As a Volunteer in India During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Carin and other volunteers distributing food donations to families in India whose income is affected by the Corona pandemic

Be part of Sambhali Trust: We act and make a difference! Carin from Germany actively decided to continue her volunteer work in India during the Covid 19 pandemic. In our blog she speaks about the effects of the pandemic on the lives of people in India and why her work as a volunteer is particularly needed now.

It is late in the evening and I am sitting in our volunteer home, the Dev Bagh Ressort, in the middle of the Indian desert Thar in Rajasthan (approx. 1.5 hours by car from Jodhpur), under the beautiful Indian sky and under thousands of shiny stars. My heart is still pounding and there’s an almost mysthical atmosphere all around the place, with the full moon seeming within the reach of my hands.

We have just returned from our first basic-food-distribution. Our minds are still full of these experiences, but we can’t yet talk about them because this ride through desert has touched us so deeply.

We just visited the poorest families of Rajasthan in their little huts. Huts with only a fire pit and some firewood. In some there might be a couple of blankets hanging on the walls, which will be spread out on the floor at night to sleep on. When I entered one of these huts, my hair accidentally touched a toothbrush neatly tucked into the thatched roof, waiting for its owner to use it in the evening.

Some families might have a few goats which can give milk to the children in the mornings or a dog that guards the night sleep. The heat is everywhere and the storms blow the sand over your body, face and eyes.

Here in rural Rajasthan, the COVID-19 pandemic immediately had an existential impact:
The quarry was closed for weeks due to the lockdown. Many fathers who provide for their families lost their jobs and there are no such things as unemployment aid or short-time work. The children cannot longer help to generate income, so their low earnings are also lost. Families were deprived of their livelihood overnight.

Sambhali Trust quickly recognized this critical situation in the Setrawa desert region and sat down with the local officials. The poorest families were identified by field workers and a mission to provide basic-food-packages was started. A team of foreign and Indian volunteers acquires flour, lentils, sugar, salt, tea and spices every day and packs them in 14-day rations. A food-package costs around 15 € and provides for a family of 5-6 people with the most important basic food for half a month.

Let’s look back a couple of weeks ago – our live in India before Covid-19:

Before Covid-19: Carin taught English at local schools in a playful and interactive way

In the middle of January I traveled to India / Rajasthan to support underprivileged children and women as a volunteer. Sambhali Trust welcomed us like a family. Sambhali Trust’s projects in rural Rajasthan are called “SETU” and consist of several missions which we want to build up.

In the morning we taught English in government schools – in a completely different way than the Indian school system usually does it. We tried to spread the joy of learning with songs, games, learning videos and workshops every day. We would also meet our students on the way to school or in the afternoons during the sunset walk to the dunes. Here, too, we would play “English” and explore the environment of the Thar desert together.

It’s touching to see that most people here can only live a very simple live or even live in poverty. I didn’t picture it like that before coming to India. The children are pure bliss: lovely, eager to learn and full of laughter and joy.

In the late afternoons we always offered additional English lessons for all children and teenagers in the area at our volunteer home Dev Bagh. The students walked several kilometers to get to our place right after school. In groups divided according to age, we practiced English dialogues, played educational games or watched motivational movies (e.g. “I am Kalaam”, Nelson Mandela) and discussed them in English.

During the golden hour, our field was always transformed into a sport and activity community-ground. We played cricket, volleyball, football, organized races and learned Indian dances with the boys and girls.

With the lockdown, all of this could no longer take place and the Sambhali Trust projects had to be shut down. For us volunteers, one question had to be answered: How do we personally want to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic?

Why I decided to stay in India during the Corona pandemic

One thing is for sure: during a crisis, you need a family that stands beside you – a family were people care for one another and support each other. Therefore, many European families have recommended the volunteers to travel back home. However, a team of more than ten of us decided to continue supporting the Sambhali Trust missions on site.

Govind Singh Rathore and his (extended) family treated us volunteers as if we were part of the family right from the beginning. With the beginning of Covid-19, we all moved into self-isolation at the Dev Bagh Resort in the Thar Desert where our community was even strengthened.

We are provided with the latest information at all times, we play and laugh together, we have conversations in up to five languages, we cook together and share the housework, we exercise together and enjoy nature – and we fight together against COVID-19-Pandemic.
Side by side, from heart to heart.

Hygiene and safety measures for us and others

We take good care of ourselves and stick to the common hygiene and safety measures: keeping physical distance to others, wearing a mask, washing and disinfecting hands, no coughing or sneezing at each other.

In addition to the basic-food-distribution for 251 families, Sambhali Trust also provides the residents with information about preventive health care and has e.g. soaps distributed to 810 families. The national press reports intensively on our projects.

We have now provided the families with the food-packages for the third time; we are grateful for international support and that we can help personally on site. Every day after lunch, we pack the food-packages together in the resort and send out our daily changing team with good blessings.
At sunset we are waiting for the returners, receive them with disinfectant (insider joke: our joy, our fun cannot be taken away through COVID-19) and spicy masala chai and hear, while sitting in the warm sand, the reports about the gratitude and open hearts of the locals in our area – the friends, families and relatives of our laughing students.

I am grateful to be part of Sambhali Trust: We act and make a difference! Fighting against COVID-19-Pandemic globally – connecting internationally!

Carin from Germany, in India

Here you can read all about Carin’s volunteer organisation.

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