With a social support system shattered by distancing, the access to necessities heavily limited by movement restrictions and police curfew, and as the economic security of hundreds of thousands of people became severely threatened, leaving no certainty about what the next day held, the psychosocial toll of COVID19 skyrocketed in all layers of society. And those surviving under the poverty line and those belonging to the nation’s most marginalized groups were the most acutely affected of all.

Breadwinners of households were helplessly waiting till the day they could walk out and go back to their jobs to ensure food for the table, mothers were worried about their children being out of school for so long, and there was a dramatic rise in domestic and gender-based violence within those very households. However, there was also a group of people who were out among the communities helping others out – in a manner akin to the other dark times of the country’s history.

Despite the social pressure induced by fear and stigma at the very onset of the COVID-19 epidemic in Sri Lanka, hundreds of volunteers stepped out of their comfort zones to support people in need. And among those volunteers, there was one courageous girl – a young student who tirelessly and selflessly worked for the cause, rubbing shoulders with the boys who were volunteering at Sri Lanka Red Cross.

Dilini Senevirathne is a psychology undergraduate at the Metropolitan University in Sri Lanka. Despite the pressure from her family and close friends, she decided to join Sri Lanka Red Cross Galle Branch to contribute to the COVID19 operations. She would come to the district branch every day and visit affected communities and listen to people, supporting them in dealing with their fear, anxiety and stress. She says, “When I return home in the evening, I feel so happy to be a person who can serve the people in my community with what I know”.

She also opined that volunteering is a very challenging feat for a young girl, especially in times of COVID19, for “COVID19 has affected women and children differently, making them more vulnerable, especially to in-house abuse and violence”.

Nevertheless, Dilini did not forget to mention that her contribution to the Red Cross as a volunteer enhances her own personal and professional growth, has become an added happiness to each day and has also added a special meaning to her life.

She implores more women to volunteer with their knowledge and experience to Red Cross as she says, “Volunteerism matters”. She is confident that female volunteers can truly make a change.

Pramudith D Rupasinghe
Sri Lanka Red Cross
March 22, 2020