Achievements

Covid conqueror: How a student used a simple tool to transform lives

Apeejay Saket student Bhavya helped more than one lakh citizens benefit from a nation-wide database of verified Covid-relief facilities

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A class 12 Commerce student at Apeejay School, Saket, 16-year-old Bhavya Mohindru is the Director of Logistics and Media Production at the Uncut Team. A platform established in April 2021 during the fatal Covid-19 second wave, Uncut Team provides a pan-India database and verified information about Covid-relief facilities such as hospital beds, ventilators, medicine supplies, etc.

Curated by more than a 100 volunteers working day and night to authenticate the leads, sources and information which can be accessible to everybody, the platform has gained a reach of 4 lakh people, alongside fundraising 2 lakh rupees to be donated for Covid-relief, within a few months of its launch. At present, the platform remains active for every citizen who may be facing an emergency.  In an interview, Mohindru who has been with the platform since its inception, talks about the challenges and rewards of setting up a master database of leads on Covid-relief facilities. Read on:

How did the idea for providing Covid-relief at The Uncut Team come about?

Initially, I along with a team of volunteers were helping people connect when the first wave hit. But, the idea for this initiative formalised when the second wave was at its peak. On a conference call our core team of 7 members realised that Covid-related medical information and facilities were available but scattered. We decided to consolidate these and began working on a master-database to be uploaded on a website. We started with 2-3 states such as Delhi, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. Within 2-3 days into our database launch, we received a call from a person stating that through our website, they were able to save a life. This motivated us to expand our venture to other states across India.

What were the trials you faced in your journey?

Creating such a database can be an enormous task. It needs to be updated and verified every day and at every hour. There was a time when we required more people to work on the exhaustive lists. However, the affirmative messages we received from people and the feeling of doing something right, kept us going.

I would say that arranging beds and ventilators was the hardest part because they used to get occupied within seconds and we did have limitations in terms of resources. When Covid was at its peak, we had established a 24/7 helpline and allotted shifts to our team members for assisting anyone who needed our help. By doing so, we were able to cater to 900 people personally and despite all challenges, have a lakh daily visitors on the website at present.

How did you gain more volunteers for the initiative?

I believe that humans are inherently good-natured and willing to help each other in need. During the pandemic, it was heartening to see people, be it students or professionals coming together on the platform to work towards one goal, i.e. saving a life, and that was the only motivation. People joined hands organically because Covid-19 has been a levelling incident for everyone.

What was the verification process for Covid-19 leads?

Whenever we took in a new member, we did an induction with them to provide a set of guidelines on how to reach a verified source. With collated leads from each state sourced from active Covid groups, government websites, personal contacts and social media platforms, the volunteers would call each number, person and organisation till they tracked down the accurate information. Once we had those details, we would include it in the database and simultaneously follow up with our volunteers about its current status to update the list regularly.

Did such an initiative also involve mental challenges?

The most disheartening was to hear that by the time a certain person had received the lead or medical aid, they had passed away. It was a huge setback. My team and I constantly strived to push forward to help everyone but every such message coming from patients’ families did have a mental impact on us. We encouraged each other on every such incident.

What has been your learning from this experience?

Through this initiative, I learnt the value of life. I kept reminding myself that each minute makes a difference during such times and we have to work accurately and efficiently. In a matter of 5 minutes, we could lose a person.

You also organised a fundraiser event as part of the venture, please tell us about that.  

Our team put together an online concert featuring 12 artists which was a ticketed event worth 150-200 rupees per entry. We also kept a bucket open for people to donate more, and witnessed a participation of 200 people, raising upwards of 2 lakh rupees in a span of 2 weeks. The amount was further distributed among not-for-profit organisations such as Bandhua Mukti Morcha, Sawnhey Foundation and Bal Vikas Dhara, to name a few.

For anyone wanting to engage in a social initiative, what would be your advice?

Before helping others, one has to be mentally strong. Any such people-centric initiative requires a dedicated team. With that, one must always find solutions and be action-oriented. At present, we cannot afford to be comfortably detached to our surroundings and society, so each initiative must cater to a larger need. 

Your final food-for-thought for fellow citizens?

1.    You must be ready to help each other without expecting a reward.

2.    Go beyond your bubble to cater to greater needs of the society.  

Mrini Devnani is Senior Correspondent (Newsroom). She covers student achievements, interviews and contributions for the website. She was a former Correspondent covering Edutech for the India Today Group, and has a passion for Social Media and Digital Marketing. You can reach her at [email protected]

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