Shiv Kumari’s locality is an impoverished slum in North Delhi. Here houses are stacked up like shipping containers, with no courtyards and the main doors connected to a small lane just big enough for one person to walk at a time. “Families of 4-5 live in a small one-room house. Since they have limited space inside the house, they spend a lot of time outside in the small lane. This makes social distancing almost impossible in the community. People don’t listen. So I have to do a lot of house visits to sensitise about the safe practices,” says Shiv Kumari.
“My workload has definitely increased because of COVID-19. I do house-to-house survey and tell the community about the disease. We take body temperatures and send people for testing if we find that their temperatures are high. We also make sure that no one is starving in the community,” she adds. However, they are still a long way from the normalcy that they used to know. Schools have been closed since the lockdown began and there is little hope of reopening them in the near future.
COVID-19 hit the community hard when members of four families tested positive. Shabnam, 35, was tested positive and had to move into a government quarantine centre. She was most worried about leaving her two-and-a-half-year-old son, but the separation is also tough for her family members who had to remain in the house. The people who have tested positive have a stigma attached to them and it has been difficult for these families. Shiv Kumari and other World Vision volunteers, along with members of the Child Protection Unit set up by World Vision, stepped up and worked together to help meet the needs of these families. “We faced discrimination even from our relatives and the community. Shiv Kumari and the World Vision volunteers took care of us during that time. They delivered food to our doorstep,” says a grateful Shabnam who has fully recovered and returned home.
The community has no drainage and therefore no toilets at home. Everybody uses the public toilets, even families who have tested positive. Therefore, it has become a responsibility for Shiv Kumari and other volunteers to make sure that social distancing is maintained and hygiene practised. “Now people clean their vegetables properly before cooking. They wash their hands and shower regularly. General hygiene has improved because of COVID-19,” observes Shiv Kumari. Washing hands has become a matter of life and death.
As a mother of three adult children, Shiv Kumari cherishes the extra workload in the pandemic despite also having responsibilities at home. Her spirit remains high even after four months of service and that energy is drawn from deep within. “God has sent me here to serve. My destiny is to serve others,” says Shiv Kumari.
“I know my job is risky, but I will do my best and I believe that God will protect me.”