When COVID-19 hit India, we jumped into action to help them prepare for the challenges,even before the lockdown started in India. It is a special concern for Visually Impaired as they mostly rely on touch.
The ones with Visibility disorder from needy families are a diverse group, experiencing different hardships in accessing information on prevention and risk of infection.
Firstly we shared COVID-19 precautions as per WHO guidelines with them through audio messages with translations in different regional languages like Hindi, Telugu, Marathi, Kannada. The guidelines was shared with the volunteers, who then communicated with the visually impaired in their respective languages either by phone or whatsapp.
We parallelly prepared a list of Visuallyimpaired who were in city, or left for their villages / hometown to stay with parents. We also checked with blind Institute or NGOs about the measures they had taken at the premises and hostel facility. If there was any shortage, we helped fulfill the requirement for hand gloves, masks, and sanitizers with the help of donations. About 600 hand gloves, several masks, sanitizers were distributed prior to lockdown.
We soon realized that that there were quite a lot of visually impaired elderly left alone at home. This prompted us to start assigning phone buddy to each of them to keep track of how they were doing. The buddy would keep the phone numbers of neighbor, maid and local ward ration shop (government outlet) and other helpline numbers to support the visually impaired.
We soon started receiving calls for help from the needy families esp. Mumbai slums for groceries and medicines. The daily wage workers were out of cash and no means to buy essentials. Many times the free food distribution and ration was available but they were unaware of this information. So the buddy volunteer became a very critical part to reach the information or the essential items. Over the last three weeks we have supported at least 200 families to get their ration and essentials.
The Phone Buddy also encourage and motivate the visually impaired to take care of their health and fitness and improve immunity by explaining how to do simple home workouts. This keeps them happy and healthy in these difficult times.