Interviewing An NGO About Food Crisis During Covid-19, The Use of Oxygen Concentrators And More...
By: Milton, Diamond
Published On: September 14, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic created a global crisis that the world was not prepared for.
In India, the pandemic exacerbated existing issues like hunger, poverty, unemployment and also the mental health of those on the frontline as well as people at home. With lockdown restrictions in the country, many people couldn’t reach out to help those who were struggling due to restricted movement, lack of resources and other constraints.
During such times, many NGOs stepped out and made a real difference on the ground by distributing food, providing oxygen support, organising blood donation camps, assisting vaccine registrations and many more. I’ll be interviewing the founder of one such NGO today - Mr. Zohair Diwan.
NESH or Nobody Ever Sleeps Hungry was formed in 2020 during the first wave of COVID-19. This blog focused on the story behind NESH, food crisis during the pandemic, the importance of oxygen concentrators and raising funds on a crowdfunding platform during this critical time:
How did it all start?
In late 2019, Mr. Zohair and his group of friends planned to distribute food among underprivileged people around the locality. Back then, the food distribution camp used to feed 100-200 people daily which was supported by his friends, neighbours and society people. Steadily and just before the first wave of Covid-19 hit,, the number rose to 500 people.
“NESH wasn’t in the picture until then, This was 8 months before the pandemic! Mr. Zohair says.
The first wave of COVID-19
A few weeks before the official lockdown was announced, Mr. Zohair and his team noticed a lot of shops were shutting down because of the Covid threat. By then, the number of people at the food distribution camps had also increased to more than a thousand.
On March 25, 2020, the whole country went into lockdown. Everything was shut right from the huge and usually bustling - Crawford Market to famous dhabas in and around Mumbai. “People were caught unaware and had nowhere to go”, says Mr. Zohair
Rising to the occasion, Mr. Zohair and his team started one food counter at Crawford Market, Mohammed Ali Road, Masjid Bunder, Chakala, and even Kamathipura - a red light area in south Mumbai. By then, tens of thousands lined up at such food distribution camps. “It was becoming very difficult for us to cope with the demand”, said Mr. Zohair.
“Left with no options, my group started asking all the NGO’s to give in-kind donations instead of money. We told them that we need you to give us cooked food”, said Mr. Zohair when asked how he tried to manage the high demand.
With the help of an NGO which had tie-ups with major hotels and restaurants in Mumbai, Mr. Zohair and his team got close to 1 lakh meals daily from various hotels. 1 lakh meals were distributed daily at camps set up in Colaba, Dadar, Chembur, Borivali, Dahisar, Virar and Nalasopara.
On how NESH was formed
“In the month of Ramadan in 2020, one of our volunteer’s husband got seriously ill and fell unconscious. Covid scare was very acute at that time and getting an ambulance was a huge challenge. We went from one hospital to another trying to find a bed for him but unfortunately he succumbed to Covid before he could get proper treatment”, said Mr. Zohair.
Mr. Zohair says that this was a very harrowing experience for him and his team. They didn’t want other Mumbaikars to go through the same experience. That’s when he formed an NGO - which was named NESH.
Over the next few months, NESH kept growing with the power of the people and it’s founder’s unshakeable faith in NESH’s purpose. Currently, the NGO not only distributes food, but also supports people in getting ambulances, admissions in hospitals, oxygen cylinders and consultancy from doctors who volunteer with them.
How NESH identified the need for oxygen cylinders
During the first wave itself, Mr. Zohair realized the impact of an oxygen cylinder before his own eyes when he saw a patient’s oxygen levels stabilise after using the cylinder. We have all known about oxygen cylinders but to see it working right in front of us and actually save a life, that, Mr. Zohair said, was a whole new experience.
With this experience, Mr. Zohair made up his mind - he now wanted to distribute oxygen cylinders around Mumbai. To achieve this, however, NESH needed funds since the cost for each cylinder was Rs 8,000. Mr. Zohair brought up this issue with Member of Maharashtra’s Legislative Assembly (MLA) Amin Patel who had supported him right from the beginning. Mr. Zohair asked Amin Patel to make a video appeal requesting people to donate oxygen cylinders, he obliged, and soon, NESH managed to arrange at least 100 oxygen cylinders in its initial stage itself.
“With that we started supporting other NGOs that took this initiative up, more oxygen banks opened up. We not only identified the need for oxygen cylinders but also created a solution”, said Mr. Zohair.
On the second wave and need of oxygen concentrators
By the second wave of COVID-19, many other NGOs had started distributing food around Mumbai and hence NESH stepped back and started doing it on a shorter scale, distributing around 5 -10 thousand meals a day.
The second wave brought another burning issue - the need for oxygen concentrators. Refilling stations ran out of oxygen to refill cylinders, Mr. Zohair knew this would cause a major crisis and so he planned to distribute them. “We asked people overseas to donate oxygen concentrators to us. People from America and Canada sent oxygen concentrators to NESH during the second wave”, said Mr. Zohair.
NESH distributed oxygen concentrators among the needy and also trained them on how to use it through a video demonstration. Along with that, they also asked the patient to consult their doctor for further guidance on how to use the concentrator correctly.
Mr. Zohair said, “Oxygen concentrators and oxygen cylinders provided a huge helping hand to Mumbai’s healthcare system, people were treated at home with the help of oxygen cylinders and oxygen concentrators. Patients treated at home also saved a lot of money. Taking away less critical patients and getting them treated at home also contributed to taking away a certain percentage of extreme load from the health care system.”
On what NESH believes in and why giving is good
“NESH is only a movement, we are here to inspire other people and also inculcate a contribution mentality amongst them. Our aim is to motivate every person in Mumbai to stand for another Mumbaikar and address the hunger issue together as a team”, said Mr. Zohair.
On why giving back to society feels so good, Mr. Zohair said, “There is some miraculousness involved when you feed people or give back to the society, a lot of things in your space get resolved automatically and you get the benefit of that, that’s what happened with me. Giving back is a very fulfilling experience that cannot be explained into words”.
On whether he had heard of crowdfunding
Turns out Mr. Zohair was quite familiar with crowdfunding, in fact, he already started two online fundraisers on ImpactGuru. On this he said, “NESH had started a fundraiser back in June 2020 alongwith an NGO from Byculla to address the hunger issue in Mumbai. It raised around Rs 92,000 which helped hundreds of families get through the lockdown”.
Delighted with the response, NESH started another fundraiser during the second wave for food distribution, opening oxygen cylinder banks, organising blood donation camps and ensuring that the community fridges were stocked and taken care of. The fundraiser ended in August 2021 after raising over Rs 57,000.
Asked about his experience with fundraising on ImpactGuru, Mr. Zohair signs off by saying, “It was a hassle-free process, it became so easy for us to collect funds on ImpactGuru. It brought a lot of like minded people together as a team. Some went on ground to make a difference while others stayed at home and yet they could be part of a team and donate. So this was an opportunity for a lot of people to become a team and contribute together to make a difference to humanity.”
As I interviewed Mr. Zohair, I realised the horrific on-ground realities during the Covid-19 pandemic that many people had to go through. I count myself privileged because I never had to deal with the atrocities that came along with the pandemic. It was amazing to see a commoner like Mr. Zohair Diwan step up and empower communities during such trying times.
All of us can be the change that we wish to see in this world. With crowdfunding platforms like ImpactGuru you now have the ability to support or raise awareness about any issue that is close to your heart. You can do this by starting a free fundraiser to raise funds for food distribution, oxygen support, animal welfare, old age homes and also by donating to your chosen cause, here!
To get fundraising support, reach out to us on [email protected] or 1-800-102-0380.
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