In July 2021, in the wake of the brutal
second wave of the pandemic, India was at the height of its ‘vaccination’
effort and often the demand for vaccine outstripped the supply. It was no different in Talipur village
Farrakka West Bengal, where 25-year-old Masters of Science student, Krishna
Saha was volunteering as an ACF ‘Covisainik’ Volunteer.
Covisainiks are community-based volunteer initiative by ACF to provide support to primary health care centres in the fight against COVID-19 - assisting with vaccination drives, performing village-level surveys to identify high-risk individuals, organising awareness campaigns, and assisting Panchayati Raj Institutes with coordination.
One of 20 Covisainik volunteers in his village, Krishna took his volunteer role very seriously – setting his studies aside to dedicate up to 12 hours a day in service to the community.
In Farakka, the success of the Covisainik
program caught the eye of the Block Medical Officer, who requested ACF for
Covisainiks to support the Government in their blockwide effort. Krishna was selected as one of the volunteers
and at the height of the drive, was helping coordinate 10-12 vaccination camps
“I’d start my day at 5 am and try to squeeze in some study before hitting the field. The things we faced, the people we met – all while trying to juggle life at home and college, meant I faced many sleepless nights and sometimes hallucinations.” Krishna said. “Many times we didn’t even have time to have lunch – there was just too much to do, and no time!”
Krishna’s Talipur village is located on the edge of West Bengal,
very close to the Jharkhand border with the nearest Health Care Centre over 25 kms
away - it is a remote and isolated pocket of the country with limited services
“Sometimes people would travel all that way to receive vaccination, and turn up to find out that the vaccine had run out, or that no vaccine had been delivered that day.” He said. “Health Care Centres would have 1500 people show up for vaccination, with only 200 vaccines - it was a difficult time, and we had to carefully manage the people - encouraging them to return the next day and acting as a conduit of information to inform them of the availability of vaccines.”
“Once when the temporary vaccination centre (operating out of a local government school), ran out of vaccines, the community turned on us,” Krishna said. “They locked us in the school and barricaded all the exits – it wasn’t until the police were called that we were all let out.” He said.
“It certainly took its toll, but I feel proud of the work we did in protecting our remote communities. Also, the Block Medical Officer and the Local Government appreciated us for our effort and I felt satisfied that at least we are being recognized for our hard work” He said.
As a healthy, active young adult, Krishna
has many demands on his time – pitching in with household chores, pursing his
master’s degree, helping on his family farm and tutoring children from the
local school as a free community service.
It seems volunteering is in his blood.
How did he do it?
“With the country in its hour of greatest need, how could someone like me, not pitch in to help out? This is the time when I’m young, and there is a need for young people like us to do social service when the country needs us.” He said.
Covisainik’s across ACF locations, like Krishna, played an integral role in ensuring 100% vaccination across rural communities, putting their own lives aside, and sometimes on the line, to serve the vulnerable. We are humbled by their commitment and efforts.