Humanity First: Amid COVID-19, this humanitarian is back on the streets distributing food, oxygen

A humanitarian who was on the ground during the first COVID-19 wave, Chinu Kwatra is back with bigger and scaled initiatives to help people during the second wave.

A humanitarian and philanthropist from Mumbai, Chinu Kwatra was on the ground during India’s first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, helping migrants reach their hometowns amid all transportation coming to a halt. Now, a year later, when people almost seemed to adapt to the new normal, the virus returned with a bigger and more ferocious wave. And so did Chinu.

Like the first time, Chinu, who has been actively involved in cleaning beaches in India, took to giving respite to those who needed it the most.

Amid the second wave, he and the members of his non-profit, Khushiyaan Foundation, are working on four main initiatives – three of which are being carried forward from their efforts during the first wave. All of their initiatives have been scaled up to meet the crisis of the second wave.

Free oxygen cylinders

Firstly, they are providing oxygen cylinders to people and hospital staff through the ‘Free Oxygen Seva’ through Ananta Khushiyaan, a collaboration between the NGO and Ananta, a group of entrepreneurs who believe in giving back to society.

“We got about 1,000 calls a day through three of the circulated numbers. We purchase 10 cylinders and gave them to the very critical patients,” Chinu tells SocialStory.

He notes that many people are hoarding oxygen cylinders at their home as a backup, in case they might need them in the future. Moreover, patients who turn negative, are sometimes in greater need of oxygen and cannot be discharged from the hospital.

Oxygen cylinders are being distributed in and around Mumbai

“To help them, we started distributing these cylinders for two negative patients in a day who still need oxygen, so that they can be discharged and can take care of themselves, while the bed can be allotted to another patient,” he says.

Also, they reached out to the chain of oxygen cylinder vendors in and around Mumbai to help people connect with the person who is supplying oxygen in a particular area.

“Suppose I am in Thane and you require oxygen in Ghatkopar. If you connect with us, we will you give the contact for that person giving oxygen in Ghatkopar so that it reaches as fast as possible,” says Chinu.

“They charge some fees as a deposit in some cases, but the idea was that the help should reach the people quickly,” he adds.

Chinu and his team also connected with corporates who are willing to donate oxygen cylinders to the people who required them the most.

Food and ration

Once the restrictions were announced again this year, Chinu started receiving calls from many of the last year’s beneficiaries – including migrant workers, transgender communities, and sex workers – who were desperate for help.

Distribution of freshly cooked meals

The team kickstarted their initiative again, and has since distributed about 1,000 ration kits to about 1,000 needy families, and are targeting 5,000 families whom they reached out to in 2020, through their 'Roti Ghar' initiative

They are also providing freshly-cooked meals to senior citizens and labourers who reside near their kitchens in Thane, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Delhi, and Odisha. So far, they have reached 2,500 children and are expanding to about 5,000 people every day, by mid-May.

Other initiatives

Apart from these three initiatives re-started during the second wave, the team is also rescuing and helping stray animals in Mumbai.

They are expanding this initiative to the different regions of the city with the help of the feeders and rescuers across Mumbai who are provided with food and other items, who then cater to the animals in their own areas.

“We also got an animal rescue van to reach out to maximum number of animals during the day,” shares Chinu.

An image of their animal service initiative

While the oxygen, ration and animal service initiatives are within Mumbai, the meal distribution is happening across five cities – Mumbai, Bengaluru, Odisha, Hyderabad, and Delhi.

While some team members are on the field and some are handling the work within their homes, others are handling the calls and the backend operations, providing their support to the initiative

While they are also getting funds from CSR initiatives, the Ananta Khushiyaan initiative has been a major support for their oxygen drive. The team has also raised funds through social media.

Chinu says that the team is facing several challenges in running these initiatives, including raising awareness, the fear of the pandemic, and insufficient funding, in addition to the stigma associated with the disease.

“Whenever you do something good, people always tend to bring you down,” he says.

Despite these issues, Chinu remains unfazed. His goal is to serve the people in their time of need.

Edited by Kanishk Singh


Updates from around the world