Chennai’s COVID-19 foot soldiers: How one intiative is organising hundreds of volunteers

Hospitals are ground zero in the war against COVID-19. Like any other war, this one needs troops aplenty — not only doctors, nurses and others with medical prowess, but also patient and kind souls to guide and coordinate with the teeming masses that flock to them in fear.

For instance, “At Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital where we volunteer, we once noticed that student doctors were filling out ICMR forms for patients. Their training could be used in more important tasks, so we took up this one to free their valuable time,” says Jai Krishnan MS, project coordinator of one of Chennai’s largest COVID-19 volunteer groups. Formerly with a publishing house, Jai Krishnan has now dedicated all his time to this work.

The group, that identifies itself just as Greater Chennai Corporation volunteers, was put together by Loyola College associate professor Gladston Xavier. It comprises hundreds of volunteers of different ages and professions coming together to man helplines, check in on the isolated, arrange for basic needs.

“We are putting up a voluntary task force in Delhi. But so far, most of our volunteers have been in Chennai. Across other cities, whenever there is a need, we either give them our volunteers or train theirs,” says the professor. “There is a team of 10 people working full-time at GH hospital, providing patient support, helping with admission, and counselling. About 200 more are helping virtually, by following up with patients who are in home isolation. We have another 65 people in our telecounselling centre, and a host of others — these are mainly philanthropists and people who work in larger companies, who have come together — arranging for food, clothing and essentials,” he adds.

Prominent among them all are the students — the ones manning ground zero with Jai. Most of them are undergraduate or post-graduate students of Social Work or Psychology, and are part of this particular team for good reason. Explains Jai: “People are scared. Many are anxious, or in fight mode. Our first priority is patience, and then the ability to listen and understand things from their perspective. Social Work and Psychology students think from a counselling point of view.”

Chennai’s COVID-19 foot soldiers: How one intiative is organising hundreds of volunteers

Having said that, however, he adds that there is still room for more volunteers in the team, and shifts at the hospital are divided according to the volunteers’ online classes and other schedules.

There is also scope to help out from home, as Gladston points out. A former Dean of Arts and Head, Department of Social Work at Loyola College, Gladston had co-founded the institution’s Department of Community Outreach. He lauds the motivation of those currently volunteering with him, and says, “Jai Krishnan left his job to do this relief work full-time. For another coordinator, I had written a letter to his employers asking if we could use his services during this crisis, and they agreed.” The initiative first began in March 2020, adds Gladston,“The volunteers continued to work till December 2020. Everything closed in December because the numbers came down, and then we started again in April this year.” Now that numbers are on the rise again, the team is back on a war footing. Any willing, helpful hands are welcome.

Contact Jai Krishnan at 9962015192 to volunteer.

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Printable version | Jun 21, 2021 11:02:58 PM |

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