Pic: Edex Live
Pic: Edex Live

Want COVID resources on WhatsApp? This student-run platform volunteers.covihelp will come to your rescue

The team accepts any kind of request for COVID-19 resources like oxygen cylinders, medicines, hospital beds

The Coronavirus crisis in India, now almost a dystopian scenario, has managed to take a toll on everyone. Essential medical resources were also scarce at one point. However, these times have shown us the best that humanity has to offer. With the same thought in mind, students from all over the country, a few in college and some working jobs even, set up a 24/7 helpline called volunteers.covihelp was formed. Started on April 26 this year, they have over 300 volunteers currently, who verify, research and respond to all kinds of SOS calls - regarding the dearth of resources or even sometimes help with cremation.

Initially, volunteers.covihelp was set up as Instagram and Facebook pages when cases were at a record high and there was a need for such platforms, says Arnav Praneet, the 17-year-old founder of the platform. "We accept any kind of request for COVID-19 resources like oxygen cylinders, medicines, hospital beds etc. We search through multiple databases for leads, and self-verify each of them. This verification is done in real time as requests come in, so you can be sure you’ll receive the latest information. No message is left unchecked, and nothing is unnecessarily delayed. We have divided the volunteers into three teams — respondents, researchers, verifiers. Everybody works two hour shifts a day so that nobody is overburdened as we get numerous calls throughout the day and night," explains Arnav.

Arnav Praneet, Founder, volunteers.covihelp

He then adds that they get all kinds of calls. "At one point, people even began messaging us and saying that a patient has died in their homes and asking what needed to be done next - we helped them with that too. Delhi was one of the worst affected cities at that time during the peak. Even if we checked the government sites, there were only 5-7 beds available at a given point all around the city. We made frantic calls and facilitated things. This kind of a platform was needed at that point as there were people ready to help but there was no one to connect them to the person in need," he says.

Volunteers.covihelp recently launched a WhatsApp helpline, in order to reach a larger audience. "We have most of our cases come on the messaging app. There's one person always monitoring the messages and then they notify the others," he says explaining how they work.

They also have started something called the Resource Bank where one can donate their unused medicines, equipment, machines etc, once they have recovered from the virus. "One of our volunteers suggested that we start something like this. We began this sometime ago when the recovery numbers became higher than positive cases across the country. There was still a dearth of medicines and equipment, however, people who had already recovered didn't need such things any longer. They didn't know if they should dispose them off. We opened the resource bank to collect those, we have a Google Form which you can fill up with all the details of what you can provide and then we verify and connect them to someone who needs a specific medicine or equipment. We also find out if someone needs something that is already available in our resource bank, we connect with them and also ensure it reaches the person," he concludes.

Going forward, the team plans on branching out into fundraising. They have already organised a debating event to raise several thousand rupees to be used for medical causes and patients who are in need.

If you want any help or resources, you can text on their WhatsApp helpline +91 1122247446 or check out their website for more info: volunteerscovihelp.org

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