On the COVID-19 frontline: Neelam’s story

Seeing the COVID-19 crisis unfolding, Neelam felt she had to help, and now distributes supplies to vulnerable groups

The COVID-19 lockdown has taught me that we need to be thankful for what we have, but it has also made me mindful that we need to help others, particularly those in difficult circumstances, get through this pandemic.

In Bangalore, where I live and work, and in cities across India, many rely on their daily salary to buy food and essentials. When the lockdown came into force, many lost their incomes or had their incomes reduced, and were suddenly struggling to feed themselves and their families.

I felt strongly that I should help in any way that I could, so I responded to a call for volunteers by the local government – the Department for Information and Public Relations – and the Indian Red Cross Society, to become a ‘Corona Warrior Volunteer’. I was accepted, received training and joined other volunteers to work on food distribution, education, data gathering, and other activities.

An app for lockdown

As someone who is into technology, I was pleased to see that the Red Cross was using Telegram, a communication app, to provide trustworthy information and answers to the local population. There was a lot of fake news circulating in the early stages of lockdown, and people needed somewhere to go to get solid information.

Forums like ‘Karnataka COVID-19 Update’ and ‘COVID-19 Karnataka Sahaya’, hosted on the Telegram app, became a platform for raising concerns and queries, and a place to cry for help. From there, the app became a place to organise help and support. I became part of a rapid response team that would respond to people’s requests and distribute supplies.

On a typical shift, we deliver up to 500 freshly cooked food packages to migrant labour campsites. These campsites are usually located away from regularly used areas, and because of the lockdown, many of the people there no longer have access to shops or financial aid.

Working from home She Warrior

I also felt very strongly the need to protect women and kids during this crisis, so I joined a programme called ‘She Warrior’, also part of the government’s partnership with the Red Cross, which helps educate female migrant workers on the importance of health and hygiene. She Warrior distributes essentials to groups in need, such as sanitary products for women, and food packs for kids.

I’m proud to see how Standard Chartered has supported its employees in working from home during this crisis. Working from home brings challenges for us all, but it has allowed me to be on call for the rapid response team in my area, which is really important to me.

The COVID-19 crisis has given me a better appreciation for the challenges we all face on a daily basis, but I know that working together – as a company, as a team, as a country – will get us through this.

When we do come out the other side of this crisis, I think everybody will appreciate the small things in life a little more: meeting family and friends, going to the shops…just having the freedom to move around feels like a luxury now! Together, we can get to that place.

For more information on how we're responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, click here