The entire nation is on the defensive in response to the COVID 19 outbreak. We too had to close our center and keep everyone home. It seems particularly hard on our students as Swapaksh is the hub of their social and creative life. They do not have access to the many means of entertainment, information and communication that we take for granted.
The season started off with lessons in hygiene. When it finally came down to closing the doors, the children were distraught. We explained the situation both to students and parents, urged them to follow the hygiene rules and stay home. Each child got a couple of library books to fill in their time and we parted with promises to meet soon.
But, days turned to weeks as lockdown was imposed and we were all restless. Acting on a thoughtful suggestion, each volunteer “adopted” a couple of families. We would call them, talk to our students, do a bit of revision, enquire the parents about their condition and in general tried to keep up the bonds we had built. How the kids loved getting calls from their teachers! It was heartwarming to see their joy. One of the kids went a step beyond. He liked the idea and took it upon himself to procure the numbers for all the volunteers and call THEM to ask how they were doing. Needless to say, we were as overjoyed getting his call as the kids were to get ours.
What slowly became apparent over these conversations was that many families were struggling. Food was not available, income was not guaranteed, future was not clear. We HAD to do something to help. So we organized a food drive.
It was a collaborative effort beyond anything we have done so far. A good samaritan and a friend of the organization offered procure rations in bulk from distributors that he knew. Our network of volunteers started collecting funds. We did not even have time to setup a payment gateway. Over oh-so-low-tech WhatsApp messages and bank to bank transfers, we collected enough and more funds for the food drive. It was a struggle for our one person finance ‘team’ to keep track of the generous donations. Once the rations were procured, our administrative team worked non stop to get the word out to all the parents and coordinate the drive – all over phone. Two of our students spearheaded the distribution, keeping track of the outflow. By the end of the day, everyone was heaving a sigh of satisfaction.
So, looks like WFH is quite the option in the Not for Profit sector as well!