What we have been doing:
Nirdhan is well known as a chartitable organisation with a strong reputation for helping people across five districts in the rural areas of Bengal, is well positioned to provide the end-mile reach to communities. We started assisting with Covid-19 sensitization and education, promoting hygiene practice in general, helping in the distribution of Covid-related products such as soaps, hand-sanitisers and reusable hand-made face-masks as well as other products that the villagers can no longer obtain because the necessary lock-down including menstrual hygiene product. We have also continued our usual advisory services for our livelihood programmes over the mobile phones and by distributing leaflets and posters.
In this effort, we remained guided by the government advisories and we are actively participating following the central and state coordinated actions. We are aware that COVID-19 is an unprecedented pandemic and we have the credibility as well as capability to deliver on ground; we have the capacity for “last-mile” reach to the villages where we have our own team members who are the local residents of these villages. We have obtained valid permissions and licenses to move around the villages, we are actively engaged with District Offices, Local Panchayat’s and Police Stations to facilitate the movement of our field staff.
We have already started and worked on the following activities:
1.Preparation for Collection of Relief Items
Initial phone calls and WhatsApp broadcast to contacts of family and friends of Board Members and friends of Nirdhan, to obtain donations – both financial and material. Creation of a fundraiser on Impact Guru, by Ms. Divya Subramanyan. Impact Guru a crowd sourcing platform, which accepts donation on UPI wallets, the permission for which has recently been obtained.
2. Covid Sensitization: Our staff are calling or messaging all our farmers explaining to them about Covid-19 and answering questions they may have. They are focusing on preventative methods for contagious diseases at a personal and family level. They are also educating farmers that the rumours spreading on social media that the coronavirus is spread by chickens and livestock is simply not true. In many parts of India, farmers are slaughtering their chickens as a result, their only form of livelihood. We also plan to print and circulate a large number of leaflets and instruction materials in the regional language in remote/interior areas including locations inhabited by extremely poor people, especially schedule castes, schedule tribes and minorities. Educating farmers about Covid-19 is paramount especially in the face of the looming disaster if it spreads to these communities; even if it doesn’t, it is vital our farmers – and all those we can reach – to not believe any rumours.
3. Hygiene Promotion: Our staff are promoting washing hands and basic hygiene. With the smart phones, they can do this pictorially – using leaflets circulated by the Central and State governments. This is much more powerful in rural communities than verbal instructions.
4. Menstrual Hygiene: We have repeatedly discussed menstrual hygiene for women in rural India and whether we could link our farmers to suppliers of sanitary towels, enabling them to work four weeks per month rather than three. Menstrual hygiene continues to be a massive issue where until recently most women had no way of dealing with menstruation other than using old rags or hiding away during their periods. Our acquaintance with “Paint it Red” who helped us conduct an excellent menstrual hygiene camp very recently at one of our locations, has kindly volunteered to distribute reusable sanitary towels for free to the village women now when they are not easily available in the village shops. We have connected with our women farmers to lead this project.
5. Social Distancing: Even though grandparents, parents and grandchildren typically live together, we have emphasised the need to respect the lock-down and not move around and run around between houses. We have also prepared a “Protocols Training Manual” for our own team of field staff to follow all rules and guidelines according to specifications from the Central and State Governments.
6. Our usual Services: Although we have shut out normal operations in March, since they involve meeting farmers and their family members in person, we continue to support our farmers by proactively calling them, ensuring they are well and continuing to answer their concerns relating to their chickens/ducks, agriculture and goats. As soon as we receive permission from the local governments to work normally, we shall start our work proactively but maintain the general norms, protocols, hygiene and other instructions for keeping safe distance from the farmers while executing our normal work of training and services.
7. Supply of Masks, Hand Sanitizers and Soaps: Additionally, we are busy looking at a 6-8 weeks plan whereby we can use our staff to best support our beneficiaries and other households in the locations we work during this crucial, unsettling time. One of the major items is short supply of good quality masks for daily use which are washable and PROVIDES protection (design Approved and Issued by the Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India_ March 30, 2020) – http://188.8.131.52/WriteReadData/userfiles/FINAL%20MASK%20MANUAL.pdf. These can be easily made at home. We shall welcome anyone who has the time and skills (sewing machine or hand stitching) to please connect with us. We provide all the material including fabric, ensuring that is Cotton or of a Cotton-Blend as this is the approved material in the guide circulated by the Chief Scientific Officer, The Government of India.
We have also received large quantities of hand sanitizers and soaps in donations for distribution in the villages. We are requesting for more.
8. Social Media: Started reaching out to friends to make informative videos in Bengali, Hindi and English. We collaborated with over a dozen influencers including local celebrities, jockeys in radio stations, doctors in mental health clinics, across the city to come up with material that they would do on our behalf and then make an appeal to their substantial following. All of this was done pro bono and has increased our visibility on Facebook exponentially. We are also currently working on Audio- Visual videos in Bengali that can be circulated to farmers on a YouTube link.
Partners with Nirdhan in our work for relief during COVID-19 attack:
- Anil Kariwala of Kariwala Industries made the first set of donations for our mask-making project. From his Kalyani unit, he sent cut pieces of cotton fabric, 5190 numbers with threads to our Kanchrapara office. Local women with sewing machines stitched the masks for distribution in the villages to farmer families, police and community workers. They were paid for their efforts which also helped them during the hard times of no income in the family.
- Signed up with Impact Guru for fundraising. Donations from Impact Guru till date have been 67,000 INR. We also purchased 15000 Masks against the donations made by over thirty individual donors in small sums totalling Rs. 1,10,544 – courtesy the individual efforts of Ms. Chetnaa Karnani these have and are being distributed.
- A sum of Rs. 1,07,751 was also raised as donations from various individuals some of whom donated Rs. 50,000, Rs. 25,000, Rs. 10,000 and Rs. 5,000. These funds were used to pay for labour charges for mask making by two groups of mask makers one at our location at Kanchrapara and one at Sodepur. Nirdhan has made over 9,000 masks till date.
- We have also received a donation of 3000 masks from Mr. Vikash Saraf, these have and are being distributed.
- “Paint It Red” led by Ms. Annanya Chhaocharia has also partnered with us during our Menstrual Hygiene camp at Sundia on 8th December 2019. They donated a total of 800 reusable sanitary pads to our women in the villages in April and May.
- “India against Corona” led by Mr. Varun Madan from New Delhi and Kritika Bagaria from “Kritika Bagaria Associates” have volunteered to partner with us to help find volunteers and interns who can bring meaningful impacts and contribute to our organisation by mobilising a large audience through social media platforms such as facebook, twitter and Instagram.