Andhra Pradesh

Volunteers return from Kerala with new resolve

Reaching out: Volunteers handing over relief material at Manipara village of Idukki district in Kerala.

Reaching out: Volunteers handing over relief material at Manipara village of Idukki district in Kerala.   | Photo Credit: ByArrangement

After sharing pain and love of flood victims, a few decide to turn full-fledged social workers

A 10-member team of volunteers of the Women's Association for Liberation, Transformation and Community Health (WATCH), an NGO at Bangarupalem in Chittoor district, on Sunday returned home after participating in a week-long relief operation in some of the worst-hit forested villages of Idukki district in Kerala.

The team of youngsters, led by the WATCH, had left for Idukki on September 9 night, carrying relief material to support about 1,000 families ravaged by floods. Their relief work was spread over Manipara village of Kanjikuzhzi panchayat and Malamala and Chandravanam villages of Vandiperiar panchayat with predominantly SC/ST communities working in tea estates. Till September 15, it was a new experience for the volunteers visiting the damaged houses, and clusters of people awaiting relief from voluntary organisations and government.

WATCH chairperson P. Sree Latha, who organised the camp, said the people of these villages along the Idukki river, who saw over 60 deaths, were yet to recover from shock.

Harsh realities

“Several houses were totally damaged with their foundations washed away, and many caved in due to wet walls and roofs.

“We noticed that the workers at tea estates are temporarily out of work following destruction of roads,” she said.

Volunteer Swapna (23), an MCA, said it was her first experience of taking part in relief operations. “To be frank, I joined the NGO not to remain idle till I get a good job. This Kerala trip opened my eyes to the suffering of people in distress. Other than computers, there are really many more things that can be done for society. I have resolved to be a full-fledged social worker. The misery of mothers, hungry children and the desire of those rendered shelterless to have a home again, and their lamentation for the loss of their beloved ones, all these have taught many things about society,” she said.

Together, in distress

Volunteers Benny and Karunakar felt that despite poverty, the people of Idukki villages were highly disciplined and courteous. “The scenes of families still mourning the death of their members, and offering prayers are really moving. It is a wonderful experience watching the families sharing the relief material distributed among them, and cooking jointly, followed by community luncheons and dinners. We have not seen a single instance of people making disorderly queues for relief,” they said.

Sree Latha observed that a friend of her, a nurse in Kottayam, called her in the third week of August, and through her she learned the distress the flood victims were going through.

“I immediately contacted our well wishers and friends. A German organisation, Sign of Hope, heard our voice. Each kit contained rice, dal, edible oil, two blankets and towels, a sari and a lunch box and water bottle for kids,” she said.

Dhanasekaran and Damu, who assisted the WATCH team, said that the congregation of Idukki people who bid them a farewell with wet eyes would be impossible to forget.

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 4:01:08 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/volunteers-return-from-kerala-with-new-resolve/article24963305.ece

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