Working from home brings its own challenges, especially for field staff in World Vision offices across the country. However, trying times call for creative solutions, and the one thing that has helped bridge the gap is Video Conferencing apps. Since most work has moved online, World Vision field staff are engaging children and parents in online calls to not only promote health, hygiene and parenting messages, but also to enquire about their wellbeing and understand their concerns amidst the lockdown.
While TV debates call on guests from different walks of life to get their two cents on the lockdown, we decided to tune into the insights of children from our communities across India.
From seven cities (Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata, Guwahati, Hyderabad and Bangalore) we connected with a few children in their homes to understand how they, their families and communities were faring in these times.
The recurring issues that kids brought up were a lack of food and ration supplies, loss of wages because of unemployment of their parents, a general sense of boredom because of not being able to go out and play or meet their friends and worries about pending exams and missing out on school curriculum. Our children assured us that they were practicing social distancing but were worried about other people in their community who weren’t taking things as seriously.
On a positive note, a lot of them were happy that they now got to spend a lot of time with their parents and siblings. Many help out with household chores and are also getting time to pursue their hobbies like drawing, doing arts and craft or playing other indoor games with their siblings.
19-year-old Joynal from Guwahati, Assam, had some interesting points to share as well. Joynal is pursuing a bachelors in commerce and is in the second year. He enjoys walking, doing arts and crafts and also colouring and shading. The lockdown has been a confusing time for him.
He says, “Earlier when I would come home from school, nobody would be at home. But now everyone is home, so it’s good to spend this time with my parents and siblings. I help my mother during this lockdown with the household work.”
“Some of the challenges I see in my community is that people are not getting ration equally. The people who distribute food or grains don’t reach out to everyone. There is a fear to go outside because of the coronavirus. Even my friends tell me to stay inside. But there are many people who are not following instructions. As the cases are still not high in the state, I feel people are not taking it very seriously,” says Joynal.
Nine-year-old Anita studies in the 5th standard and lives in the tightly packed community of Dharavi in Mumbai. She excitedly tells us all the things she’s been doing during the lockdown and also shares her concerns.
She says, “We are doing a lot of things in this lockdown. I spend my time watching TV, solving math problems, playing games and I help my mother in the kitchen. It feels good as all my family members are with me.” The lockdown has also unleashed Anita’s creative side as she says that it was only recently that she started writing poetry. She has written around 3-4 poems on the coronavirus during this time.
She said that World Vision provided cooked food for her and other families in their community. However, she was concerned that they were not able to buy vegetables as it is very expensive now. Her father told her that because they had some ration at home, they wouldn’t unnecessarily take more from the ration shop. “This way we can help other people of our community,” she says.
But more than anything, Anita is irritated because a few people from the community are not obeying the instructions during the lockdown period. When they see any police they start running randomly and don’t bother if any child comes in their way, which is very dangerous.
Her message for other children is, “Sit at home and study what you did in school, so that you don’t forget what was taught. Our moms work so hard. So we must help with the chores.” When we asked her if she had a message for her sponsor she said, “I have not received a letter from her since a long time. She must be playing with her kitty. Their country is also going through Corona. I would tell them to stay safe and maintain social distance,” says Anita with a smile.
15-year-old Rekha from Delhi tells us, “There are no toilets in some people’s homes. And the community toilets are locked at times. So it is tough for young children, as they find it difficult to control themselves. Apart from that, many children are losing a lot because schools are closed. There is a problem of food and ration. How will people like daily wage earners manage? My father is also a labourer and even we are finding it hard to manage our home. There are lots of problems in other homes as well. We collected money in our children’s club to help those families who are not getting ration and we were planning to make some awareness videos as well,” says Pinki.
When we asked her the one thing she misses she says, “I do miss meeting and playing with my friends.”
It was reassuring to learn how most children were aware about the guidelines issued by the WHO and the Government with respect to protecting themselves from COVID-19. Since handwashing is an integral part of World Vision programmes, all children were confident that they knew the correct steps and were happy to teach their parents or siblings the same. In case of emergencies, children are also aware of the child helpline number (1098) where they can report any case of abuse or violence.