While the pandemic has created unprecedented health and economic challenges for the most vulnerable, there are a few among us who stepped out of their comfort zone and continue to lend a helping hand to whoever needs it. WOW talks to five such individuals who command not just our gratitude and respect but are real heroes of our times.
Text: Pabita Dahal
Founder, Prisoner’s Assistance Nepal
When Indira saw a child picking food from the garbage, it hit her hard. “I was taken aback and decided to talk to the street children in Thamel. I observed the conditions there for a week during the first lockdown,” says Indira Ranamagar, Founder of Prisoner’s Assistance Nepal.
Despite the fact that there were a few people who came and distributed rations and packaged food, there were almost no one who could serve a hot meal. Many of the recipients of such donations would end up selling the packages due to lack of other essentials required for cooking.” Indira started with feeding 20 street children in Thamel. “They call it Aama ko Khana,” she smiles. Gradually the number increased to 700 which also included tourists. “I used to serve meals twice a day. After 100’s Group started feeding people during the lunch hour, I concentrated on distributing hot meals only in the evening,” she informs.
Indira is seen distributing these meals between 5-8 pm throughout the city. “Many times, people come to my doorstep to collect their hot meal at late hours. I especially cook for them all,” she says.
After the lockdown eased, Indira witnessed a drop in numbers but she still has many mouths to feed. “I will be continuing this project in the future as well. After all, no one should commit crime for a piece of bread,” she says. Asking for public support, Indira runs the campaign ‘1US$ serves hot meal to three people’. “I am expecting more and more people to contribute so that Aama ko Khana never comes to an end,” she says.
Founder, 100’s Group
As a child, Anshu Yadav witnessed his parents making donations and helping the needy. The same passion for service inspired him to establish the 100’s Group.
The nationwide lockdown began on March 22 and the volunteers of 100’s Group went to work from March 24 to provide rations to street people, daily wage labourers and other vulnerable groups. They had previous experience from their social work during the devastating earthquake of 2015.
On a field visit, they realised that many lacked cooking gas and fuel. Hence, they converted to cooked meal packages. This initiative failed as the portions weren’t sufficient. “Finally, we came up with the idea of providing enough food by inviting them to a fixed location,” informs Anshu.
Every day the meal is cooked in Anshu’s home. The meal comprises rice, curry, dal and yogurt. Currently, the meals are distributed in Khula Manch since July feeding 500-600 people daily. In the initial days, there would be 1000-1200 people each day.
Anshu is thankful to all the helping hands who make this service possible and wishes to continue the campaign until the situation normalises.
100’s Group’s contribution to the helpless is not limited to food. They also take people who are unwell to the hospital and provide them with medicines. Besides, they have sent 44 people who lost their livelihoods to Butwal from Kathmandu. Further, they are helping migrant workers return home.
Dr. Garima Shrestha
MBBS, Manipal Teaching Hospital, Pokhara & Founder of
Led by Dr. Garima Shrestha, SHE Organisation has distributed 7500 reusable sanitary pads in Surkhet, Makwanpur, Sindhupalchok, Dadeldhura, Dailekh, Rolpa, Kailali, Chitwan and Butwal. “We heard about the hardships people are facing in quarantine in border areas from Juju Kaji, Founder of Heart Beat who was providing rations for them and we collaborated. We started this campaign from Surkhet raising funds from the executive members of the organisation,” says Garima.
Along with sanitary pads, we also provided 1500 sanitary kits that comprised of a mug, soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, mask, hand sanitizer and hand wash to the people in quarantine in Surkhet.
Starting from mid April, they have been providing pads in coordination with the local hospitals and health posts. “As we don’t have adequate funds, it is becoming hard for us to fulfill the increasing demand but we are somehow managing till date,” she shares. Personal donations have been the single source of funds for them. Recently, Nepa: Mode clothing brand and Vaanare shop have collaborated with SHE Organisation to donate five percent of their profits to the cause.
Currently, four local women of Kathmandu are making the sanitary pads getting Rs 5 as incentive per piece.
“We also reach out to marginalised and vulnerable women of the community who are staying in camps, working as labourers, having mental health problems, etc. They are very happy to get these sanitary pads because they can reuse them,” says Garima.
They are planning to send 700 pads to Achham which is under production. “We will continue the campaign in the long run. We are also planning to conduct health camps and awareness programs on menstrual health,” she shares.
Pema Chhewang Sherpa
Pema Chhewang Sherpa is among those NRNs who is contributing to the welfare of Nepalis living in the States. Chhewang is also working closely with Juju Kaji, Social Activist and is among the core team members of Hamro Sano Prayas. The Co Founder of Everest Awakening, a foundation which was formed to raise awareness and funds for Nepal and neighbouring territories of the Himalayan region, Chhewang is trying to make a difference through his contributions and collaborations.
He emphasises that people must collaborate to make any campaign more effective, especially during the pandemic. “Rather than everyone coming on the streets to help and donate individually, they should collaborate with the already existing people in the field for more impactful results,” he says.
Besides the distribution of masks and food, Chhewang also helped 200 migrant workers reach their homes with a month’s rations. “Everest Awakening is also working on skill development project since 2018. We have been conducting workshops for climbers and tour guides,” he states. The foundation recently organised a three-day nature photography workshop for Nepali climbers and tour guides in Gurdang Dada, Kavre.
Executive Director, Neuro Cardio & Multispecialty Hospital, Biratnagar
The Neuro Cardio & Multispecialty Hospital (NCMH), Biratnagar is the first private Covid hospital in Province 1 to offer free treatment to Coronavirus infected patients. At first, they were providing free service for the infected hospital staff. Later, as the cases started spiking in the province, they decided to make a separate dedicated Covid 19 hospital and installed RT-PCR Test Lab on August 27. They collaborated with the government and got permission from the Ministry of Social Development of the Province 1 government on September 11. However, they are giving the service for free from day 1 i.e. August 17. The hospital is also the first to install RT-PCR Test Lab in Province 1.
“Different places of Province 1 became the epicenter of the Covid 19 outbreak. Many people were losing their lives to other diseases rather than Covid 19 as many hospitals refused to admit the serious cases suspecting Coronavirus and due to lack of skilled manpower,” says Anisha Bista, Executive Director, Neuro Cardio & Multispecialty Hospital Biratnagar. She adds, “The situation demanded a separate hospital and hence we worked on it.”
The hospital has cured more than 98 cases since its establishment including seven critical cases. 40 Covid 19 patients are under treatment now.
People are showing trust and love for the hospital as the team has been successful in curing many critical cases, according to Anisha. One of the heart-touching cases was of 46 year male named Ambika Nepali who suffered from paralysis, diabetes and was also Corona positive. Anisha says, “His family as well as the medical staff had lost hope. But with God’s grace, the patient recovered. His wife thanked us time and again. Such incidents motivate us to provide better service.”