A vintage Rotary club which once had JRD Tata as its member, the Rotary Club of Bombay, RID 3141, was one of the first clubs in India to spring into action to help the Maharashtra government, especially the beleaguered city of Mumbai, which has been groaning under the brutal impact of Covid-19, deal with the corona pandemic.
Its members came together to launch at least 19 different activities associated with giving critical care equipment such as ventilators, PPEs (personal protective equipment), masks, sanitisers, preventive medicines, and above all, food for migrant workers, daily wagers and other marginalised sections in Mumbai.
In two months, it did Covid-related relief for an amount exceeding ₹4.5 crore, pooling its own funds and getting contributions from corporates under their CSR activities. Club member and TRF Trustee Gulam Vahanvaty said that ₹90 lakh came from IT major ATOS. According to Nasir Shaik, VP, Head, Human Resources, “we were happy to collaborate with RC Bombay to provide ventilators and PPE kits to government hospitals as Covid-19 has created unprecedented health hazards across the globe. We’ve already had a positive experience in working with Rotary in Kerala, where we had helped in re-building and handing over last year 28 homes to families displaced by the 2018 floods.”
RC Bombay kept tweeting its activities in quick succession on Twitter. Till the first week of May it had distributed free cooked and packed meals to more than one million persons. “We are giving out 30,000 meals every day from a kitchen operated and supervised by us to the homeless, migrant workers and daily wage earners,” said a press release given by the club.
Apart from this, it also supplied 40,000 packets of ready-to-eat upma and poha to the curfewed section of Malegaon (about four hours drive from Mumbai). In “addition we are distributing free cooked and packed meals — 1,000 meals every day — until May 17.”
The club has also provided 52 ventilators to hospitals run by the Government of Maharashtra. Till mid-May it also gave out 11,250 PPEs to various hospitals in Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru; 1,150 N95 respiratory masks, and a good supply of contactless digital thermometers and oximeter pulse machines to various hospitals in Mumbai; 1,200 face shields to the sanitation workers who maintain community toilets in the slums of Mumbai; and 5,000 sanitation handwash bottles to various agencies.
Mental health counselling
To help the over-burdened Mumbai police, the club put up coffee/tea vending machines at various police stations. “We have also set up a toll-free counselling helpline (all India) with over 600 trained volunteers and counsellors to help callers who are either distressed, disturbed or anxious about their mental health in view of the ongoing situation. In addition the helpline also endeavours to help those persons who need dry rations anywhere in India,” said a club member.
The second oldest club in India, after RC Calcutta, this club has an enduring relationship with the Tata Memorial Hospital, and to help it treat corona-infected patients, it supplied 2,500 Covid-19 testing kits costing over ₹20 lakh to the hospital.
In partnership with another arm of Rotary, it distributed 2,000 nutritive snack packets to the staff of KEM and Cooper Hospitals.
But the one story from the club that really touched the heart was of a request related to migrant workers, whose pitiable plight has continued to hit us in the gut. A club member received a call from some friends in Gurgaon who desperately wanted to help the migrant workers and provide them slippers.
“Could we do anything, they asked? They said they saw pictures of blistered and bare feet and they wanted to provide slippers to these workers who were walking such long distances to their homes. It was virtually impossible to source the slippers here in Mumbai due to the lockdown so they said they would revert,” he said.
In an hour the Gurgaon friends reverted saying they had managed to source 100 pairs of slippers but those were available only at a Noida location — near Delhi. Would RC Bombay members be able to help reach these to the migrant workers in Gurgaon, was the request.
“We at the Rotary Club of Bombay immediately made a few phone calls and within 20 minutes Kanishk Gaur of the India Future Foundation, Delhi, agreed to not only pick up the 100 pairs of slippers from Noida but also distribute them to the migrant workers!
This is but a small example which shows the power and connect of Rotary to reach out to any nook and corner of the world to serve a humanitarian cause,” said a tweet from the club.
The club is contin- uing to raise funds and will keep funding and executing Covid-related activities, including distribution of 30,000 packets of cooked food a day till May 31. It seeks donations from philanthropists and those wishing to help can connect with the club at firstname.lastname@example.org.