A group of youngsters, under the aegis of ‘Vyasai Thozhargal’ (Vyasarpadi friends), has banded to help people in their locality, Mullai Nagar in Vyasarpadi, struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. The youngsters, all first-generation graduates, are mostly from Dr. Ambedkar Law College in Parry’s Corner. They have now become autorickshaw drivers who transport sick patients to COVID-19 care hospitals.
A media report about a man who converted his autorickshaw into an ambulance inspired the group to follow suit.
“We don’t have the resources, but we have the manpower. We got trained in the protocols of transporting COVID-19 patients. We knew we had to do more. We had money to buy just one empty oxygen cylinder. A friend suggested that we could seek out welders who use oxygen cylinders,” says G. Sarath Kumar, coordinator of the group. He is a gold medalist from the Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University.
Financial help came from some wealthy families and non-governmental organisations. Soon they managed to fit O2 cylinders in three autorickshaws. The group has dedicated two autorickshaws to transport non-COVID patients who require medical attention such as dialysis. All the service is free of cost.
Though the youngsters had limited themselves to Vyasarpadi, they received requests from patients from as far as Gummidipoondi. “We don’t take patients who are extremely sick and require more oxygen. We help to find them an ambulance. A few days ago a patient from Tiruvannamalai said he had lots of money, but no hospital was willing to admit him. His oxygen level was dropping dangerously, and we put him on oxygen support. We managed to get him admitted to a government hospital here. He is doing fine now,” Mr. Kumar says.
Most of the youngsters are in their mid- and late twenties. The group has converted the footpath in Mullai Nagar into its office. “We now sleep on the footpath as we are on call round-the-clock and we cannot go home after transporting sick patients,” he says.
‘Vyasai Thozhargal’ was established in 2011 when the group of around 30 boys and girls was in class XI. They took ownership of their locality to improve its hygiene. They began conducting night school for local children. At present 164 students, all from single parent households, are studying in the school that they built. In the last five years the school has achieved 100% results, says Mr. Kumar.
Their volunteering activities came to the fore during the cyclones Gaja and Nivar and the 2015 Chennai floods.
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