Covid or monsoon floods, RC Bombay Rotarians overcome both challenges

A boat used to ferry a handwash facility to a school defying the floods.
A boat used to ferry a handwash facility to a school defying the floods.

When Rotarians set their eyes on a target they will achieve it, come what may. This was proved yet again when Rotarians from the Rotary Club of Bombay, RID 3141, were fighting against all odds bang in the midst of the corona pandemic to execute a mega WinS project they had undertaken along with a few other clubs in Mumbai.

The project, planned and undertaken by the district’s WinS committee in 2018 was challenging by itself — setting up handwash stations (HWS) in 752 zilla parishad schools in Palghar district of Maharashtra. The total number of HWSs to be provided through the project titled Dhaal was 1,142, and RC Bombay was given the task to cover 600 of the 752 schools. The vintage club got cracking through a global grant of $264,465 (₹1.93 crore), and their commitment was to put up 775 HWSs. The other clubs involved were Bombay Seacoast, Bombay West, Mumbai Ghatkopar and Mumbai Divas, “together with the invaluable logistical support being provided by RC Palghar,” says RID 3141 DG Nominee Sandip ­Agarwalla. With additional money of ₹34.5 lakh raised by RC ­Bombay, the total cost of the project was over ₹2.27 crore.

As Covid cases rose, we had severe restrictions on movement, but we continued with the work. But then came the monsoon and the floods, so we used boats.
— DGN Sandip Agarwalla, RID 3141

He says when the project was planned for inauguration by RIPE Shekhar Mehta in June 2020, who could have imagined that a virus would derail the entire timeline and make it so difficult to even fabricate and transport the handwash stations to the schools. “As the Covid cases started rising, we had severe restrictions placed on our movement and that of the workers to complete the project in the zilla parishad schools. We continued with the work getting the necessary permissions. But then came the monsoon and the floods, making our job that much more daunting,” he chuckles.

But it was here that the never-say-die spirit of Rotarians came to the fore and boats were pressed into service to defy the floods and reach the handwash stations as well as water tanks to a few schools.

A specially designed handwash station conceptualised by RC Bombay in consultation with Nilkamal Industries.
A specially designed handwash station conceptualised by RC Bombay in consultation with Nilkamal Industries.

Agarwalla explains that even prior to this project, RC ­Bombay’s signature project has been ­Jaljeevan, whose objective has been providing safe drinking water to the underprivileged. Under this project the club has served nearly 50 villages, making available water ATMs to self-help groups, panchayats etc, to be given at a marginal cost to the end users.

This WinS project was undertaken in association with UNICEF. “They had already completed some 2,000 zilla parishad schools with the help of CSR funds, and 752 more schools remained to be done. That is where our district and club got involved.” When the costing was done, it was decided that providing stainless steel HWSs is an “overkill as schools do not really require wash stations made of steel, which is open to theft by desperate elements who then sell it by weight. So the search was on for an alternate, lighter and more economic component,” says the DGN.

Using stainless steel for handwash stations for schools is an overkill as this can be pilfered and sold for weight. So we provided a lighter and more economic but durable component.
DGN Sandip Agarwalla

Past president of RC Bombay Vijay Jatia said that the WinS committee of 2019–20 collaborated with the hardware supplier Nilkamal Industries and their local implementation partner, Sacred, to defy all odds and complete the project. “The course curriculum has been designed by UNICEF and not only will we be training the students, teachers and parents on the necessity and advantages of HWS but also giving vital information on menstrual hygiene management (MHM) to adolescent girls when the schools reopen after this pandemic.”

Adds Agarwalla, “After consultation with UNICEF and our other partners, the HSW was specially designed by RC Bombay in consultation with Nilkamal, which came out with a unique low-cost, pilfer proof, lightweight and durable solution. At the same time, it is ergonomically designed, which proved to be a real hit among users.”

women-washing-hands

Also, UNICEF stipulates that there should be one tap for 25 students and this has been more than ensured. As many of the schools did not have safe drinking water, the Rotarians have decided to undertake that component of the project too.

As the ultimate aim of WinS is to bring about a behavioural change, “we have been imparting training and advocacy on usage and advantages of handwashing to school management councils despite the schools being closed. The principals of these schools were extremely receptive and eager to have the HWSs installed, and hence have opened their school and even mobilised teachers for the training,” he says.

We have trained the principals and teachers on the importance of handwashing, and will do so for students and parents when the schools reopen. Menstrual hygiene management will also be taught to adolescent girls.
Vijay Jatia
past president, RC Bombay

Jatia adds that the project was conceived much before the Covid situation but has now “assumed extraordinary importance in view of the corona pandemic when constantly washing hands is so important for everybody.” He gives credit for completion of this project to Rtns Siddharth Bhimrajka, Abhinav Aggarwal and Abhishek Saraf, and acknowledges the logistic support provided by RC Palghar to transport the HWSs and water tanks, and the NGO Sacred for installing them.

Agarwalla adds that special mention should be made of the generous contribution  from Rtn Dilip Piramal and VIP Industries, so that work at over 70 schools, which were entrusted to another club, but could not implement due to various challenges, could also be completed.

RC Bombay has now undertaken the task of providing safe drinking water under its Jal Jeevan programme to 146 of these schools which have a student population of more than 60,000 students. A GG application has been submitted for review and the project cost is around ₹1.5 crore, says the DGN.

 

Covid relief worth 4.5 crore

A single club, the vintage and 91-year-old RC Mumbai, the second oldest in India, after RC Calcutta, has managed to collect and execute Covid-related relief measures for over ₹4.5 crore, raised by the club’s Rotarians.

  • 58 ventilators given to hospitals run by the Maharashtra government and  Central Hospital, Dhanbad
  • 11 dialysis machines to Palghar and Mumbai hospitals
  • 5 HFNC (high flow nasal cannula) machines to various hospitals. A global grant for an additional 20 HFNCs is under way
  • 11,250 PPEs to various hospitals in Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru
  • Distribution of free cooked and packed meals to over 16.5 lakh persons (till September), at 30,000 meals every day from kitchens operated and supervised by the club’s Rotarians to the homeless, migrant workers and daily wage earners
  • Setting up coffee/tea vending machines to various police stations
  • 2,500 Covid-19 testing kits costing over ₹20 lakh to the Tata Memorial Hospital
  • The club has set up an all-India toll-free counselling helpline with over 600 trained volunteers and counsellors helping anxious or distressed callers for mental health counselling. This helpline also strives to help persons who need dry rations anywhere in India
  • Supply of 40,000 packets of ready-to-eat food packets of upma and poha to the curfew-stricken people of Malegaon (four hours from Mumbai). In addition, 1,000 free cooked and packed meals were distributed till May 25
  • 1,150 N95 respiratory masks, contactless digital thermometers and Oximeter pulse machines to various hospitals in Mumbai
  • 1,200 face shields given to sanitation workers who maintain various community toilets in the slums of Mumbai, and 5,000 hand sanitisers to various agencies.

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