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Humanity First

By on July 06, 2021
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Humanity First

With the administration overwhelmed by pandemic, NGOs, citizens and unsung heroes came together to save lives.

The last few months saw social media timelines flooded with distress calls and desperate cries for help from across the state and country.

Queries and dire requirements for oxygen cylinders and concentrators, ventilators, hospital beds, medicines, etc., began echoing from every corner of Goa too. The severity of the second wave set in rather quickly and chaos followed.

The constantly mutating coronavirus and its seemingly unbeatable variants drowned the state in deeper sorrows than before as more and more young people presented COVID complications, including severe lung infections due to COVID pneumonia.

As of June 15, 2021, Goa’s fatality count stood at 2,947. Numbers we merely pushed aside as ‘News Updates’ soon became names of people we once knew; near and dear ones who suffered an untimely fate due to the pandemic.

With rapidly increasing positivity rates, Goa faced a shortage of medical supplies, hospitals maxed out on beds and patients were seen on hospital floors, oxygen cylinders were running out, ventilators were all occupied and even the antiviral drug Remdevisir used in COVID treatment was out of stock.

Goa needed all the help it could get. Taking stock of the situation, a number of citizen groups, NGOs, and business welfare associations came together to lend a helping hand.

Indian Red Cross Society, Goa

Chairman of Indian Red Cross Society, Goa and the new governor-elect of Rotary International District 3170, Gaurish Dhond, has been on his toes ever since the second wave hit the state. From arranging as many as 300 oxygen cylinders and delivering them to the authorities to finding quick solutions to ensure lives are saved, Dhond has been at the beck and call of government offices that turned to him for help in the crisis.

The Dempo Group graciously offered to partner with the Indian Red Cross Society to donate 300 oxygen cylinders to the government when the state was in immediate need.

After circulating numerous calls and texts through the Rotary network regarding shortage of hospital beds across Goa, Dhond got in touch with Velvin Packaging Private Limited, Corlim, to manufacture eco-friendly corrugated cardboard beds for temporary use at Goa Medical College.

He said, “These beds are able to take the weight of about 200kg plus and are suitable for patients. They are also lightweight and can be assembled easily. Within just 48 hours, more than 100 fowler beds were assembled at GMC.”

Rotary Club of Panaji Mid-Town 

Hospitals were running at full capacity and being swamped by COVID-19 patients day and night; most requiring oxygen and basic monitoring.

In early May, the Rotary Club of Panaji Mid-Town, spearheaded by president Yatin Parekh and secretary Rajiv Shirodkar, initiated their Breath of Life project to provide free oxygen concentrators to the needy on a recover-and-return basis. 

Managing a bank of 22 oxygen concentrators of five litres each, the club evaluates every request with the help of its team of doctors who assess – in consultation with the treating doctor – whether the device is needed.

 “A follow-up team keeps in touch with the patient’s family for any other assistance that they may require. Once the concentrator unit is returned, it is sanitised for the next patient,” affirmed club president Yatin Parekh. 

Secretary of the club, Rajiv Shirodkar, added that the project was designed to free up hospital beds occupied by patients who only needed oxygen.

The club has also developed an app to remotely locate the concentrators and keep track of inventory. Members have been actively reaching out to various government departments and hospitals to provide reusable PPE kits, face shields, masks, oximeters, etc. besides distributing immunity booster kits to various health centres in Panaji.

In November last year, the Rotary Club of Panaji Mid-Town club, with sponsor Mukul Madhav Foundation, reached out to 300 motorcycle pilots and rickshaw drivers whose livelihood was affected by the COVID-9 outbreak and provided ration and hygiene kits for Diwali.

Support Group for COVID Warriors in Goa

Former President of Rotary Club of Delhi Southend Hemant Bhasin and his dynamic team including Brigadier (retd.) SCK Puri, Anupam Saksena, Raju Rangachar, Kripa Desai and Rajkumari Thadani started the Support Group for COVID Warriors in Goa. Bhasin, now a resident of Aldeia de Goa, Bambolim, became popular as news about his outstanding relief work in Delhi spread through the Rotary grapevine.

Friends and like-minded people became the brains behind the Support Group for COVID Warriors in Goa who gathered donations and procured four life-saving ambulances, two for each of Goa’s districts.

Bhasin said, “We are currently focussing on three verticals. Firstly, our job is to help the administration save lives. Secondly, we want to start a skill development centre with the help of the government to help families affected by Covid build a livelihood. Thirdly, we have a Donatekart website for people to donate to the causes.”

Goa Sikh Youth

After the pandemic outbreak last year, the country went into complete lockdown, throwing thousands of lives off track. Livelihoods were lost, jobs were jeopardised, salaries were deducted for months, daily wage workers had no money or food to survive.

The 10-member Goa Sikh Youth began organising ‘guru ka langar’ serving 4000 meals a day (lunch and dinner) for more than 33 days and have been serving 1500 tiffins to Goa Medical College and Hospital (GMC), Bambolim, every day.

Spokesperson and secretary store in-charge 28-year-old Sandeep Singh said, “'Sikh for service' is our motto and we work according to the principles of the langar pratha started by the first Sikh Guru Nanak Dev ji.”

Risking one’s own life and serving people in need requires a lot of compassion and Singh, a full-time marine supervisor at Big Daddy Casino, is a perfect example of it. He credits his mother Bhupinder Kaur for instilling the values of Sikhism in him. Singh’s team including Karan Singh, Rajiv Malhotra and Jagjeet Singh, utilise whatever free time they manage outside their full-time jobs to serve the needy. All relief work is conducted adhering to social distancing and safety norms. The volunteers have been administered with the first dose and are awaiting the second jab.

Goa Humanitarian Helpline

Goa Humanitarian Helpline, a citizen’s initiative, was formed last year to direct food, medicine and aid to daily wage workers, the elderly and people with special needs through a dedicated helpline set up barely days after the lockdown went into force last year. 

“We have tied up with Delfino’s HyMart Porvorim to donate ration kits – four kgs of rice and wheat flour, two kgs of dal, cooking oil, two bathing soaps, one dish soap and detergent cake each, salt, sugar and tea powder. Additionally sanitary napkins, medicines, special dietary needs and biscuits, etc. are also provided where necessary,” said core team member Nupura Hautamaki.

A link on their social media handles invites donations directly to Delfino’s which puts together the kit picked up and distributed by Goa Humanitarian Helpline volunteers. “It is a direct and transparent donation,” added Hautamaki.

Awareness with the right information at the right time is crucial in a difficult time such as this. collated a COVID support FAQ & emergency contact data list for Goa for easier access to fragmented information. Founder Gaurav Bakshi, who is also an actor and activist, has been at the forefront bringing discrepancies in the healthcare system to the fore.

CSR Outreach Programmes

Several corporate entities came forward to stand with the people of Goa and make a difference in the society through their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes.Two of Goa biggest corporates, The Dempo Group and Vedanta Limited went out of their way to reach out to people in need. (see next page)Vasco-based House of Rajaram's N S Bandekar channelled the services of the RNSB Group’s Rajaram & Tarabai Bandekar Charitable Trust set up in memory of founder and chairman late Rajaram N S Bandekar and his wife Tarabai Rajaram Bandekar. As part of its CSR, the RNSB Group, led by Suvarn and his wife Dr Seema Bandekar, donated a dedicated basic life support ambulance for the service of public. 

One of Goa’s oldest pharma companies Geno Pharmaceuticals' Geno Foundation is known for its wide range of CSR activities over the years. Trustee and executive director Dr Sagar Salgaocar recently donated 25 oxygen concentrators to Indian Medical Association Bardez in an attempt to tackle the increasing demand for medical oxygen.

On the other hand, The Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL) Goa launched various initiatives across its hotels to provide aid to those deeply affected by the on-going pandemic. Taj Fort Aguada Resort and Taj Holiday Village Resort distributed medical kits containing masks, sanitisers, oximeters and thermometers to Arc of Hope, home for the aged in Candolim. As part of the #MealsToSmiles initiative by select IHCL hotels across the country, Taj Exotica Resort distributed meals in Benaulim to St John The Baptist Quarantine Centre and Helping Hands, an initiative by the local community to help patients infected with the COVID-19 virus. Meals were also distributed to the sub-district hospital in Chicalim; Government Health Centre, Cortalim and Government Health Centre, Cansaulim by the Taj Public Service Welfare Trust (TPSWT) and TajSATS, an IHCL company. Meal delivery service to a few government hospitals in South Goa will also be initiated shortly.

IHCL Goa recently conducted a vaccination drive for its employees achieving 100 per cent vaccination status across the hotels. Area director of IHCL, Goa and general manager of Taj Resort & Convention Centre, Goa, Vincent Ramos, said, “During these challenging times, we are stronger when we stand together in our fight against the pandemic. With the completion of 100 per cent vaccination across our hotels, IHCL, Goa continues to stands resolute with the nation.”

Goa is home to everyone who lives here and right now it needs its people to stand by it, show compassion and extend empathy towards those suffering the wrath of the pandemic. Each one of us can make a difference, no matter how small. In a situation such as this, the health of the world depends on the health of each individual. You can save yourself by saving others. 

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