Suresh Thummalapenta is a Software Engineer in Redmond, USA. Originally from Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, he is an active participant in the bhajans and service activities conducted by the “Sri Sathya Sai Center of Sammamish”. Sitting far away from India, he has been at the heart of the Covid Helpline Seva undertaken by Sai Krushna Charitable trust last year. He led the tech team to integrate technology into the helpline by automating the incoming requests. This was a big step towards maximising the effort of the volunteers in assisting patients with the information they required.
Suresh Brother shares his experiences of being a volunteer with Sai Krushna Charitable trust.
In 2014, I got the opportunity to attend “Sri Sathya Sai Center of Sammamish”, and started participating in bhajans and service activities at the center. The most intriguing aspect was to see how everyone treats Baba not just as God but also as a friend and a family member. Listening to their experiences of how Baba touched and transformed their lives, I started to experience the love of Baba through our center members. Baba says, “Take One Step towards me, I shall take a hundred towards you”. This was absolutely true in my case. Once I started attending weekly activities regularly, the journey of coming into Baba’s fold was very smooth. This journey over the past few years has given many ever-lasting memories and also a loving family that became a support system far from home. More importantly, it helped me define a way of life and changed my perception on how to deal with challenges in our regular day-to-day life.
Swami says, “You show me your availability, I will give you the ability”. I heard this quote many times, however, I was able to truly experience the quote through the Bangalore Covid Helpline started by Sai Krushna Charitable Trust.
When we heard about the helpline, there was a need in the tech team whose goal was to automate the various underlying aspects of the helpline such as receiving requests from COVID patients and route them to volunteers who can provide necessary help.
One of the brothers in India had developed an initial Bot, which takes the requests submitted by attenders through a Google form, converts them into pre-formatted messages and posts on a WhatsApp group for volunteers. The initial bot was designed specifically for the Bangalore city. When I joined the team, there was a need to scale up and expand the solution to other cities.
This project was slightly different from traditional software-based projects in terms of three main aspects:
- Time was really an essence: The team estimated that COVID may reach a peak stage within a couple of weeks and needed the solution as soon as possible.
- Ability to be configurable and adaptable to other cities: The team was already planning to expand the helplines to other cities such as Chennai, Hyderabad, Delhi, and Mumbai. Also, different cities had different requirements. Hence, the solution needed to be easily adaptable to the needs of those cities.
- Ecosystem: There was already an ecosystem in terms of WhatsApp, Google forms, Google sheets that’s already in place. Since many volunteers were already accustomed to that ecosystem, we had to ensure that the solution works with the same ecosystem.
Within a week, we were able to form a tech team of engineers from many well-known companies all across the globe, who worked together harmoniously to help with program management, scripting, excel, and dashboard. In a corporate setting, forming such a wonderful team could take months. However, in our case, we were able to set up the team in a short span and deliver the solution promptly.
Looking back, it was very evident that Swami worked through us every step during this journey and we were mere instruments following His command. I recollect one of the experiences where we were trying to come up with a technical solution for one of the problems. We brainstormed for a couple of hours but could not find any satisfactory solution. We decided to take a break and meet again. When we met back, the two of us had the same exact idea. It was very evident that it was Swami who provided that solution, and we had no further discussions on that. Afterwards, we were also able to implement and deliver successfully.
Certainly, this experience also opened up new service opportunities that go beyond the boundaries of time zones and geographical locations.