[COVID Warriors] How this climate-action group from Udupi came to rescue orgphanages, senior citizens, transgenders

TIP Sessions Charitable Trust, an NGO that was created to promote waste management, is now working to provide relief to COVID-19 affected families, senior citizens, patients with comorbidities, and others in rural Karnataka.
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In 2018, a group of like-minded individuals came together in Karnataka to work towards climate action, civic awareness, and circular economy in local communities.

TIP Sessions, an initiative by a design studio in Bangalore called The Integrated Penguin (TIP), was first put together by its founder Divya Hegde, to provide exposure to rural youth in Udupi, her hometown, to alternative lifestyles and careers.

“We believe that weaving sustainability into the very fabric of development is the key to building a green and liveable future. Making climate action accessible and achievable for Tier II and Tier III cities can spark significant community-wide social change that is meaningful,” says Divya.

As they say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and this initiative has now evolved into an end to end waste management and climate action NGO called TIP Sessions Charitable Trust. Officially registered in 2020, the NGO works primarily in Udupi, Chikmagalur and Mangalore region of Karnataka.

The volunteers at TIP Sessions

Divya explains that in local communities, women fulfil most of the domestic needs of their families. “We train these women to manage waste better through segregation of waste. We also encourage them to educate their communities on ways to reduce and replace items that generate toxic and unsustainable waste,” she tells SocialStory.

Through its Eco-Schools Waste Education Programme, TIP Sessions has also been conducting workshops and classes for school children on waste management since 2019. Divya believes introduction to waste management practices at a young age can help in making this a part of their development process.

Pandemic relief

With many of the NGO's efforts spent on the field, the team had plenty of volunteers and workers on board. Not wanting to let their resources go to waste, Divya and her team pivoted to Covid relief efforts with the onset of the pandemic in 2020, when normal routines came to an abrupt end.

They were instrumental in providing food and medicines free of cost across Udupi, Chikmagalur and Mangalore to COVID-19 affected families, senior citizens, and patients with co-morbidities, and also to residents of special schools.

It also distributed PPE Kits and essentials to ASHA and frontline workers in the region.

Young yet impactful

As a climate action NGO, Divya says that TIPS was in a unique position to reach out to every household in Udupi, Chikmagalur and Mangalore to provide essentials.

“As a young NGO, we are grateful that we were able to support vulnerable people beyond metro cities,” she shares.

Distribution of rations kits

Commencing their efforts on 26th April 2021, as soon as the second lockdown was announced, TIPS managed to roll out its activities in all three districts by 1st May. In just under a month, it has supported about 3100 direct beneficiaries, including 370 ASHA workers and other frontline workers.

Also benefitting from their services were eight special schools and orphanages, and transgender communities in Udupi. "We have managed to procure 14 oxygen cylinders and five concentrators so far," says Divya.

The team

All this groundwork would not have been possible without the right manpower. TIP Session’s team comprises climate activists, volunteers and waste workers, doubling up as COVID-19 relief workers especially in the light of lockdown.

“We come from different backgrounds – design, tech, farming, self-help groups (SHGs), climate activists, business persons, students,” says Divya.

One of the volunteers, Naveen Shetty, says, “While distributing food and medicine, we had to face various heavy rains, walk through difficult roads with food and medicine packets, but we successfully distributed what was required. We have made sure to take necessary hygiene precautions by wearing masks, gloves and hand sanitisers.”

The volunteers also collected trash from households in rural Karnataka

The NGO has roughly incurred around Rs 15 lakh, largely covered through donations from friends, family and the public, and a PayU Campaign. Encouraged by donations from friends and family, and with growing requirements across the three districts, it has now set up a fundraiser campaign on Ketto to continue the relief work.

“Most of our beneficiaries are not on social media. However, a lot of kind folks came through for us in these districts, helped spread the word and offered to volunteer offline as well. The very generous donations meant that people were willing to trust us and that truly helped in powering our efforts,” Divya says.

Challenges and the way forward

Apart from the obvious risk of being out there during the pandemic, Divya mentions that the rollout and adjustment of the initial week was a bit hard. “We had to quickly learn and adapt to the reality that we cannot silo ourselves to serving only certain patients,” she says.

“It’s also heartbreaking when we have to connect folks to mental health counsellors, because mental health is not discussed enough in rural areas, and you get a sense of just how much it is needed during times like these,” she adds.

With the teammates being vaccinated, a big relief for them, TIP Sessions is planning to onboard more volunteers to work offline. It is also planning to assist frontline and ASHA workers Panchayat-wise.

Pre-pandemic, TIP Sessions had also started a programme called The Khushi Project, in Udupi, to encourage conversations about mental health. Under the programme, the NGO connected anyone who needed mental health support to appropriate counsellors, and covered the cost of the patient’s first visit while keeping their identity anonymous.

Solar lantern making workshop for women in partnership with Government of Karnataka MGIRED

Divya says the project was paused due to the pandemic, but the team now plan to restart the same by dedicating a team specifically for Covid cases.

The core focus of the NGO continues to be waste management. It now plans to expand to make more panchayats self-reliant with waste management.

“We believe in community-enabled climate action and the close relationship between climate change and gender, and we will continue to work in this space. We look forward to continuing climate education for school children and possibly pivoting some of our programmes to online formats,” signs off Divya.

Edited by Anju Narayanan

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