20-month-old non-profit recognized for humanitarian work before and after Covid outbreak
Geetanjali Minhas | July 20, 2020 | Mumbai
Project Mumbai, a volunteer-led non-profit, has been selected by the UN SDG Action Campaign as one of the global recipients for the Solidarity Award, a special call from the annual UN SDG Action Awards 2020.
The honour recognizes its social transformation initiatives in public-people-private participation model. Project Mumbai and its founder and CEO Shishir Joshi are among the three selected from India for the award, among 50 in the world. The selection was announced on July 16, a day dedicated to solidarity during the high-level political forum.
The campaign recognizes most heart-warming and impactful initiatives undertaken and implemented in communities around the world to improve people’s lives, inspiring resilience and lifting hopes amidst the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Interestingly Project Mumbai was nominated for its work done during the 17 months of its existence around mid-April just when its work had started to intensify in the thick of Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing national lockdown.
With the first of the few Covid cases detected in the second week of March, Project Mumbai – along with stakeholders that has included citizens, like-minded social institutions, philanthropies, corporates, and local and the state governments – has reached out to 45 lakh people so far across 24 states in the critical areas of healthcare, education, mental health, hygiene and food for the underprivileged during the lockdown.
Its volunteers had started started providing grocery kits to those who were under home quarantine as a part of the air travel protocol before the lockdown was announced. “In several cases we dipped into our resources of donations to pay for the groceries of those who could not afford to purchase. We simultaneously reached out to retail outlets to provide us pre-packaged grocery kits so that there is zero physical touch when it came to our volunteers delivering grocery kits to those medically quarantined as their health and safety are our responsibility,” said Joshi of the 20-month-old organization’s work.
For senior citizens living alone and most vulnerable due to medical reasons and with no house help available due to the lockdown, one of the largest free home delivery services was started in Mumbai. For people with disabilities ensuring medicines was a challenge and a helpline was started for delivery of medicines, groceries and veggies for them. “The response was immediate. We began getting calls from people across the world requesting us to take care of their parents and near and dear ones. We also launched a buddy system among our volunteers so that these seniors were attended to emotionally.”
As many citizens required customised food, volunteers provided them cooked food from their own homes. In other cases, agencies sponsored by the non-profit were engaged to deliver food. Impressed with the efforts, Mumbai’s municipal corporation came on board and joined hands as a supporting partner. As the number of citizen-volunteers increased to 2,000 spread across suburbs, they are all now mapped.
“On average, we had been getting requests in three digits by the day and which has now trickled to two digits. Each volunteer is mapped by name, number and geography which has enabled us to build a hyper-local network of such volunteers. Our volunteers have helped us keep an ear to the ground and give us a feel of the pain points which helped us realise increasing levels of anxiety in the community as the lockdown continued,” he said.
A mental wellness helpline ‘Counsellors on Call’ with 50 trained counsellors on Whatsapp groups were attending to calls with seven language options seven days a week. For those requiring special needs, more than 30 ‘Special Needs Therapists’ were got attending to calls from 8 am to 8 pm seven days a week. With migrant exodus, as hospital canteens were shutting, the not-for-profit was approached by the Maharashtra government to provide meals for doctors. Initially meals began to be provided to doctors at JJ Hospital and the Covid control room at the Mantralaya and later the service expanded to cater to the doctors of the Cama, Cooper, Sion, Navi Mumbai and KEM hospitals. As of June 25, breakfast, lunch and dinner had been provided to over 1,500 doctors at all the above facilities with around 1.3 lakh meals.
To provide food to those in dire need, a ‘Khaana Chahiye’ initiative was launched on March 29 along with partners, and it became one of the most successful citizen-led initiatives. Since providing food to around 1,200 homeless persons under the western express highway, by mid-June more 37 lakh meals had been provided under the initiative. Similarly 2.5 lakh bananas were freely distributed among the underprivileged children across Mumbai till May-end. In its ‘One Million Meal’ mission for homebound citizens food packets, water, snacks and fruits were distributed to migrants travelling on 25 trains for 10 days daily to more than 45,000 travellers. Project Mumbai also arranged for buses for migrant people to take them to their native places and in one case an entire train to Tamil Nadu.
Through the database provided by the ward officers and the collectors list homes that could not afford groceries were identified and kits consisting rice, flour, pulses, tea, sugar, oil, biscuits and other essentials were provided so as to help sustain a family of five for about 15 days. Food and grocery bags to over 20,000 needy families who have lost their source of income were donated.
In partnership with the state government’s tribal development department, a mental health Covid toll-free helpline (1800-102-4040) was launched to help people of the state in dealing with their mental health concerns. With an average 350 calls daily and 35 trained counselors, the helpline has attending to more than 4,000 calls from 24 states of India in two month. Now all helplines have now merged into a single number.
As there was lack of collaboration and gaps in equipment support, the non-profit along with corporate partners donated 2 lakh PPE lits in Mumbai and 10,000 PPE kits to the Mumbai Police making it the largest such donation in the country. Besides, 200 PPE kits were also donated to the airport CISF. The Mumbai police were provided with two ambulances for an entire month and given 2 lakh face masks. For women cops on field duties as there are limited options to go to washrooms, along with the filmmakers and industry body Producers Guild of India, 16 vanity vans were made available as restrooms equipped with sanitisers, biscuits and sanitary pad packets.
Additionally, as the municipal corporation requested Project Mumbai and some other NGOs to adopt wards for distribution of groceries and vegetables; the non-profit along with partners has taken up K- East, K- West, P- South, G- South and R- Central wards for this service.
With increasing cases of domestic violence during, webinars have been held in partnership with the Red Dot Foundation to create support groups for such victims.
For non-Covid patients, Project Mumbai volunteers launched an accessible and live dashboard which has filled the data gap for them on where to go for treatment. The dashboard is maintained live by volunteers and covers more than 50 hospitals across Mumbai.
“Project Mumbai is founded on the principles of volunteerism. Its support and outreach platform is built on a strong sense of ownership of our city arising out of every volunteer-citizen’s ability to understand areas that directly affect people’s lives. Each initiative ranging from mental health helplines and free delivery of essential supplies to grocery and medical support for senior citizens has been powered by Project Mumbai’s hyper-local volunteer base. As we at Project Mumbai believe strongly and say, ‘Mumbai ke liye kuchh bhi karega’ (I will do anything for Mumbai). This recognition by the United Nations honours the spirit of every individual who has contributed to our fight against COVID 19,” said Joshi.
“In the midst of the global health crisis, we see strong examples of solidarity among people everywhere. Acts of kindness and solidarity are burgeoning, helping neighbourhoods, communities, and people everywhere to adapt to the new norm. We congratulate Project Mumbai for their solidarity and determination to improve others’ lives, inspire resilience and lift hopes in the face of this crisis,” said Marina Ponti, global director, UN SDG Action Campaign.
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