OUR YOUTH CHAMPIONS
These helped me cope with the adversities, but then my father contracted COVID-19. He caught a fever, sore throat. NGO didi told me and Maa to maintain physical distancing from him, but that was so improbable as there’s no other room that we can go to. We were compelled to stay out in the open and soon the neighbours found out.
When we were already scared about his health, the neighbours started misbehaving with us. They threatened to evict us. I was not allowed to attend tuition classes, or even take drinking water from the community water point. They would all go inside their houses if we were walking down the roads. When we needed support from people, they disowned us completely. We felt lonely.
I called up NGO didi who promised to help me. She asked the children’s group members to tell their families to cooperate. The children group that was trained on COVID appropriate behaviour by Didi, busted myths by explaining how the disease spreads, what caution we should maintain to not let ourselves get infected, and how we should support a COVID-positive patient and families by creating a conducive environment. This had helped to some extent, however, Baba started recovering in due course.
Since then, I have been supporting busting myths and stigma around the disease. In villages, people are scared and hence they can’t distinguish between the disease and the patient. We need to be careful against the virus, not the humans. I am trying to help other families who are developing symptoms by encouraging them to go and get tested at the earliest, take consultations from medical professionals and not quacks, take medicines early on, take vaccines and above all not make the journey difficult for those who’s trying to cope with the disease.
Keya belongs to Sandeshkhali block, North 24 Parganas district in West Bengal, and a member of the Children’s Group created by Save the Children at village levels. We have been working with children’s and mother’s groups in villages to create a community-level mechanism for COVID management. This includes busting myths and stigma related to vaccines and COVID-19, creating awareness on COVID appropriate behaviour, promotion and facilitation of linkages for vaccines, access to appropriate and timely medical services and also psycho-social support to the patients and their families by combating fear among people.