COMPASSION IN ACTION
Reaching out to the Unreached-The COOVID-19 Relief Activities by St. Camillus Province, in collaboration with Tzu Chi Foundation, St. Camillus Foundation, Taiwan, Hope Foundation, Milan, CADIS, PRO.SA, NGOs, Government agencies and Religious Congregations, from April 2020 to August 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic is certainly unprecedented in our lifetime. It has affected all walks of life, in nearly every country throughout the world. We are watching a system breaking in front of us and we are helpless to stop it. We are on, it might be said, an absolutely catastrophic path. Corona virus has a devastating effect all over the world. Now we are seeing that COVID-19 pandemic fatigue is setting in, as its effects have hit at the very heart of humanity. We are certainly passing through a challenging time. The world seems to have been wounded by fear and loneliness. Suffocating darkness seems to engulf everywhere. The COVID 19 pandemic can be described as the new darkness.
Together we are experiencing isolation, fear, anxiety, and many more uncertainties and unknowns about now and the future. In their own words, Indians describe positive as well as negative experiences of COVID-19 pandemic. The outbreak has dramatically changed lives and relationship over the last year. On the one hand, the pandemic emitted life’s roughest struggles which controlled community engagements, restricted visits to family and friends, forced social/religious activities to slow down. On the other hand, brought families and friends closer. Additionally, mandatory relaxation, eating healthier, bringing people to help each other, and family prayers sustained their emotional, spiritual, physical, and financial wellbeing. COVID-19 pandemic has also sparked enormous displays of pro-social conscience with neighbors coming to the aid of those infected, affected, and isolated, and of support to millions living in rural areas with little access to basic health care and lack of self-support.
OUR APPROACH-COMPREHENSIVE AND INTEGRATED ACTION
Our comprehensive response to COVID 19 pandemic has been an attempt to respond to the two visible dimensions of the crisis: Health care and Humanitarian. Humanitarian aid include a set of structured steps to mitigate the implications of COVID 19 on the livelihoods including the distribution of food provision kits; medical intervention and support, educational aid, and farming and agricultural material distribution. The objectives of our humanitarian support were to contain the immediate as well as long term human implications of the sudden economic, social and behavioural changes resulting from the effects of COVID 19.
The specific objectives of our healthcare support were to prevent the spread and the speed of COVID 19 infections as well as enable better isolation and treatment. Our comprehensive approach included enabling the public health system and other partners across the chain of activities that are required to meet this objective. Illustratively this included: awareness through various media as well as frontline workers and community members; prevention and screening-preparedness, training and safety of frontline workers; equipment for screening; protocols and procedures; quarantine infrastructure for centres; materials including personal protective equipment; transportation; training; protocols and procedures; testing and tracing-test equipment; related consumables; transportation of samples; treatment of asymptomatic or mild cases; equipment for screening and monitoring; equipment and other support for isolation wards and personal protective equipment.
Integrated action was taken for a comprehensive on-the-ground response in specific locations, focused on immediate humanitarian care aid and augmentation of health care capacity. This included containing the COVID 19 outbreak and treating those affected by it. These responses were carefully coordinated with other relevant government institutions and were executed by St. Camillus province, Sneha Charitable Trust, and Buddhist TZU CHI Foundation’s 85 membered team, in collaboration with its over 50 partners and collaborators, and 450 health care volunteers, who have a deep presence across the country.
Our overall response was executed with a careful coordination with other relevant government institutions at the state, district and local levels. We are touched by the generosity of our people in sharing food and the inspiring example of hundreds of youth volunteering to work in quarantine camps and helped reaching out to the needy.
COMPASSIONATE CARE IN TIMES OF COVID-19 PANDEMIC
A general tenor of the impact of Coronavirus offers a nation-wide glance at the problems emerging from the pandemic relating to household finances, jobs, health care, housing, transportation, caregiving, and well-being. Every single one of us is facing exceptional challenges right now. Nevertheless, in the arena of non-governmental support especially of Inter-Religious Groups’ support, an admirable compassionate care has been evident for those who have been affected and for those who have died from COVID-19. In some ways, the pandemic has brought individuals and organizations both at national and international level together, generating an understanding that our health is interlinked and that we could all be ‘together to care’ on the ground of compassion. That understanding made it possible, perhaps in an unprecedented way, to be compassionate with those with the disease and to wish them well.
UNITED IN COMPASSION
Sneha Charitable Trust’s collaboration with Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation-Taiwan, and other institutions during this pandemic’s emergency, has taught us one of life’s important lesson: “make being kind and compassionate a priority.” As the old saying goes, ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup,’ compassion and being kind toward others in times of pandemic have become highest priorities. Similar to eating, sleeping, and exercising, this is arguably an essential form of nourishment which enables us to function at our best and be fully present for those around us. “Coming together on the Common Ground of Compassion is a good place to pay attention to how we feel and acknowledge any distress that we notice.” ‘The Common Ground of Compassion’ we envision unites people of all walks of life to think about being kind and compassionate toward suffering humanity.
It is obvious, we are all together for compassion in action. Our compassion has been a powerful tool in building up subjugated lives of people suffering from pandemic’s ill effects. Compassion motivates action. Not only compassion extends beyond borders, compassion has driven us together to the peripheries. Remarkably, to a large extent, our compassionate acts during COVID-19 are marked by involvement in the lives of the poor in rural areas at our own personal risk.
Furthermore, in certain aspects, the current coordinated fight against COVID -19 pandemic among various religious groups, both national and international, has pushed us for a renewed vision of inclusive compassionate care. Surely this moment calls for careful reflection and a reinvestment in compassion as a foundational approach to emergency health care. This inclusive approach can be strengthened by having compassion at the heart of health care
COMPASSION IN ACTION
St. Camillus Province was affected in all its aspects of functioning by this pandemic. To be precise, I would say that 20 confreres, 25 brothers and 10 staff were infected by COVID-19. All the confreres and brothers are vaccinated now. During this period of pandemic, we could extend our humanitarian services and healthcare facilities to other religious congregations, social rehabilitation centers, destitute homes, schools, and orphanages by providing food provision kits, medical support, educational support, linen and household items, and agricultural and farm support. Sneha Institutions and other social rehabilitation units were financially supported during this pandemic.
Camillian Response to the COVID-19 Crisis
St. Camillus Province, with its Sneha Charitable Trust in collaboration with Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, Taiwan, St. Camillus Foundation-Taiwan, Hope Foundation, Milan, PRO.SA and CADIS, has promptly responded to the pandemic. We worked along with the Governmental Agencies, NGOs, Archdioceses, Dioceses, Religious Congregations of men and women, and various secular institutions and individuals. During this crisis, Camillian religious in various states coordinated COVID-19 relief activities. Below are the details of activities involving Camillian COVID response.
- Collaboration with the Local Governments of the states, Archdioceses, Dioceses, Religious Congregations, NGOs, Hospitals, Social Rehabilitation Centers, Secular Institutions and individuals
- Martyrs of Charity: A Prayer Group: Imbibing the spirit of Martyrdom of Charity, to pray in solidarity with the people who are infected, affected and deceased due to COVID-19 and for those care for them
- Online Psychological Counselling Support; Psychological support to everyone for emotional, moral and spiritual assistance
- Online Medical Consultation: Tele Medical Service and Counselling; Camillian medical doctors made themselves available for online consultation and health care information
- Motivational Video Program: That aimed at encouraging and motivating COVID infected and affected, healthcare workers and volunteers
- Training on Health & Hygiene and Awareness program: We could organize several training sessions for the volunteers and health care workers
- Linkages & Support Services: A network and a linkage were developed among the NGOs to facilitate the COVID relief activities in various states in India.
- Webinars: COVID-19 information and Training; Webinars on practical pearls for engaging communities in COVID times and on effective and clinical management of COVID dead bodies and volunteers
- Pastoral Care for infected and affected: We have been on the frontline to care for the COVID-19 victims
- Dead Body Management: A team of Camillian fathers and brothers on the frontline to bless the dead and officiated the funeral services
- Training Healthcare Volunteers: We have given training to more than 500 volunteers and healthcare workers on COVID-19 management
- Healthcare Volunteers & COVID WARRIORS: In order to respond to the healthcare needs of the Hospitals at Bengaluru, we have formed a group of healthcare Volunteers (Camillian religious priests, brothers, sisters, & Youth from the Archdiocese of Bengaluru) to render our services at St. Philomena’s, St. John’s Medical College, and St. Martha’s Hospitals and in a good number of COVID care centres too. However, we had 200 volunteers including priests, sisters, brothers and the youth from Bengaluru.
- Mobile Clinic and Ambulance Service: We rendered our care to the poor people who are infected and have nobody to take care of them
- Home For COVID-19; For Health Warriors: We have set up Upasana at Bengaluru and Jyoti Darsan at Nagpur for the accommodation of healthcare volunteers who serve the COVID-19 patients in various hospitals
- Snehadaan COVID Care Centre: The Staff Quarters of Snehadaan has been converted to a temporary COVID care centre. This aims at caring for patients who are on their initial treatment, in an effort to ease the pressure on the hospitals
- Home For COVID Infected Healthcare Professionals, Religious and Priests: For this, we have decided to make available the second and third floors of the Camillian Pastoral Health Centre
- Importing Oxygen Concentrators: In collaboration with the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, Taiwan and Hope Foundation, Italy, we had imported 179 Oxygen Concentrators and 50 Pulse Oximeter to Bengaluru. These medical essentials were distributed to Hospitals and social rehabilitation centres
- Donation of 500 Oxygen Concentrators and 10,000 Nasal tubes to the Government of Karnataka; In collaboration with the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, we have imported 500 Oxygen Concentrators (5litrs) and 10,000 nasal tubes and formally handed over them to the Chief Minister of Karnataka, in the presence of Health Minister of Karnataka.
- Distribution of Food Provision Kits: Free food kits were distributed to the poor families of COVID-19 infected and affected, social institutions and rehabilitation centers, Orphanages and destitute homes
- Distribution of Medical Essentials: PPE kits, Sanitizers, Masks, Gauze & Cotton, gloves, Pulse Oximeters, medicines, wheel chairs, stretchers, air beds, glucometers, digital BP apparatus, medical equipment to the hospitals and social institutions
- Distribution of Educational Support: School & College fees, professional course fees, computers, mobiles, TV, bags and study materials were distributed to the poor students
- Distribution of Linen & Clothing: Bed sheets, Towels, blankets and other necessary clothes were given to the institutions, hospitals and families
- Distribution of Household Items: We provided necessary household items such as cots, tables, chairs, Fridges, kitchen utensils, water purifiers to the communities, institutions and rehabilitation centres
- Agricultural and Farming Materials: By providing financial support, promoting agricultural products sale, purchasing seeds and manure and assisting poor farmers to make a living.
- Renovation and Reconstruction of the houses: We have engaged in post disaster housing renovation and successfully funded housing projects by means of financial and material support to hundreds of families.
- Flood Disaster Relief Program: We could respond to the immediate needs of the flood affected people in Assam, Kerala and Bihar during this pandemic.
REACHED SO FAR
We have been able to commit Euros 4, 158,402 (Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation & St. Camillus Foundation, Taiwan- 4,065,402 and CADIS-20,000, and PRO.SA- 73,000) to help the medical and service fraternity who are at the front line of the battle against COVID 19 and to mitigate its wide-ranging human impact, particularly on the most disadvantaged of our society. In this way we are committed to tackling the unprecedented health and humanitarian crisis arising from the pandemic. From April 2020 to August 2021, we have reached 242,735 families, 11 Sneha Institutions, 25 hospitals, 175 social institutions and rehabilitations and 1,000,314 beneficiaries, having 135 collaborators, in 2146 villages, in more than 350 districts across 20 states and through our immediate humanitarian assistance and health care services. We continue to reach out to those still needing our care through our works of charity.
IMPLICATIONS FOR LIFE
The critical role of compassion in times of pandemic has become increasingly clear amidst the uncertainties of COVID-19. Our learnings over the year tell the tale of compassion in action during this unprecedented time. Compassion primarily arose from the following factors: Firstly, our awareness of human suffering. Secondly, our religious sense of service. Thirdly, our desire to relieve suffering, and fourthly, from our pro-social consciousness.
One of the noticeable aspects of COVID-19, stating from individual level, was the realization that each individual person needs compassionate care for his or her well-being. Similarly, on a care provider level, compassionate care is critical to health care workers. And on a leadership/organizational level, it is necessary for organizations to build cultures of compassion
Therefore, by remembering how compassion and kindness can be beneficial for the well-being of others, perhaps this can help us to endure these exceptional times as best we can, and emerge from the crisis as a nation united in compassion and kindness. Our call is to become “Good Samaritans” to this wounded world. Every crisis is seen as an opportunity. We do not blame darkness, rather we light a candle and prove that every long night ends in the dawn. Challenges abound, but compassion abounds all the more. We are playing this role of a good Samaritan to the affected brothers and sisters in the world. “Be a messenger of God’s universal love and compassion”. Compassion in action during this time of COVID-19 has informed our understanding that compassion is fundamental and, more importantly, it is a Common Ground to come together in providing health care services to the wounded humanity.
Both the shortage of facilities and the increase in the number of infections and deaths indicate that India is far behind in terms of healthcare and protection of human life. The health crisis we are living through further underlines the common frailty of the human condition and the limits of the modern person’s alleged self-sufficiency. The crisis is then the occasion for a new approach, “to help build a more fraternal and compassionate society”.
Fr. Baby Ellickal MI
Provincial, St. Camillus Province
President-Sneha Charitable Trust
National Director-Camillian Task Force
20th September 2021