The COVID-19 induced lockdown has affected the lives of millions of Indians – some more than others. For most of us, the crisis is unprecedented and, therefore, demands civic engagement in ways and capacities, we perhaps never did before. It was with this vision a group of Young India Fellows, Ashoka University, started Sang, a COVID-19 relief initiative, that has now become 40 membered youth-collective with an ever-increasing impact.
Sang started its impact journey by raising resources to cater to 300 families in North Delhi and subsequently collaborated with established organizations to expand its reach. Noida based NGO, Aahwahan Foundation, played a critical role in supporting Sang in this respect – ranging from providing an on-ground network of volunteers to fulfilling legal obligations as a registered organization.
Together, Sang and Aahwahan Foundation distributed dry ration to communities across the national capital region. This involved identification of the communities in need through Aahwahan’s existing networks, verifying the requests by Sang team members, tying up with local grocery shops to ensure delivery, and closing the order by taking photographic evidence of delivery. Gradually, with increasing requests, they expanded their support to include masks and sanitary napkins as essential relief items.
Upon systematizing the processes of providing essential relief to an increasing number of beneficiaries, they stepped into the facilitating movement of migrants who were otherwise resorting to starting their journeys back home on foot. This involved a multitude of tasks, including registering them for travel via Shramik trains and arranging for buses and other means of travel when administrative challenges hindered movement through Shramik trains.
On their journeys home, the migrants were also provided enough food to keep themselves fed throughout. In some cases, Sang’s volunteers helped migrants reach home in their personal cars. On their way, they also distributed packaged food to the migrants plying on the roads.
Following a three-month-long engagement with communities on-ground, Sang became acquainted with the disproportional burden that vulnerable groups such as women and children were facing in the lockdown. After meticulous planning and expert-consultation, Sang launched its third initiative, #SabKeSang to provide focused support to the identified vulnerable groups.
This involved medical support to women who may not have access to essential medical services, mental health, and legal support to victims of increased domestic violence and, in some cases, relocation support to women who have been separated from their husbands. This is their first step towards expanding their work from relief to rehabilitation.
Started with the motto of ‘Locking down hunger, together’, Sang has expanded its impact streams and impacted more than 20,000 individuals with more than INR 15 lakh that they have raised so far. Like Aahwahan, they have gained support from organizations such as Delhi Relief Collective and have recently tapped into the CSR of Godrej to sponsor ration for 1,000 more families (funds routed through NGO Jan Sahas). As students, Sang volunteers managed the operations along with studies and other work. They faced several challenges, but with the spirit of volunteering, rose over them, together.