Youth volunteers in the forefront of the pandemic, reaching out to and serving rural communities

Vigneswaranathan Sarangan

Volunteer in Thavady, Jaffna

Amidst the current global pandemic, youth volunteers have taken an active role in reaching out to help communities in a responsible manner. Vicki, 23, is one such volunteer from Thavady, Jaffna of around 350 families. The first Covid-19 patient in Jaffna was identified in his village and the patient was only half a kilometre away from his house. Curfew was effectively implemented across the region and each household in his village was to ensure strict self-isolation protocol for 21 days. All entry points were armed by the forces and the village was barricaded from every front ensuring no one enters or leaves.

This was not the first time Vicki’s village has faced such a crisis. Jaffna also suffered heavily during the civil war, and during those times, Vicki says, they would hear bomb explosions, tanks approaching and they could take cover and protect themselves. Covid-19, on the other hand, was an enemy they couldn’t take cover from as it’s not visible to the naked eye. The virus posed a threat they did not know how to cope and battle with, physically, mentally and emotionally.

During the lockdown, there was a scarcity of basic essentials like bread, vegetables and milk. There were no delivery services within this community as well. People had to manage with what they had where they couldn’t even reach out to their neighbours for any help. There was no leadership or representation for the needs of his community, Vicki attests.

Due to this dire situation, around ten boys, including Vicki, requested the General Secretariat (G.S) of the area for volunteering. Permission was granted as there were limited resources to sustain the lockdown of his village. Their role was to distribute essential items that were issued by private donors and politicians amongst the families. They classified the families and prioritised widows, disabled people, elderly and other vulnerable groups of people first. Oftentimes Vicki had to cycle around his village going door to door for delivery, as the petrol station was closed and he couldn’t refuel his motorbike. He was able to see all aspects of his village, especially the needs of children, daily wage workers, farmers and other groups. After witnessing their sufferings first hand, Vicki is inspired to continue serving and helping his village even more.