know each other, they’ave now started getting together on weekly Zoom calls. For meals, contact: 9901791982 / 9738948947. To register as a home cook, call 9741955994.

Sneha Vachhaney

Sneha Vachhaney   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Sneha Vachhaney, Bengaluru

Covid Meals

In 2020, Vachhaney — who’d left her job as product manager at Make My Trip before the lockdown — went back to the kitchen after many years. And she cooked not just for the home but also for several volunteering efforts — helping migrant workers, orphanages, and more. This year, when the second wave hit, it took her no time to get back into the fray. “Many in our society fell ill, and some of us were helping make their meals. And I wondered why not open it up to the areas nearby.” On April 19, Vachhaney put out an Instagram post offering home-cooked meals and within the next couple of days, she got over 500 messages. “It quickly went beyond my capacity, so I reached out to other home chefs to pitch in.”

When she realised that to do this in scale, she needed a different approach, she roped in a friend to help create an interface. “We now have more than 250 chefs in Bengaluru alone, and others are signing up from places like Delhi, Chennai, and Mysore,” she says. Over 1,000 people use the interface daily. While most of the meals are free, some charge a nominal price (₹50 to ₹100). People are paying it forward, too. “So many have been very generous. Even if someone took only five meals, they’ve ended up sponsoring 50 meals,” she concludes. Details: covidmeals.in

Saransh Goila

Saransh Goila   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Chef Saransh Goila

Covid Meals For India

The celebrity chef recognised that there was a gap that needed to be filled when he started getting Instagram messages and tweets asking if he knew of home chefs who could cook for Covid patients. “[Around 15 days ago] we started off with a Google Sheet; the website went live about a week ago. In just eight days our volunteers have gone up from 1,000 to 3,000 plus,” says the founder of Mumbai restaurant Goila Butter Chicken, adding that the phone numbers are verified and it’s up to the home cooks if they want to charge for the meals. “We’ve had more than two lakh people accessing the site. If we don’t have a city listed on the platform, we help the person via social media or by looking into our volunteer network.” Details: covidmealsforindia.com

Mahita Nagaraj

Mahita Nagaraj   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Mahita Nagaraj, Bengaluru

HumanKind Global Facebook group

Nagaraj started HumanKind Global (formerly known as Caremongers India) last March when she realised that senior citizens, with families abroad, needed assistance. Soon she added a helpline (that saw close to 15,000 calls a day) as many hesitated to ask for assistance on a public forum. The Facebook group now has over 60K members, with another 3,000-5,000 on their WhatsApp groups, and about 7,500 volunteers on-ground. “We now have volunteers from over 100 countries, and we have fulfilled requests in over 21 countries,” says the 39-year-old digital marketing professional.

While 2020 saw requests for food, provisions, transport, and medicines, this year all enquiries are medical — for oxygen, plasma, etc. “We offer a set of verified leads pan-India, for anything a requestor might need,” says Nagaraj, adding that the team puts out a set every single day. Given the high volume of requests, they encourage people to message on WhatsApp or Telegram. As for manning the helpline, it’s just Nagaraj and her 13-year-old son pitching in during peak hours. Helpline: 9591168886

Also read: Cheering from the sidelines - good Samaritans who are proving that kindness is contagious

Deepthi Tanikella

Deepthi Tanikella   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Deepthi Tanikella, Chennai

Meals for Madras

Tanikella was inspired by a friend, Harshini Sridhar — who’d posted on Instagram about sending home cooked food to Covid positive persons. She started a small group of 12 on WhatsApp, and then got on Twitter for help to build an app. Srinidy Ravichandran pitched in and soon the Meals for Madras web app took shape. There are now 75+ home cooks and volunteers providing anything from bisi bele bath to rice, rasam and poriyal to all parts of Chennai. Anyone can register. No charges for meals. Details: cov19-che-homefood.glideapp.io

Milan Roy, Pranit Ganvir, and Swapnil Sharma

Milan Roy, Pranit Ganvir, and Swapnil Sharma   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Milan Roy, Swapnil Sharma and Pranit Ganvir, New Delhi

CovRelief mobile app

On April 24, three engineering graduates from IIT Delhi launched a non-profit app to live-track vacant beds in government hospitals (across 15 Indian cities, including Chennai, Bengaluru, New Delhi, and Hyderabad) and provide essential Covid-related information such as plasma availability and donors. “We’ve seen over 23.4 million views till date. All the information is taken from government websites, and sites such as coronasafe.network and covidfightclub.org that have verified leads,” says Roy, 24, the co-founder of Edvicer, an edtech platform.

CovRelief, which was set up in a day, has collaborated with Covid Survivor Force India (CFSI) to connect people in need of their volunteer work. “We’ve also launched a Twitter account [for each city] and will use the platform to reply to queries.” Details: covidrelief.glideapp.io

Artists for India
  • London-based Indian writer Sonia Faleiro has launched Artists for India. Donate $130 or more to Mission Oxygen, send the receipt to sonia@soniafaleiro.com, and get a signed work from writers like Salman Rushdie, Jodi Picoult, Kiran Desai, Viet Thanh Nguyen, American journalist McKenzie Funk and others. Valid till signed copies last.

Pets’ corner

Here’s some relief for pet parents who have tested positive for Covid and are worried for their furry mates. In Chennai, Linda Alexander and her husband, Ram Prakash, who run Pet Paws, can accommodate up to 30 dogs. At the moment, they are housing around 18 dogs. ₹600 per day, including food. 9176163928.

Linda Alexander and her husband, Ram Prakash

Linda Alexander and her husband, Ram Prakash   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

At Jeffurry’s in New Delhi, Achal Gupta, founder and CEO, says that while they have the capacity for 50 dogs, there are 38 boarding now. “Every call is an urgent call.” The long-term package is ₹1,500 a night, but the pet resort is offering discounts of 10% to 15% depending on the length of stay. 9811591088

Visit Heads Up for Tails’ Instagram page for information on boarding centres in different cities that are taking in pets from Covid-affected families. @headsupfortails


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Printable version | Jun 23, 2021 1:23:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/from-making-apps-to-platforms-for-home-cooks-the-people-who-are-stepping-up-in-the-midst-of-the-second-wave/article34509404.ece

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