News Karnataka
Friday, December 02 2022

Kudla COVID Volunteers: One-stop-resource for Covid matters

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Meet the team of Kudla Covid-19 Volunteers, which is a community that aims at helping the citizenry of Mangaluru and adjacent areas in the premise of the Coronavirus-induced pandemic. This is a purely citizen-run initiative! The team encompasses people from different fields and professions with a common goal of educating and helping people in the pandemic. Vaishnavi Pavithran, 24, Regional Programme Innovation Advisor for East Africa at UN World Food Programme, Satshya Tharien, 27, a much-known content creator on Instagram, a Senior Content Strategist at an Edtech startup and Masha Arabi, 27, a PR Professional from Mangaluru has pursued B.Com from St Aloysius College and Postgraduate Diploma in PR and Advertising from KC College, Mumbai are the three of the co-founders of this community.

Vaishnavi and Satshya were acquaintances who connected over social media over the concern of COVID-19 SOS calls. Satshya was parallelly indulged in conversations on the same with Masha, her college friend. That’s when the three decided to come together to form Kudla Covid-19 Volunteers. Vaishnavi and Masha have still not met in person, but hopefully will meet one day in the future!

In conversation about the initiative, the founders informed that in the first half of April 2021, they noticed many SOS calls on social media from bigger cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore requiring resources such as oxygen, plasma, hospital beds and so on. Despite the presence of volunteering efforts in these Tier I cities, the unfulfilled needs were still immense. “We thought that in this premise, Mangaluru was in dire need of similar resources too; thus, we needed to be prepared – especially as a Tier II city that didn’t have many of the resources major cities did,” they informed. That’s why Vaishnavi, Masha and Satshya decided to form this group, and had 6 others join them as volunteers. “We suspected that given how well-developed Mangalore is and how closely connected the community is, we could leverage that to make our model work,” they added.

What is this community service?

Kudla COVID-19 Volunteers is a civilian task force to be a one-stop resource for all COVID-19 matters. They are a group of 9 young and enthusiastic volunteers who verify and organise information on plasma donation, oxygen cylinders, home tests, ambulances & medicines. “We wanted Mangaloreans to be able to have access to a platform of verified resources, instead of having to go through a longer route of asking for help on social media, only to receive unverified information,” the team said. In other words, if you had an emergency, they needed you to know you can click on their official website or send them a message, in the trust that the information you see will be updated and reliable.

Impact of Kudla Covid-19 Volunteers

The team asserted that their goal was to dilute an atmosphere of panic and anxiety by creating a sense of confidence among the people of Mangalore, that in the case of any emergency, there is a service like Kudla COVID Volunteers to help them out.

Speaking about the effect of their service, the team narrated, “there was one instance where a woman living alone was severely ill with COVID-19. When we became aware, we arranged medical help for her and gained access to an oximeter. We also connected her with a food program. We’re so glad she made a full recovery.”

A significant gap that Kudla Covid-19 Volunteers has been able to bridge is streamlining information related to vaccine availability. The team regularly posts verified vaccine slot updates on their WhatsApp groups and their Instagram & Twitter pages. This helps avoid the confusion that comes with random forwarded messages and the general panic that accompanies them. “We’ve been thrilled to be able to help people find vaccine slots on time and get vaccinated. We also make a note of the doubts raised regarding procedures, availability, get them fact checked by health officials, finally share the verified information on our social media platforms,” the team claimed.

Some thorns on the better path

In conversation about some difficulties the team faced in their journey, they clarified that the team’s strength and resilience helped roll out an efficient model during a critical period. “As things normalized after the second wave though, many of our volunteers had to go back to their regular jobs or pursue their academics, and so our main challenge right now is finding the right team of people who are available and responsible to take on the task,” they said.

Another challenge they faced was taking care of their mental health. Working and facing circumstances of people in dire needs inevitably drains one out. Hence, it was pretty overwhelming for the team to continuously see requests for help and often stepping in to talk to someone who was in distress. “We were grateful to be part of a team where we could talk to each other about it and also have a system where we could step back from our duties if we felt like it was getting too personally overwhelming, and someone else would then take over,” the founders affirmed.

Role of social media

Social media played an extremely critical role in the success of Kudla COVID Volunteers as that was a primary form of outreach to Mangalore’s community. It was launched on Instagram on May 5, 2021, and has received tremendous support. In a span of just two days, their official page registered over 1600 followers!

“We also do a lot of awareness and myth-busting on Instagram – for example, how to donate plasma, how to find your COVID19 test result online and so on. Later on, we decided to make a WhatsApp group where we’d constantly update and provide information (similar to Instagram) so that whoever is not on Instagram, especially the older populations, can still have access to that information,” they mentioned.

In addition to such multimedia components of social media that this team has effectively used, a plasma donor system has also been administered through Google forms.

From 3 to 9

The founders gathered their much-trusted team through a call for volunteers in their social networks. Currently, the group consists of:

  1. Vyshali Shenoy, Law Student
  2. Shalmalee Ghate, Senior Revenue Specialist
  3. Samantha Machado, Business journalist
  4. Mithun Bhat Kakunje, Entrepreneur
  5. Shilpa Kaushik, Entrepreneur
  6. Srilatha Nagaraj, Dance Teacher/ Artist

“We also had additional support in the form of Alexander Caro, who provided tech support and built out our website for us, and Dr Prathik Hegde, our Medical Consultant,” the founders added.

What makes this unique?

The founders of the project held that the flexibility of the model and their approach helped them succeed. They paid enough attention to the needs, added features and new categories of outreach or information, and adapted their working model to meet the requests they were receiving. “For instance, when we initially started, we focused on the main requests we were seeing in the major cities such as oxygen, hospital beds,” the founders explained.

Nonetheless, the team realized that through engagement with the community, people also needed support services like food delivery, home nurse, and so on for COVID-19 in Mangalore. As a result, they began to add such services to their system.

What’s next?

The founders revealed that they intend to keep the volunteer community active as long as there is a requirement. “This group was formed primarily to help tackle COVID-19 in Mangalore, and we intend to keep that as our focus. We are glad to see the support of people and want to continue supporting government efforts to make sure we are protected, healthy and safe,” they signed off.

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Siri Shekar

The author is a student reporter who is also pursuing Psychology and English Literature. A wanderer searching for faces that inspire an optimistic place about the world, she hunts for different human experiences, not just leads for a story.

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