A group of Sydney residents has helped build a 30-bed Covid Care Centre in Barhi village in the Hazaribagh district of Jharkhand in just three weeks.
‘The situation is very bad in India. We should do something,’ one of the WhatsApp group members Saurav said.
Shweta Sharma Rai says this single message initiated a conversation, which culminated in members of the ”Bihar & Jharkhand Sabha’ in New South Wales building a 30-bed hospital for COVID-19 patients in a remote village of Jharkhand.
“The 10-bed centre was functioning in 5 days only,” says Sydney-based Pravin Kumar, one of the group’s members.
‘Barhi had a 10-bed hospital, but it was not enough for the number of cases that were rapidly rising, and the facilities were also not enough,’ says Mr Kumar.
With the group’s efforts, Barhi now has a Covid Care centre with 30 oxygen supported beds.
Shweta Sharma Rai says the motivation behind this initiative was very emotional and personal.
“In our group, there is hardly anyone who is not affected by the pandemic personally. That way, the tragedy is personal. And the survivor’s guilt is also there. So everybody wanted to do something, and that is how it all started,” explains Ms Rai.
However, the model of help this group chose was unconventional.
“One of the concerns was that our money should be used where it is actually needed. We could have donated to the NGOs or PM’s fund etc. But it was not just the trust issue, but it bothers you if you don’t see the change happening yourself,” Ms Rai told NRI Affairs.
Therefore, the group decided to contact the local administration.
Pravin Kumar says, “It was difficult for us to choose an NGO without knowing their background. But, we had some personal connection to the bureaucracy through our family and friends. And we knew that these senior bureaucrats were quite good in terms of execution and intention. Another thing is, we wanted it done rapidly. We had to do something within a week. So we mobilised our resources and got a few of them on our Zoom group.”
According to Pravin, officers like Lakhi Saray SP Sushil Kumar, Barhi Circle officer Arvind Toppo and Jahanabaad DM Naveen Kumar came on board with the group, which, according to Praveen, helped in a big way in terms of getting necessary clearances.
The group raised almost 20,000 dollars within a week with efforts of other members of the group such as Nisha Jyoti and Abhishek.
Shweta Sharma Rai says smaller districts were chosen deliberately to help more vulnerable people, and then the local administration guided in the direction where immediate help was needed.
Barhi had a 10-bed hospital, but the number of patients was overwhelming, and the oxygen was not available in the sub-divisional hospital in this under-developed area.
“We were also told that there was no trauma centre in Barhi. Now that it has a functional hospital, the long term plan is to keep it functioning and make it a trauma centre,” adds Ms Rai.
The group will also make other facilities such as fans and ventilators available in the hospital in the coming days for future use.
Local people are grateful
Barhi Covid Care centre was made operational on 10 May, and over 20 patients have since been discharged.
Ms Rai says the feedback from the residents was very touching.
“The response was phenomenal. Local people decorated it with balloons and presented flowers to the people going home after the treatment. They call it – Sydney Wala Aspatal (the hospital from Sydney),’ Rai told NRI Affairs.
Bihar & Jharkhand Community in New South Wales is making headlines in local newspapers, and members of the group are happy to see their efforts coming to fruition well in time.
Pravin Kumar adds that this is just the beginning.
“It proves that goals can be realised. We need some push. Our efforts have made the locals realise this, and that is our big achievement. We are now focusing on other areas and trying to provide facilities as our fundraising drive continues,” he said.