THEY SAY it is in the most difficult of situations that you realize who really is going to be there for you. And sometimes, they can be strangers. Absolute strangers.
While most of us stayed locked in our homes during the lockdown, and rightly so, there were some who believed there was a greater purpose to fulfill. Of humanity. Arun Daniel Yellamaty didn’t stop for a moment to think about his own safety. He got his volunteers and set out to help all those in dire need. His NGO, Youngistaan Foundation started COVID-19 Relief Support, working together with the Telangana State Police, the State COVID Control Room, the Cyberabad Police, the Revenue Department, the GHMC (Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation) and a few more NGOs. From providing nutrition and hygiene kits and cooked meals, to helping senior citizens with groceries and medical assistance… to also taking care of community animals – they did it all.
“I had 1,500 registrations during the lockdown. Can you believe it!” exclaims Arun, who utilized the manpower by dividing volunteers into batches – on-ground volunteers who collected and distributed kits; backstage volunteers, who did all the packing working overnight; and volunteers who were sent to various governmental bodies to help them with their relief drives. “We are an absolutely volunteer-run organization, with no big names backing us. However, there were people who wanted to help but didn’t have a platform. They reached out to us. We raised money for grocery kits through donations and contributions; some restaurants came forward to help us with cooked food. We worked closely with the control room and the police, as through them it was easier to identify and reach the people most in need. We were able to connect with the transgender community as well as people with disabilities, who had reached out to GHMC and the Social Welfare Department. After people got to know we were helping the trans-community, a corporate company came forward to donate kits for 100 transgenders; while Wipro donated 2,500 kits for migrant workers.”
The Youngistaan Foundation has thus far managed to help 13,603 families with nutrition and hygiene kits and 1,45,830 individuals with cooked food. They even went as far as the Nallamalla forest area, about 200kms from the city, to give groceries to indigenous people who live there. They sponsored 40,000 bread packets along with juice, biscuits and yoghurt to migrant workers who were travelling. The volunteers also streamlined a process of getting them onto the Shramik trains that were being run by the government. “There was a lot of confusion among people about the trains that would take them home. So we would sit at the police stations for hours making excel sheets and collecting data of who is travelling, etc.”
Migrant workers, daily wage laborers, the transgender community, people with disabilities, indigenous communities, lower-middle-class and middle-class people, domestic helps, security guards, slum dwellers, priests and pastors, old age homes, orphanages – Arun and his team reached out to as many sections of people as they could. “Recently, some bodyguards contacted us saying they are out of jobs. These are bodybuilders who work at pubs. We are soon going to arrange to provide them with essential products.”
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