The effects of COVID-19 are far-reaching and have caused an unprecedented change. Institutes and organizations are reinventing ways to streamline the systems and processes. New quality and assessment standards are being drafted to smoothen the operations.
For organizations that are working to provide relief aid, complications are more severe. Their on-ground presence is essential, unlike other organizations which are working remotely.
In assisting and conducting the various activities, UPAY did encounter several obstacles. Everyone is somehow affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. And, UPAY is trying to help as many people as we can through various means and resources.
What were the challenges to run the relief work?
The urgent need to mitigate the crisis called for broadening the spectrum of operation. Being an NGO that focuses on education, navigating to health care and relief took some time. We had to manage and train the volunteers in the right direction before starting. Thus, there was a lot of learning as the volunteers ventured into new territories.
At first, there was a bit of hesitation among the executives as they wanted the volunteers to stay safe and in the home. But the kind of crisis made us realize how important it has become to mobilize all the resources at hand.
A detailed guideline explained the measures we would be taking to protect ourselves. While explaining our relief operations, we got support from the local bodies.
The resources were scarce, and finding one verified lead took several hours. Securing resources like medicines and oxygen became very exhaustive with people hoarding them. It takes a toll on one when we cannot help the people who expect help from us.
How did we engage the students?
Education is one sector that has suffered immensely during the pandemic for students. With most schools shifting to online infrastructure, students from underprivileged sections are affected due to the digital disconnect.
When asked about the difference it made for such children, Akhil Mahajan, Zonal Director of UPAY Gurugram, said that all the learning centers are now closed. The classes shifted to online mode. It resulted in a significant drop in the number of students attending these classes. Compared to a physical class, only 20-25 percent of students could join the online class.
He further says, “the students that we work with belong to lower-income households. They do not have smartphones at home. Even if they have one, there might not be enough data packages to attend online classes or, someone might be using the phone.”
Conducting various activities plays a vital role in the learning process. It scaled down to online activities with far less effectiveness. Keeping the children attentive and interested to learn has been very difficult. Their eagerness to continue with the classes is something we constantly work upon. Sports and extracurricular activities that help with holistic and soft skill development are no longer possible to conduct.
How did the teams perform their duties?
While working with a team, communication is the most crucial element and helps get work done efficiently. But now, all the communication is either through virtual or telephonic mode. Miscommunication and the lack of clarity were something that the organization tried to overcome.
Neetu Mishra, Zonal Director of UPAY Nagpur, says that the lack of communication among teams has been one issue. When the top-level planning is done through physical meetings, there is greater efficiency. Now, team members have to deal with the disadvantage of the communication gap within teams.
Although, the technology comes in handy for people working from home. It supported us to bring the entire system online which was not the case earlier.
Persistent support helped us sail through!
In these crucial times when a lot of things are overshadowed by uncertainty, a robust support system is something everyone needs and can benefit from. UPAY acknowledges the hard work and dedication of every volunteer. We try to keep them away from the physical and mental repercussions of the pandemic.
Varun Shrivastava, President of UPAY, underlines the importance of volunteers and their contributions. He stated that the volunteer’s exposure to the virus and the risk to his health was a significant concern during the second wave of the pandemic. It has resulted in a shortage of human resources for conducting complex operations and relief campaigns.
He admitted, with heart-breaking news and negativity prevailing, it is essential to take care of one’s mental health. Volunteers and other employees at UPAY are encouraged to consult a team of counselors who are available for teleconsultation.
A lot of coordination among teams and some dedicated work is going on despite the daily challenges. But the sheer need to help and give back to the community we live in has helped the organization thrive. UPAY intends to help those in need, when people worldwide are suffering due to the pandemic. We only hope that even if we can save a few lives, our efforts will pay off.
Written by -Sneha Manoharan