Chingari Staff’s Year of Covid-19 Work

We have shared a lot of information this year about the Community Shield Campaign run by the Sambhavna clinic’s health team and their effort to protect survivors in Bhopal from the spread of Covid-19. But since the closure of the Chingari Children’s clinic back in March, their staff and drivers have also been working non-stop to support efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus, as well as providing continued treatments, medicines and essential supplies to children and other vulnerable members of the community through home visits.

Chingari Staff raise coronavirus awareness using the centre’s vans, photo by Biju Nair

Our Communications Officer in Bhopal, Tabish Ali, has kindly shared his account of the action taken at Chingari following it’s closure to protect the children:

On 24th March 2020, the Government of India declared a complete lockdown for 21 days to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in India. Shops, schools, and public transport – everything was closed down. News channel were filled with the news of the number of people getting infected and dying due to Covid-19 in different parts of the country and the rest of the world. People were reluctant to come out of their houses because they were afraid.

In such circumstances, we were also forced to close down the Chingari Rahabilitation Centre. On one hand, we had to close down Chingari due to the lockdown, and on the other hand we were worried about the safety of the children at Chingari. There were 48 children who were getting medicines from Chingari for neurological disorders. If those children did not receive their medicine on time then there was a possibility that many of them might have started having fits and there health would have further degraded.

In such a dark atmosphere, four staff members from Chingari appeared as a ray of light to help these children. On that very day it was decided that we had to close Chingari, we contacted three drivers – Sunil, Azam and Shahid – to help us distribute medicine to these children in Chingari’s vans. Although everything was closed and it was potentially a dangerous job, all three of them agreed at our first request. I still remember that Sunil said to me: “Sir, it is risky to work in these circumstances, but if I have to take this risk for the children of Chingari then I am ready to take it”.

Simultaneously, the Managing Trustees of Chingari Trust, Rashida Bee and Champa Devi Shukla (both of them above sixty years of age), came along with me from one government office to another to get permission for our staff to be allowed to come to Chingari and do their work during lockdown. We finally succeeded in getting the permission by the end of the day.

Shadab (Community health worker) at Chingari is the one who took care of  the medicine distribution work at Chingari, as he knows where medicines are procured and which children receive which medicines. I still remember, I called him at 9:30am in the morning asking for help and at 10:15am he was at the office to help us.

On the same day, we had a meeting to discuss the fact that, as well as medicine, there are about forty children registered with Chingari who are extremely poor and in need of food and other supplies as well as medicines. We contacted A.P.P.I. and PSR Wisconsin to request funds to provide food and supplies to these forty families. Luckily, we received a positive reply from both organisations and were able to hire three more drivers to help us iwith the distribution work, as well as pay four staff members for their extra work during lockdown.

In the first three weeks, thanks to the efforts of our staff, we were able to distribute medicines to 48 children and food and supplies to forty needy families of children registered with Chingari Trust. This work inspired other employees, and after three weeks of closure we decided to keep Chingari open for the staff during the remainder of lockdown in order to help people in any way we could. Since then, here is some of the relief work we have carried out:

●     873 food and ration packets were given to 200 families continuously for 3 months. Our thanks to Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiatives (APPI) for providing financial help in doing this work.

●     Cooked food was provided to 200 needy people for 40 days. The food packets were also distributed to the immigrant labourers for 3 days. Chingari’s employees donated 10 % of their salaries that month to make this work happen.

●     More than 2,000 visits were carried out to the homes of 320 disabled children. During these visits, therapists and Special Educators have educated parents about the therapies and simple physical activities and exercises which parents can do with their children at home.

●     Necessary medicines required by 48 children with neurological disorders were delivered to their homes during the initial three month lockdown period.

●     Chingari Trust and Sambhavna Trust have worked together in the gas and water affected communities, and educated them to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Chingari staff deliver medicines and supplies to Bhopal residents, photo by Biju Nair

We would like to say an enormous thank you to Tabish, Rashia, Champa, Sunil, Azam, Shahid, Shadab, and all the other staff and drivers at Chingari for giving their time, risking their health, and even donating from their own salaries to support the children and survivors in Bhopal. What they have managed to achieve these past nine months is nothing short of astonishing, and they continue to be an inspiration to us all during these difficult times.

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We believe Dow must finally accept responsibility for Bhopal. Until then, The Bhopal Medical Appeal funds two award-winning clinics in the city. Both offer free, first-class care to victims of the gas disaster or the ongoing water contamination. The survivors have nowhere else left to turn – please help if you can.