By Pooja Agarwal, Director of Human Resources and Administration, PSI India
Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen India’s nationwide lockdown in response to COVID-19 severely impact the country’s poor and needy, causing not just loss of life, but loss of livelihood as well. Despite government efforts and close monitoring of the situation, we continue to experience a shortage of essential health items such as masks and hand sanitizer for community health workers and others who wholeheartedly serve the public.
Still, doctors, police, shopkeepers, sanitation workers, journalists, newspaper vendors and government officials are out in the field, risking their lives to serve their fellow Indians during the COVID-19 crisis. They must often stand for hours, closely packed together, and return home only to catch a glimpse of their families through the doors and windows of their houses.
To support these brave people, we at PSI India are working diligently from our homes to add innovative strategies for fighting COVID-19 to ongoing projects, supporting the government in containing the virus. This includes designing and broadcasting COVID-19 awareness messages to community health workers on how to protect themselves and the communities they continue to serve. PSI India also connects with these health workers regularly to keep morale and motivation high when fatigue begins to set in.
It’s hard to keep morale high when so many tragic stories have come from this pandemic. We’ve heard about 12-year-old Jamalo, a child migrant worker who walked over 100 kilometers to return home when she lost her job in the city because of the lockdown. She died due to dehydration only 11 kilometers away from her destination.
And there’s Mukesh, a poor worker who also lost his job due to the lockdown. He sold his mobile phone for 2500 rupees (about US$30) to buy sugar, flour, rice and a table fan for his wife and four children so that they could survive the pandemic comfortably. Sadly, after the supplies were delivered, he went inside his small tin hut and hung himself.
Despite these tragedies and many others, there is hope. Our team at PSI India has reached over 215,000 people and 4,000 community health workers with COVID-19 related messages in just three weeks. But our staff remains acutely aware that there is much more to be done to curb the ongoing pandemic, and limited resources have contributed to feelings of frustration and hopelessness. While we’ve been churning out concept notes to raise additional resources, we know that raising this type of funding would take time.
There’s only one thing standing between what we were doing to fight COVID-19 and what we feel compelled to do: money.
It’s in PSI’s DNA to respond to the needs of Sara, our archetypal consumer, and we’re not about to let limited resources get in the way of serving her. So when our hearts called, we acted to create an emergency response fund called “Dil Se,” a Hindi word meaning “from the heart.” The resources collected by Dil Se will allow us to be much more flexible in responding to the COVID-19 crisis.
PSI India’s senior management team made the first contributions to the Dil Se Fund, pledging two days of their April salaries to the fund and appealing to all PSI India staff to voluntarily contribute. And true to PSI’s spirit, our employees responded wholeheartedly to make a critical difference when Sara needs it most.
Each one of us at PSI India committed to appealing to our family, friends and wider networks for contributions to the Dil Se Fund. We are also reaching out to our corporate partners and other local donors to encourage them to join us in contributing to the fund.
In just the first two days, we have mobilized close to US$3000 for the Dil Se Fund.
PSI India will directly utilize the Dil Se Fund to supplement the efforts of central and state governments, as well as brave frontline workers all over the country, to bridge the gap in serving the needs of the poor. They are in immediate need of non-perishable food, protective masks, gloves, soap for handwashing and other essential supplies. The Dil Se Fund will help us mobilize these resources to the most vulnerable parts of the country.
As Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” And so, we are giving from our hearts to make this crisis easier for those we serve.