[COVID Warriors] How Vrikshit Foundation is aiding the underserved during the pandemic

Vrikshit Foundation is providing rations kits, hygiene essentials, oximeters, and oxygen cylinders to underserved families across India amidst COVID-19.
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With increasing human activities in the name of development, the environment has been struggling with various issues — starting from climate change to deforestation, to pollution, and more.

On the other hand, environmentalists and Earth warriors are fighting hard to restore our planet to its original beauty. Among them is the Delhi-based NGO Vrikshit Foundation

Founded in May 2019 by Shankar Singh, the NGO promotes cleanliness in society and enhances living hygiene conditions for Delhi citizens.

Over time, the NGO — focused on addressing environmental concerns — has made a significant impact on society, indulging in cleaning the rivers, neighbourhoods, and revamping the dilapidated walls of the capital city. 

The foundation also expanded its initiatives to provide meals to the poor in collaboration with Zomato in 15 Indian states. It also gave school shoes to underprivileged students and helped clean the polluted beaches in Mumbai.

All this was possible because of the constant efforts of its 3000 volunteers and social media campaigns.

Distribution of rations to the sex workers of G.B. Road

However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the NGO decided to focus on helping the underserved population who are highly affected.

To reduce the collateral damage, Vrikshit started providing ration kits and medical essentials to the underserved families in many cities across India.

The need of the hour

“We have been providing ration kits to the poor families who are vulnerable to losing or have lost their source of income due to the pandemic. These include 800 families of sex workers residing at GB Road, Delhi, and about 3,500 families of migrant labourers in different locations of Bihar, including Araria, Patna, Supol, Katihar, and Muzaffarpur,” Shankar tells SocialStory.

Vrikshit Foundation has also extended medical support to many people in need. It has distributed 155 oximeters to people in Hyderabad, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra. In fact, it is procuring oxygen cylinders for free for those who need them and is also providing verified leads for cylinders in these cities.

Delivery of oxygen cylinders

Additionally, the NGO’s team of doctors are providing free consultation through video calls to bridge the gap for quality medical consultation.

“As far as our reach in COVID-19 relief work is concerned, we've been working in Delhi, Bihar (Araria, Muzaffarpur, Supol, Patna, and Katihar), Rajasthan (Bhilwara, Bikaner, and Jaipur), Telangana (Hyderabad), Maharashtra (Malad in Mumbai),” Shankar highlights.

Impact

So far, Vrikshit claims to have reached out to over 6,000 families across India and continues to do so.

“All we've won in the last couple of months of hard work is the satisfaction to have worked for our brothers and sisters in need, and Vrikshit Foundation thrives to do more for them in the future, come what may,” Shankar shares.

One of the volunteers, Piyush A Shori, says, "Working at such a scale for the people is never easy. It is self-motivation and satisfaction that keeps us moving during these difficult times. I'm grateful to have had this opportunity to do something for the society through Vrikshit Foundation.”

At present, about 200 volunteers are working with the NGO, while another 200 will be joining the work once they recover from COVID-19. Moreover, the foundation has made it a point to ask for volunteers who live alone or are living with another volunteer to prevent any further spread of the virus.

Ration distribution in Bihar

"I feel very fortunate to be a part of this humanitarian deed. We can never do enough for people, but we try to provide them with the best for the circumstances. It's correct that many people are devoid of these days due to the pandemic, and their right is access to essentials,” says Niharika Asyja, another volunteer with the foundation.

Shankar says the total cost of carrying out these initiatives is about Rs 15 lakhs — a majority of which has come through fundraising on social media and Vrikshit’s online campaigns

“Also, our supporters have been very helpful throughout. They have been actively donating ration kits, too, besides monetary contribution to help families in distress,” he adds.

Recently, Vrikshit Foundation has got the 80G and 12A certificates and is looking for CSR funds.

Challenging times

As with any foundation, Vrikshit has its fair share of challenges.

With low cash during the early days of the pandemic, the NGO struggled to pay the bills for the ration and other things included in the distribution drives.

“However, we took it head-on and made online fundraising campaigns. The supporters and volunteers donated generously for the initiative, and we were able to gather the amount in a very short time,” says Shankar.

Other challenges were the lockdown in various states, the COVID-19 second wave, and the protection of its volunteers on the field.

The founder says that the local authorities were cordial enough to support and permit the organisation to conduct its campaigns.

He adds, “Our on-ground volunteers took it with all their might and were ready on the battlefield with the PPE kits on and brought all our drives to a successful end.”

While these drives in the cities have ended, the team is continuing its work in the rural areas of Bihar and Rajasthan.

Talking about the road ahead, Shankar says, “We plan to continue extending our support to all the poor families who are struggling to make their ends meet due to the pandemic. We also plan to increase our workforce and strengthen the on-ground team to reach out to more places for distribution drives.”

The NGO will be covering the hillside regions with fewer medical facilities and cater to artist groups like Rajasthani folk singers and others who are presently out of work. It is also opening an oximeter campaign in rural areas, where locals can check their oxygen levels at the camps.

Besides, it is also planning to provide legal support against COVID-19 frauds with the help of lawyers.

To offer your support, you can reach out to Shankar Singh at +91-7827552596 or email at vrikshitfoundation@gmail.com.

Edited by Suman Singh

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