Published: 25th May 2021
This 26-year-old migrant labourer's son in Ahmedabad has converted 10 autos into O2 ambulances, runs a helpline
Naresh Sijapati migrated from Nepal a long time ago and now, has dedicated his life to serving his community very sincerely. This is the latest way in which he is doing so, without taking a rupee
He came to Ahmedabad as a migrant a decade back and today, he is serving the city as a resident son. That's the trajectory of Naresh Sijapati's story which is still in the process of being written. But surely, one of the most inspiring chapters in his life's book would be about what he is doing now — the 26-year-old converted 10 autos into an ambulance, complete with oxygen cylinders and they ferry COVID-positive patients to the hospital and back. Under the aegis of the Panah Foundation, he even delivers food, medicines and is doing all he can to help people tide over the pandemic.
Last year, during the first series of lockdowns, Naresh crowdfunded Rs 53 lakh and provided 7,500 families and ration and medicines. He even flew 69 migrants back to their hometown in Uttar Pradesh and sent another batch back to Nepal in buses and trains. "When I saw ambulances queuing up outside hospitals, I came up with the idea of auto ambulances," says the youngster who hails from Nepal. So it was in April this year that he started auto ambulance services. Since he has been running the foundation for over five years now and working primarily with migrant labourers, he has four to five centres across the city and has made connections worth a lifetime. It is by leveraging these connections that he sourced autos and drivers. Not just that, he has also set up a helpline number with a small yet efficient team handling and verifying the calls before they dispatch the auto ambulances. "A generous donor even lent us his van which we now use to transport dead bodies for their last rites," he informs. Needless to say, all the services that he offers are free of cost.
Sign up | (Pic: Panah Foundation)
The helpline number used to get 100 calls a day, but now it has come down to 16. They have distributed 27 oxygen cylinders and have another ten in the pipeline. "When it comes to the drivers of these auto ambulances, they were hand-picked after we received interest. They were taught about all the government guidelines, sanitisation before and after the patient gets in and so on," shares Naresh. Their latest operation is setting up a community of women who cook as many as 100 tiffin meals which they deliver to COVID positive patients. "Recently, a migrant lady's son called us and was crying with gratitude saying, if it wasn't for our auto ambulance, she wouldn't have survived. It was a very emotional moment for me," says the youngster.
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In fact, there have been many emotional moments in the life of Naresh, which isn't without its ups and downs. The family migrated to India in 2006 with dreams of living in better conditions, but his father ended up a labourer and his mother a maid. It was while waiting on tables that Naresh heard about Teach For India (TFI) and wished to join the social sector. He became a part of the administration team of TFI after vigorous training. "I would tell people, 'Even if you want photocopies, I am happy to help but in return, you have to teach me English'. In that way, I learnt so much more than the language," he recalls laughing. He took up a nine-month fellowship at the School of Entrepreneurship in Delhi in 2016 and came back to start the foundation. "The foundation and the centres we started supported over 17,000 migrant labourers. We used to introduce them to governments' schemes and help them in every way possible," he shares.
Food delivery | (Pic: Panah Foundation)
Naresh is still filled with the ambition to keep doing more and more for his community of migrant labourers, especially during these times when it seems like it is this community that is being tested the most.