This is Sarah Rashid from Pakistan Red Crescent Society, Pakistan. I did not intend to write the story as I can not be considered an active participant in the corona outbreak response but after reading a few stories, I am writing it because there is always another side of the picture and my story may give voice to it.
So, I initially joined the team of responders who were supposed to screen people at different entrance points in the city. I participated for a day or two this way but then as advised by many I thought about the other aspects of response. I considered the guidelines of IFRC of staying home for saving lives. Like many others in the world, we were short of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs). Without proper PPEs, interacting with many people and then coming back to our homes and communities was more about risking the lives of many others in the community rather than a fruitful response to the outbreak. So I kept using the plate form of social media for awareness, sharing authenticated information and doing all my efforts to support the teams who were doing fundraising for the financially vulnerable groups including the excluded populations such as transgenders in our community.
Under the lead of Muazzam shah and Haseeb Zafer Iqbal, we are now planning to raise funds for the disabled, so that they may not have a crisis of food and other necessities during the lockdown.
I have observed that response to this outbreak is not the same as the response to the other disasters we have faced previously. It needs a lot of care and many technicalities should be considered before initiating a response because a minor case of our carelessness can convert this relief response to a hazard for the respective community. Therefore, merely trusting our sentiments as a volunteer of the RCRC movement would not be enough but considering a search for safer ways of response is also necessary. In this regard, I would appreciate the approach of the ‘ahtiyat karona campaign’ where they give awareness to people through a tollfree number. So, I have learned that the response to the emergency would not always mean rushing to the field and looking for safer ways of response would be more important than the rapid deployment of responders.
What makes me proud is that when the cases in our region start rising, though I have left the screening campaign then, as a concerned fellow of our volunteers, I contacted people in the management and volunteers and asked them to consider the safety of volunteers and their communities and stop the campaign unless we had the right PPEs. Because it was not only about risking the life of volunteers but also, they could be the source of the spread of the virus in their respective communities. I don’t know how much I contributed to the cause of that campaign, but I did what was due on my part and as an RCRC volunteer, I am proud of that. Fundraising for the vulnerable groups also makes me feel satisfied with my role in response to the pandemic but is secondary to it.
The challenge that I consider for the volunteers of response was initially the shortage of PPEs. But another challenge that I felt and considered it important to be addressed is the role of volunteer leaders. Few campaigns were launched by the PRCS management but the safety of volunteers as I have observed was not considered. There are many other ways through which many of the objectives of the campaigns could be achieved but the role of volunteer leaders in any such decisions is not considered who could talk about the safety of volunteers and the pros and cons of sending volunteers to the risky fields.
For the first time, I have observed that we can save many lives by staying home. I have seen the lockdown for the first time in my life and observed how it affects different communities and as an RCRC volunteer what we can do for these communities. I have seen that despite the lockdown and many other hurdles we accessed many people and helped them in their crisis so with a positive attitude we can always accomplish many tasks and achieve our goals no matter what hurdles we face. This pandemic also allowed us to observe that we are all equally vulnerable whenever there is any calamity. The virus discriminated no one, the rich and the poor, the black and the white we all are equally vulnerable and all of us are on the same page to fight against it.
Though the situation is panic at the moment, here we can be the lanterns of hope. As an RCRC volunteer, we need to take an active role and give hope to the people by spreading positive news. We need to take a serious approach while sharing news regarding the pandemic as not everyone is equally psychologically resilient to bear the news therefore, we need to owe some responsibility while sharing any information. By spreading some positive news, knowledge that help people how to save themselves and people around them and that give them some sense of control against this virus, we can contribute a lot in giving hope to the world.