Today is Day 16 of the Total Lockdown in India, and Day 19 of a Lockdown in Mizoram.
As promised, here's an update on what the PPE Volunteer Group has been doing till now. For those of you who are visiting my blog for the first time, I wrote about this grand initiative 12 days ago: Day 3. Donating for Mizoram, and thanks to social media and all your shares, the story even got picked up by many renowned national media as well.
It's been almost 2 weeks now since that post, and the Volunteer group has done a lot of tremendous work since then. Here's an update on their work.
Before I begin, and for those who came in late, let me briefly take you through what has been going on for the past 2 weeks:
- Due to the spread of CoVid-19 pandemic in India, Mizoram had been on lockdown from 23rd March, 2020.
- Members of Puanthan WhatsApp group consisting of different designers, tailors and fabric retailers were discussing about the shortages of PPE's among the medical staff in Mizoram.
- Puanthan WhatsApp group member Bethel Lalparmawii along with her designer friends Jenny Lalduhsaki, B.Lalremruati, Lalhriatpuii Varte and Lalthakimi from Aizawl stepped up and volunteered to stitch PPE's for free.
- A "Volunteer's Group" WhatsApp group was created by Bethel on 25th March for this purpose.
- Ruby Ngente from Maharashtra who had been supplying fabrics to these designers in Mizoram became the main bank account holder where donations could be sent.
- Various designers and tailors across Mizoram started joining the group, all volunteering to stitch PPE's for free.
- Within hours, words started spreading about the initiative and more people joined the group. The WhatsApp group reached its maximum limit in less than a day.
- As more people started donating, within just one day, the amount donated crossed one lakh rupees!
- By 26th March evening, due to the sheer number of designers and tailors across Mizoram volunteering for this, various sub-groups were created based on locations and districts.
And so, that was the movement that touched the hearts of many people in Mizoram. In these dark times of uncertainty and fear, a selfless act like this can give us all a glimmer of hope in humanity.
Today we shall look at how these people operate, what have they made so far and whom have they donated the PPE's and other medical kits to etc., in detail.
1. Modus operandi.
How do they operate? First and foremost, for anything to function efficiently, there must be some form of an organized structure, even if it is a voluntary program, otherwise everything will be chaotic.
Initially it was Bethel and her group of friends who were in charge of the whole group, but as the group grew and sub-groups were created for different districts, other people took charge of their respective sub-groups, like Dothangpuii at Lunglei, Daisy Jothyu at Siaha, Lalchhanhimi Khawlhring at Champhai, H Lalmuanawmi at Kolasib and so on.
In Aizawl, Bethel and her friends are in charge of the whole cutting part. In fact they are known as the "Cutting Crew" (not to be confused with the 80's British rock band of I just died in your arms tonight fame).
All materials for Aizawl are purchased from Lalluaii & Sons, Bazarpui. They open their shop only for them in the night, with permission from the Local Level Task Force.
Once the materials are selected, Ruby Ngente transfers money from the donation to the shopkeeper and the materials are then carried back to JT Fashion House, which is the Cutting crew's main base of operation. The Local Level Task Force members usually help them carry the materials as well.
At JT Fashion house, Jenny, Bethel, LRi, Kimkimi and Hriati get to work immediately, and they cut all the materials as required.
Once the required materials are cut, they are then sent to all other designers and tailors within the city who are members of the voluntary program.
Like I said, I will be writing more in detail about Bethel and her team in my next post, all the hardships they have faced etc., as I believe people need to know about the sacrifices they have made, so do keep a look out for my next post.
Notice the lables in all the cut materials below, those are the addresses of various teams across Aizawl who have volunteered to stitch them.
Team Vaivakawn receiving the consignment.
Team Zotlang receiving the cut materials.
Once they have received the material, all the volunteers get to work immediately (I have covered the working part separately below). Here is Team Ramhlun announcing to the group that they have completed their task.
Team Dâm veng reporting to the group that they too are done with the stitching.
Once the stitching is completed, volunteers who are in charge of the logistics deliver the finished products back to Bethel & Team, and they in turn distribute them to other people (this part is also covered separately below).
And that is how the whole system currently operates in Aizawl. A well-oiled mechanism indeed, simple and efficient. The true power of what humans can achieve when we all rise up together.
All the expenditure from the donation account spent on materials and other things are recorded and shared with the entire group by Ruby Ngente, guaranteeing a complete transparency.
As you can see from the above list, money had been being transferred back to different accounts from the main donation account once different sub-groups had been created with their own independent source of donation. This is a classic example of decentralization and it really helps in facilitating better co-ordination at a micro-management level (yes, I'm making use of the jargons I learnt at B-School before I dropped-out :P )
Likewise, in Lunglei town too, money was initially transferred to them by Ruby before they became an independent unit, and Nu Madovi and family bought materials for them to start stitching.
Materials too were received at Kolasib and the volunteers started making masks immediately, according to an update from Lizzy.
H Lalmuanawmi (Mami), creator of the sub-group "Volunteers Kolasib" also informed us that they had started working in full steam.
Mami, who is also a beautician apart from being a designer, pointed out that before they received the materials, they were already stitching masks from materials meant for a gown.
Such is the dedication of all volunteers in the group.
In Lawngtlai town too, materials are bought with the money donated.
The shop below belongs to Pi Zuali and it is the biggest fabric shop in Lawngtlai. She has allowed all PPE volunteers to take any material they want, free of cost!
Likewise, there is tremendous support in Lawngtlai coming from CYLA President Pu Joseph and Lawngtlai DC Shashanka Ala (who is also my FB friend, yay), and according to a report from Lawngtlai, they had already stitched more than 5000 masks by 1st April!
And so those are some of the information and details on how this whole volunteer program is functioning in Mizoram.
2. Group Discussions.
I was added to the Volunteers WhatsApp group from the very beginning. I didn't know anybody but since I was planning to blog about it, I read every message posted by every member carefully. One thing that became very clear to me was that, most of these members didn't even know each other!
It was the first time that they were all talking together. And deep inside, that made me so proud to be a Mizo because there was this complete blind trust among them. Somebody would ask, "Who can sew so and so stuff from this and that locality?" and immediately a couple of people would raise their hands (technically the "raising hand" emoji :P ) and after giving their addresses, the materials were sent to them immediately, no further questions asked.
Little things like that, the fact that people trust each other immediately and nobody is out there to swindle or profit from this are the reasons why this Volunteer program is such a big success, and it may not be possible to replicate this at some places outside Mizoram.
Everything is discussed in the group, like who are they stitching the next batch of PPE's for etc. Those decisions are taken by the respective sub-group leaders. Like for example, this is one such message that was posted, apparently what the Mizo border guards at the border town of Saichal village were wearing – just a bed sheet wrapped around their face!
Do know that Mizoram shares 700+ KM long borders with Bangladesh and Myanmar, and just a few KM with India. Hence those people were kept at high priority to receive the free PPE's.
Apart from that, the group is also actively used to discuss about the masks and PPE's that they're stitching. Some people would ask questions, and others would reply. It is like one big knowledge sharing portal where all doubts were being cleared through simple instructions and tutorials in the form of arrows…
Apart from that, these designers and tailors are continuously guided by medical professionals like Dr. Zorengi of ZMC and Dr. Doris of Synod Hospital, and they make sure that all the proper protocols are being followed while making these kits.
3. Stitching In Progress.
Maybe it's just me, but when I saw pictures of all these tailors and designers selflessly stitching PPE's, masks, boots etc. for free, I don't know, I just fell in love with each and every one of them. Nothing is more attractive than a kind heart with a caring soul.
Forget the six inch Louboutin heels or the Maybelline mascara, take away the Estee Lauder lipstick or the Louis Vuitton handbag, this right here, a selfless, sacrificing woman doing the best that she can for our community, is the epitome of true beauty.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not demeaning our Miss Mizoram beauty pageant contestants in anyway, everybody is special in their own way, but I was thinking, maybe we should also hold a "Miss PPE Volunteer" contest across Mizoram, you know, and the winner… shall be all of them.
And so here are some pictures of our lovely volunteers across Mizoram working diligently while most of us are at home getting bored of the lockdown. I have taken all these pictures from the main Volunteers WhatsApp group, and so I have captioned them the way it was posted in the group. If I have made a mistake or missed out on anybody, I do apologize in advance as there were just too many to choose from.
Also, a big shout-out to the very few male tailors who are also taking part in this initiative :) And so, here are the heroes of today:
Team College Veng.
Team Electric Veng.
Team Ramhlun Venglai.
Team ITI Veng.
Team Kanan Veng.
Team Armed Veng South.
And yes, I know, I have missed out a lot of other volunteers as well, and I apologize once again for that. Also, in case I have captioned some of the photographs above wrongly, please don't mind :D it took me 6+ hours just to find all the images above from my gallery folder and then cross-referenced each one with the WhatsApp group's 10,000+ long message thread just to find the correct caption! Not to mention many images didn't specify which locality the team was from.
So, let us all give a big round of applause to all these people. Wooohooo! :)
4. Products made and distributed.
All the volunteers across Mizoram are now making PPE's and other protective outfits based on the demand of the people. First of all, those who need the items are identified, and then the item is then made.
Champhai Volunteers Group made PPE outfits and PPE boots.
Lawngtlai Volunteers Group distributed face masks to their Local Level Task Force.
Kolasib Volunteers Group distributed protective masks to their police and LLTF.
Lunglei Volunteers Group Nu Madovi distributed free gowns and mask to Lunglei Bazarveng LLTF.
Lunglei Volunteers Group donating plastic gowns to nurses at John William Hospital.
Armed Veng South members donating PPE gear to their LLTF.
Aizawl Volunteers Group sending crucial protective equipments to Vairengte.
Various volunteer groups washing and sterilizing the masks they made before sending it out.
Kolasib Volunteers Group ready to ship out Face-shields and other PPE's they have made.
Kolasib Volunteers Group also distributed free hand sanitizers to the police, LLTF and people kept in quarantine.
Synod Hospital staff coming to collect the PPE's from Aizawl Volunteers Group.
Aizawl Volunteers Group and various Aizawl teams handing out masks and PPE's to different LLTF and police across the city.
Siaha Volunteers Group handing over PPE's and face shields to the DC of Siaha Bhupesh Chaudhury.
I'll stop here for now. There are so many more wonderful photos of the volunteers group giving back to the community, but this post is already becoming too heavy because of the 130+ images.
According to Bethel, the total tally of everything that the Volunteers Groups across Aizawl, Champhai, Kolasib, Lawngtlai and Siaha (other sub-groups haven't sent her their report yet) as of right now (9th April 2020, 16:00 GMT) are:
PPE suits stitched: 624
PPE suits distributed: 543
Masks stitched: 13035
Masks distributed: 9635
Face shield stitched: 44
Face shield distributed: 44
Hand sanitizers distributed: 3 litres
That is a really impressive total so far. And they are still working as I write this.
5. The Unsung Heroes.
Last but not the least, there are a lot of other people behind-the-scene who have made this voluntary project a big success. All the Local Level Task Force members of every locality have been extremely helpful to these teams when it comes to logistics and permission.
And then there are the delivery boys and girls, whose sole task is to deliver not just the cut materials and finished products but even get food and water for the designers and tailors who had remained locked up in their houses or shops due to the lockdown.
As the saying goes, not all heroes wear capes, and in this case, the cape-less crusaders are Mavena Ralte, Lalhminghluii, Lallawmkima, Malawma Chawngthu, etc., just to name a few.
In fact just today, Mavena Ralte from Aizawl Volunteers Group drove all the way to Kolasib to deliver a very crucial PPE cargo for the Kolasib Volunteers Group!
And of course let us not forget the role of the authorities for giving all these people permits every day to go outside. Officials like Pu Lalfakzuala, Sub-Divisional Magistrate and Pu David H Lalthangliana, Deputy Secretary, Home Dept., play a very important role in granting all these volunteers daily passes without any hassle.
Pu David H Lalthangliana even arranged special sanitation trucks to collect all the fabric wastes that had accumulated at the volunteer's places. Awesome people indeed.
Lunglei Volunteers Group also had these permanent passes made for all errand boys and girls.
And then we have our local media and celebrities who have visited all these volunteers and even interviewed them. Gestures like this encourage the people to keep fighting the good fight.
Even Vanlalsailova personally video-called Bethel and her team, and gave them moral support and encouragement.
As I end this very long post, I would like to thank all the volunteers once again for the fantastic work that they are doing. Some of them are dead tired, and remember, none of them are getting paid for all this. So let us continue to keep them all in our prayers.
In my next update, I will take you through the personal experience of Bethel and her team in Aizawl, and I hope that will shed some more light into how much effort they are putting in this. I'll end this post with this picture I really love. It is one of the volunteers (I think Electric Veng?), and apparently her specs broke while working on this project, but she just continued working and simply tied her glasses with a rubber-band :D
And so, until my next post then, take care everyone.