The coronavirus that caused the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken Bangladesh just as it badly affects other countries. Before the virus spread in the countryside of Bangladesh, the government implemented some preventive measures such as borders shut down, cancellation of flights, travel restrictions to other districts and provinces, closure of schools, colleges, universities, supermarkets and offices, and lockdown of cities. Due to these circumstances, people are distressed and suffered a lot since they cannot go out to work and earn a living to support the needs of the family.
With the given situation, I thought of how I can support my community people in this pandemic as I do not have enough skills and resources. I called some of my younger sisters, brothers, and friends and we sat together to talk about how we can contribute to our communities. On March 21, 2020, we started working on distributing leaflets to provide awareness on COVID-19 among the people at the local market of Utrail, Birisiri. The leaflet mainly contains some important information on the prevention of the coronavirus infection that causes COVID-19. Among them are proper hand washing, the importance of staying at home, maintaining social distance, and wearing face masks and gloves, avoiding meetings, and social gathering among others. We also shared information on the nature of coronavirus such as the symptoms of the infection, and what should be done when the symptoms appear. What we did was simply giving basic education to the people about the coronavirus and the illness it brings. We were aware that what we were doing was not enough to protect our community people. To continue our initiatives, I called the young people for an important meeting again and we formed a strong team we called the “Challenge Covid-19 Team.” During the discussions, we planned some initiatives such as disinfecting the communities of Birisiri, the vehicles on the road, the local market, and the persons who come in and out from village to market. We distributed masks and soaps. We also collected donations to buy relief goods and distributed them among the poorest and the needy.
After planning, we started to act on those initiatives. But it was not easy for us. We did not have any financial support. We faced obstacles and a risk of being infected by the COVID-19. But we were and still are strongly committed to serving our community people in this critical condition so we did not stop working. Then we divided our work into three different campaigns to implement those plans.
The First and Second Campaign
In our first and second campaigns, we focused on the disinfection of the communities from one village to another in Birisiri. The goal is to spread awareness of the importance of disinfection to drivers and passengers. We also distributed one hundred masks to poor people as our way of spreading the message about the importance of wearing face masks to protect themselves and to protect others from coronavirus. In doing these, we also needed medicines, hand sanitizers, gloves, and surgical masks to protect ourselves from getting infected. Given that we did not have any financial support, we asked for donations from the people who were willing and interested to support and join our cause.
At first, people did not believe and accept our ideas easily. We faced a lot of questions from them. Why are we doing this kind of activity? Who sends us to this work? People asked many more questions. But we did not mind being asked and these questions did not stop us from working because we are strongly committed to continuing our service to other people who needed our help. Then as days went by, we receive a great response from some people who were strongly encouraged and inspired by our activities. We were happy with the support we got from them. It inspired us to continue. Despite the negative reactions we get from some people, more people gradually became conscious about the danger of the coronavirus and the illness COVID-19. Eventually, they follow government protocols and rules to protect themselves.
The Third Campaign
The responses to our call for donations provided us with a good amount of funds. We were able to buy some of the essential needs to protect ourselves from getting infected. We saved some amount of money out of the donations, and we decided to use it to buy basic items for distribution to some needy people.
Again, it was not easy for us as we faced many obstacles set by some local people. As volunteers, we worked hard. We had a very little amount of funds, but many people were requesting relief goods. At first, we distributed relief goods among thirty needy families. We were surprised that after these relief activities, we started to get a great response from our community people. They started to support us by donating money, rice, white flour, oil, and other things. Because of that, we were able to help the community of West and East Utrail, Telunjia, Sagordigi, Bhonbanipur, West and East Baroipara, Ghoraiyat, Goalpara, Gohalideo, Bonogram and Solpokuronia in Birisiri. After a few days, we thought we need to move from Birisiri to other places. Then we went and distributed relief in the communities of Ranikhong, Boheratoli, Boraikandi, Bijoypur, Komlabari, Dahapara, and Badambari, which are situated close to the Indian Border in Durgapur Upozila. In going g to these places, we needed to cross the Simsang River. Every volunteer worked whenever we crossed the Simsang River carrying the bags of relief. It was really hard because aside from having risks of being infected by the coronavirus, there was also the risk of crossing the river. But these did not stop us from working hard to do our commitment to serving our communities. We were able to distribute relief items to two hundred sixty poor and needy families. At present we are trying to ask for another donation to support more communities and families in Bangladesh. We are doing our best to help and looking for some donations to implement our next plan until the fight for COVID-19 ends.
My experiences during this COVID-19 pandemic made me realize the struggles of many people to find support and provide for the daily meals and the needs of their families. I think that the government should make more efforts in helping its people to survive during these times. The fight for COVID-19 may take a lot of works and efforts but we, the “Challenge COVID-19 Team” will continue to help especially the needy and poor families of our country.