A representative from Mann Deshi Foundation providing meals to a beneficiary as a part of the COVID relief provided by QNET

The entire country has been facing tough times since COVID-19 descended upon us, but the second wave has made everyone far more aware of the suffering around us. As organisations across India struggle to ramp up their COVID relief efforts, QNET is stepping up to lend a hand.

Through RYTHM Foundation, the corporate social responsibility (CSR) arm of QNET, dedicated support is being provided to non-profit organisations that are striving to help marginalised communities survive the pandemic. Two such non-profit organisations include the Mann Deshi Foundation in Maharashtra and Parinaama Development Foundation in Bihar and Jharkhand.

Mann Deshi is an organisation that is dedicated to empowering female entrepreneurs and their communities by providing access to knowledge, capital, markets and social support. Parinaama, on the other hand, is a non-profit organisation that focuses on building up disadvantaged communities in India through grassroots development initiatives to improve their standard of living.

Both these organisations have been extremely proactive in providing support and resources to communities severely affected by the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. However, since the second wave began, their mission has expanded to spread awareness about the benefits of vaccination.

Mann Deshi Foundation and Parinaama Development Foundation tackle contrasting views towards Covid vaccination

A construction worker collecting meals provided by Parinaama Development Foundation with the support of QNET’s CSR arm RYTHM Foundation

While vaccination drives have been set up around the entire country, these two regions have observed contrasting attitudes about the vaccine amongst their people. In the western peninsular state of Maharashtra, people are crowding in vaccination centres in hopes of being vaccinated despite the shortage of vaccine doses.

“This wasn’t the case in February before the second wave hit because back then, people were reluctant to get the vaccine. As the cases started increasing, they realised that the only way to survive is to get vaccinated. However, now, we are receiving only 40-50 doses per week for a small-town population of 40,000,” says Omkar Gonjari, the Director of the Mann Deshi Foundation in Maharashtra. “People are eager to get vaccinated but can’t because there isn’t enough supply of doses available”, added Omkar Gonjari.

A striking contrast is being observed in the eastern part of the nation, such as Bihar and Jharkhand, where people have been restrained by the fear of being vaccinated. Many people are even refusing to be vaccinated due to their belief in the possibility of being infected in the process.

“In the first round of the vaccine programme, there were several deaths recorded in the rural districts of Bihar and Jharkhand. The communities have since been fearful of the vaccine because whether it is one death per population of 10,000 or 20,000 – it is a death after all. So, people are scared and wary,” explains Dr Madhavi Panda, founder and director of the Parinaama Development Foundation.

However, this isn’t deterring the folks at the foundations from their goals. The Mann Deshi Foundation and Parinaama Development Foundation continue to impact their communities by providing COVID relief with the support of QNET through RYTHM Foundation.

Impact and relief provided by Mann Deshi Foundation and Parinaama Development Foundation with the aid of RYTHM Foundation

Mann Deshi Foundation receiving meals, as part of relief measures provided by RYTHM Foundation

The Mann Deshi Foundation actively provided much-needed grocery kits to 10,000 women in rural Maharashtra during the first lockdown. They also set up 12 to 15 community kitchens run by affiliated women’s groups to feed daily wage earners and others within the community who could not afford to buy food.

Since the second wave of COVID-19, Mann Deshi has escalated its relief efforts to include food support to four major COVID centres within its locality. With the support of its partners, they are currently providing a total of 600 nutritious meals daily, which feeds 300 patients within the four centres twice a day.

Mann Deshi has also been deeply involved in strengthening the healthcare infrastructure within the community. With financial aid from QNET’s CSR arm RYTHM Foundation, the Mann Deshi Foundation has been able to cover three months’ salary for the medical staff. The support has also enabled them to continue providing medical necessities to the COVID treatment centres, such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits, oxygen concentrators, and oxygen cylinders.

“Unlike other COVID centres, which are set up solely to treat patients suffering from the disease, we hope this one will be a permanent fixture in the community. We already have the infrastructure and a dedicated COVID team ready to administer the vaccine as soon as it is available to us,” said Omkar Gonjari.

A group of women standing with essentials provided by Parinaama Development Foundation with the help of RYTHM Foundation.

On the other side of the country, the Parinaama Development Foundation had been focused on creating sustainable livelihoods for marginalised communities through various social enterprises which manufacture soaps, clothing, and sanitary napkins.

When COVID-19 hit the country, the foundation immediately focused on increasing the production of soaps, sanitary napkins, and face masks for distribution to local communities. They also managed to address the overwhelming food shortages and lack of nutrition with their mushroom farming initiative.

“Parinaama was well poised to support the community, thanks to these programmes. That’s where our strength comes from. We scrutinised all our different elements and realised that we could be distributing these essential products to help our community in a big way. Thankfully, the way our programmes were structured and locations of our existing projects allowed us to quickly devise our relief efforts,” says Dr Madhavi.

During the second wave this year, the Parinaama Foundation has turned its focus to creating a vaccination awareness programme. The initiative aims to spread awareness in communities in Bihar and Jharkhand due to the rising fear and suspicion towards the vaccines. The foundation has been mobilising vehicles to broadcast messages from the government about the benefits of the vaccine in the vernacular language of the targeted areas.

“It is a good initiative because we are able to execute it while maintaining social distancing as people are able to sit at home and listen to the broadcasts. We want to educate and encourage people in our community to get on board with the vaccine programme. I hope that people will come forward for the registration as soon as there is a supply of vaccines because we are reaching out through all the channels at our resource,” says Dr Madhavi.

In addition to raising awareness about the vaccination programme, Parinaama continues to distribute essential items to families affected by the virus and provides ration kits for daily wage earners with the funding obtained from RYTHM Foundation. Parinaama has also been able to support COVID patients by providing thermometers, oximeters, and steam inhalers.

The Mann Deshi and Parinaama foundations expressed their heartfelt gratitude for their partnerships with RYTHM Foundation, as it has greatly contributed to their efforts to combat COVID. Through this partnership, QNET has supported crucial COVID relief efforts for the marginalised communities in India.