Amid all the suffering and anxiety caused by Covid-19 pandemic, volunteers across the India are showing courage and resilience in helping some of the most vulnerable to help and spreading awareness in the society. And the Indian arm of the global iconic computer and IT Company, IBM, is not missing out there. Several IBMers are volunteering in this big effort to save humanity.
At a four-road intersection near K R Puram in Bengaluru, Manikantan , a 45-year-old man sporting a white coloured neatly pressed shirt, blue trousers, and black shoes and cap, flags down an errant SUV from M G Road. This Bengaluru based person is not a traffic cop but an IBMer who voluntarily helps the city’s traffic cops every day. With the traffic cops he regulates the traffic and penalizes people for violating guidelines of the lockdown. He is part of the Traffic Warden Organization, a voluntary organization that assists city’s traffic cops on various enforcement and regulation activities in the city. He directly works with senior traffic police inspectors locally and takes orders on the areas before performing the duty for the day. His every day routine is fixed. Despite the fear of being more exposed to the virus, Manikantan religiously does his community service, and in the evening, he performs his work.
To mitigate the impact of this unprecedented crisis, a group of like-minded IBMers came together to open up channels of communication and ease the suffering of people. The cumulative effort of IBMers—spread over just 2 weeks—led to the creation of a website for an NGO (Simply Blood), aptly titled “SankatCare”. This site connects people in need with agencies, and extends support with regards to food, clothing, shelter, hygiene, medical care and personal assistance. Currently catering to Noida, the website provides NGOs a platform to address requests coming in from any corner of the country leading to accelerated relief efforts.
Just days after Government announced the three-week lockdown, a few IBMers in India collaborated to create Feed the Needy Project. As part of the project, the team mobilized 2.5 lakhs (INR) to help fight hunger and provide relief to helpless, especially the Trans communities. With the help of local authority and the community’s representatives on ground, the team identified 900 transgender across Bangalore, who were severely affected with no food owing to complete lockdown. These IBMers distributed grocery kits, including important food items, sufficient for the trans community to survive at least a month. The team also found out other deprived communities and unorganized work sectors, and provided grocery for 15 days to 150 such families, also contributed some fund to few NGOs for providing grocery kits to 300 daily wage workers.
Protecting so many people and ensuring that accurate information is widely available to everyone are daunting tasks. The Government is aggressively promoting health and safety messages during this critical time, but gaps exist in people following these guidelines in the densely populated country. Dr. Mahesh Pavan Sathavalli and Subha Hari, IBM employees based in Bangalore, have set about making a difference. Dr. Mahesh noticed that people continued to roam the streets and ignore government guidelines. In response, he created a WhatsApp group of almost 130 people to help develop and coordinate an awareness campaign.
Dr. Mahesh pre-recorded a message with information about COVID-19 and advice on how to protect against the virus. With speakers attached to an auto rickshaw—the small motorized vehicles widely used in India—the message has reached thousands of people in local villages near his hometown of Vayalpad in Chittoor District. The messages urge people to observe social distancing, avoid crowded areas, wash hands, avoid touching one’s face, and wear a face mask. They also encourage people to seek medical attention if they have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing.
Subha, a Performance Architect with IBM India, operates a charitable trust called Light Lives, which supports underprivileged families in the areas of education, healthcare and self-employment. With coronavirus making matters more challenging, Subha, along with IBMers and a few others, began providing grocery kits with rice, flour, oil and other staples. They also started cooking and distributing meals to around 550 people each day, and raised money to help the underprivileged with expenses such as medicine, gas and rent. “I’m really sad to see the people around us,” Subha said. “Whatever we do is not enough.” But Subha is having a huge impact through her work in areas of South Bangalore such as Avalahalli, Nayandanahalli, KR Market and Bytaranyapura. She has created a video in the local language with information about the virus and how to take precautions.