Society

COVID-19 aid initiatives get curated at this online platform

CovAId Connect, set up by three Chennai girls, spreads information on COVID-19 and lockdown-related initiatives and connects people.

When the country went into lockdown, many initiatives were started in support of vulnerable groups like migrant workers, transgenders, slum dwellers, tribal communities. There was also surge of information circulating on social media about such initiatives.

But three 23-year-old girls from Chennai, Harini Aiana, Tara Verghis and Pallavi Rajankar realised that a missing aspect — it is easy for this information to get lost, and in these days of fake news, reliable sources are few. Their solution to this is CovAid Connect, a database of organisations and individuals involved with COVID-19 relief work. CovAid Connect hopes to reach numerous people all over the country, and connect with citizens and organisations who can donate their resources, time, or money.

Tara points out that we often trust and help those we meet personally. She says, “a friend of mine who had taken an auto ride just after the lockdown was announced learnt of the struggle that the auto driver and his family would face in the next few weeks due to lack of a basic daily income, and impulsively donated a small amount of money to him. She also urged others on her social media account to help.”

The three brainstormed for a few days, and asked people they knew to send initiatives they had come across, and soon they had a spreadsheet of organisations that offered COVID and lockdown-related help. Tara says, “We have been creating comprehensive posts for Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp. We put up the information only after we personally contacted the organisations concerned about their COVID relief activities, checked on the various kinds of support they offer, whether they have been able to obtain necessary permits etc in order to maintain transparency and try and ensure that people can trust what we post.”

One example of CovAid Connect’s impact is with the NGo No Food Waste. A friend of Harini’s heard about it through CovAid Connect and realised that her domestic help and some neighbours needed meal kits. She was able to provide them with the helpline number,and a number of people living in that low income tenement benfitted from this.

But implementing this idea was not easy. Harini explains, “Between our individual work (Tara is interning for an NGO, Sangath, Pallavi is pursuing her Master’s degree in Counselling Psychology and I am a freelance designer), we initially found it hard to carve out time to do this, but the need for such a repository pushed us forward.”

With Instagram and Facebook, says Tara, “We felt comfortable using the features they offer. We also hoped that it would be an effective way to reach people in our age group (through Instagram) as well as our parents’ age group (through Facebook). However, we have been mindful of the fact that people in the older age brackets, who are more likely and able to donate / volunteer their time, are also active on WhatsApp. Keeping this in mind, we also came up with an efficient way of sharing information through the platform without continuing the cycle of WhatsApp forwards, which are useful but can often be overwhelming.”

On whether their initiative will make a difference they say, “At this time we are seeing the inspiring efforts of so many citizens and groups trying to do their bit. Through social media we are simply trying to connect these efforts to give them the support and visibility they could benefit from, even if it makes a difference to just a handful of people.”

Find them on Instagram @covaidconnect, Facebook as CovAid Connect, or via email at covaidconnect@gmail.com.

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Printable version | May 27, 2020 5:19:55 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/covid-19-aid-initiatives-get-curated-at-this-online-platform/article31647519.ece

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