Chennai

From 2015 December floods to Nivar, these hands have stayed on the deck

A maintenance staff at the Central Park South operates the water-pumping machine during Nivar.  

“The Helping Hands of South”, a community-based online-offline WhatsApp group, has a compelling CV — 2015 floods relief work; packing COVID-19 safety kits for a major voluntary organisation; and organising a massive community clean-up, post-Vardah.

The group however does not focus only on big-ticket disasters. When there are no dark clouds, there is still enough evil around the corner, such as a flat tyre in a kid’s cycle. The group is always geared up to address workaday irritants.

“If a cycle repair guy comes, we make it a community thing. We announce he is at this block and give his number; it is advantageous for him too,” laughs Sumitha Iyer, group admin and a resident of The Central Park South.

Sumitha says that the group is there for any resident to issue a “distress signal”. The only time it muzzled residents was during a phase of the Coronavirus pandemic, when forwards were being posted thick and fast. Then, admins reserved the right to post messages. Now, it is back to letting everyone get in a word off the bat.

Sumitha continues: “The group was formed by a resident Jayashree M.R. during the 2015 floods. There was five-and-a-half feet of water inside our apartment complex.” The group helped the residents coordinate to provide food to the support staff stranded in the community; and to raise funds and execute larger relief work, points out Sumitha.

Snapshots of how the TCPS residents have fostered the group’s spirit.

Cyclone Nivar: During the 2015 floods, the community had a rusting of flood-wrecked cars to deal with. So, every major weather forecast gets residents switching instinctively to “safe mode”.

“During Nivar, residents coordinated via the group and found spaces for each other's cars at neighbouring apartment car parks which are at a slightly higher ground than ours. Those at TCPS who have friends in the nearby communities helped out. There was water logging only in the front, near the entrance, though, thanks to the facility management team working hard and pumping out the water vigorously,” elaborates Sumitha.

The Pandemic: The community volunteered to pack COVID-19 safety and relief kits for the Bhoomika Trust.

“The coordination for the packing work was done on this group, and it was humongous task in itself, as we did not want all the resident-volunteers trooping into the hall at the same time. We had three rounds of packing — the first two were easy, as they entailed packing the sanitary kits — a detergent soap, a bathing soap and a mask. The third round was about packing 2,000 kits of foodgrains — a 10 kilo rice bag; an oil packet, chilli powder and turmeric powder packets and other stuff like that. For this round, we required many volunteers, and so we took turns. The men were asked to place the 10 kilo rice bags in the packs. The seniors who wanted to be of help but had trouble moving around, were assigned the simple task of cutting open the packs. The children helped out by placing the items in the packs," explains Sumitha.

Cyclone Vardah: “During Vardah, the open spaces were caked with fallen leaves. The drains were clogged. We had a problem of inundation but not as severe as during the 2015 floods. We had water till our lobby. Once the water cleared, through this group, we organised a leaves-clearing exercise. Very few housekeeping staff would turn up, and so all of us pitched in, clear the leaves with brooms,” recalls Sumitha.

And of course, this group also makes sure children’s cycles are fixed.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 5:48:55 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/from-2015-december-floods-to-nivar-these-hands-have-stayed-on-the-deck/article33202301.ece

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