Padmashree Ravindra was born into a Sai family in India, and experienced a strong Sai connection as she participated in several service initiatives as part of the Mahila youth group in Bangalore. She currently resides in Seattle, USA, with her husband, Suresh, and feels very blessed to be part of a loving and compassionate network of Sai family and friends across the globe. Professionally, she works as a software engineer at Microsoft.
She shares her experience collaborating with the SKCT COVID helpline team in India and beyond.
On April 29, 2021, my husband and I were scheduled to get our 2nd COVID shot, while we helplessly watched the developments in India. We wondered what we could do and how we could help. “There must surely be something, Swami! Tell us what we can do!”, was the desperate conversation with Swami. Within the next couple of hours, through a Sai youth friend in Bangalore, we heard about the SKCT COVID helpline and got added to the volunteer whatsapp group. Thus started a journey that opened our eyes and hearts to many beautiful learnings.
Desperate calls for ventilator bed and medicines, angry and frustrated callers who lost a loved one, anxious volunteers who tirelessly made calls with the hope to save at least one life, fear, helplessness and guilt of not being there with your family amidst such a crisis…these were the emotions in the first week of May 2021, when cases were peaking in Bangalore.
We could see that with every passing day, the number of requests were increasing. While we looked at ways that we could remotely help the technical team, we brainstormed with the team in Bangalore to see how we can support the call volunteers and help them focus on the calls and not worry about updating status or tracking pending requests. Soon we formed a team of backend volunteers from across countries, who could actually help out with this process and streamline it. We invited a few other Sai friends to join and within a week, we had 80+ volunteers from the US, who came forward to help. A core team put together training material for the backend volunteers and created 2-hour signup slots, which allowed volunteers both in India and outside to support between 5am and midnight IST.
Volunteers also supported other helplines for Chennai, Hyderabad, and Delhi with supply verification and technical support. Once the number of cases were under control, we formed a team of volunteers to follow up with callers who tried to reach the helpline but never filled the request form. During this period, it was very heart-warming to speak to several families who were affected by this crisis, several of them were remotely trying to get some help for their family members, which was very relatable. Sometimes all we could do was to patiently listen to their stories of distress, provide the information we had, give them hope, and silently say a prayer for their loved one.
Every volunteer stepped up and came forward to relieve the pain of some family. It did not matter what our professional background was, where we lived or what language we spoke, everybody worked with one goal- that the person who called received the help they needed. And that is how the SKCT COVID helplines brought together strangers across time zones, who felt helpless and lost, and created a family of volunteers who inspired each other to expand our beautiful hearts, and experience the true meaning of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, the oneness of humanity.