Chennai

How high is your RWA’s sensitivity quotient?

A parent ferries his children to a school in Chennai to receive relief material.
Photo: R. Ravindran

A parent ferries his children to a school in Chennai to receive relief material. Photo: R. Ravindran  

There is no mathematical equation to measure it. Words and deeds will reveal the score

While dealing with COVID-19, especially at the community level, the watchword is “sensitivity”. It encompasses many things, including solicitous care, empathy and an understanding of the effect the pandemic is having on people's mental health.

So, what does sensitivity look like, when it is in action?

Protection of privacy

After one of its residents tested positive for COVID-19, a gated community in Iyyapanthangal issued a new set of guidelines, with the very first instruction being a request to all other residents to respect the individual’s privacy and to refrain from taking the person’s name while discussing in COVID-19 WhatsApp groups.

“We must never stigmatise them as any of us can become COVID-19 positive anytime,” reads the note that urged residents to volunteer to help the family.

“There are close to 150 doctors and medical students staying at our community and when such a message is sent by the association to all residents it is big morale booster. It also strengthens each of us in the fight against the virus,” says a resident who volunteered to help families who are under home quarantine.

Resident-volunteers are required to ensure that essential items reach the doorstep of those under quarantine. They also have to ensure the space outside of the flat is kept clean by the housekeeping staff.

A word of concern

When people have a close brush with COVID-19, or presume they may be having it, a word of solicitude goes a long way towards reassuring them.

Sri Kapaleeswarar Nagar Welfare Association in Neelankarai had instructed those of its residents who were under home quarantine to put up posters (apart from the quarantine stickers pasted on the doors by the Chennai Corporation) so as to ensure extra caution.

The Shankars were under home quarantine after their daughters flew to Chennai.

“I was impressed with the Corporation staff checking on us to know if we needed any support. Many neighbours in the colony also reached out to us. It is good feeling to get a message checking on your family’s health as it shows people around you care,” says Sheela Shankar.

It’s also important for associations to arrest rumours floating around a resident’s health by sharing an update or making an announcement.

Positive reinforcement

Anita Mohan, counseling psychologist, says one of the lessons from any crisis is to stick together and extend support to each other and the pandemic has only reinforced this idea.

“You be there for somebody and somebody is going to be there for you,” says Anita. By reaching out to people one can keep their own sanity.

“I know many apartments that have been pro-actively engaging with their residents during the lockdown,” she says.

Some had taken the trouble to have a communication strategy that would ensure positive reinforcements, and positivity is a key weapon in the fight against this virus.

There are gated communities that have a tower representative to check on residents' well-being and many have even had teams of volunteers assigned for the job of buying vegetables and groceries for the entire community.

Ensuring emotional well-being of residents in this current situation can be extremely challenging.

“Challenging yes, but with judicious use of digital tools it is not very difficult,” she adds.

Beyond expectations

Residents’ groups would be responding to the current crisis in an exemplary manner if they would try to meet the needs of the residents even before they verbalise it.

Now, there is a rampant fear about widespread job as well as pay cuts, which in fact have already set in.

V. Parthiban, general secretary, Confederation of Sholinganallur Constituency Residents’ Welfare Associations, says, “Our group is sensitising the employers in its midst by asking them to find alternatives to job cuts, and huge pay cuts. When it comes to those employed in our midst, we reassure them about this issue, by letting them know that representatives will have a dialogue with their employers and request them to extend empathy. We have already initiated such dialogues, and we believe it will have some impact.”

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 12:06:03 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/how-high-is-your-rwas-sensitivity-quotient/article31606604.ece

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