During the entire the COVID-19 pandemic and its lockdowns, different Auroville groups have been working hard to take care of the members of our small community. Basket delivery, medical care for those in home quarantine, and an extensive track-and-trace system of contacts have kept the rate of infection low. But what of the villages surrounding us?
The Auroville Village Action Group (AVAG) is the biggest Auroville unit with its feet on the ground – their extensive networks in the villages help them identify the areas and people of concern. We spoke to Anbu, one of the AVAG project directors, to give an update on Auroville’s work to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in the region.
Boosting Prevention – and Immune – Systems
In this second lockdown, we are aware that COVID-19 is spreading rapidly in the villages, yet many cases go unreported as people prefer to stay away from hospitals and quarantine facilities. Anbu from AVAG confirms that the second wave has seen many more infections: “This year the villages were impacted more. Apart from the economic crisis the health condition was bad for many families. More people are impacted by the virus and there are more deaths.” Social stigma is also getting in the way: “We also see a tendency for people not to go to the hospital until their condition is critical. Due to social stigma related to the disease, people try to hide the symptoms and pretend to be normal.”
Fortunately, AVAG feels much more prepared for the work that needs to be done. “This year it was an easier task than last year. The base was set already, so we were able to work quite easily using that base. We held meetings even before the lockdown, with our village teams and government representatives.”
AVAG supports 20,000 families in 75 communities, a job they can only do because they have extensive networks in the villages – people from the affected communities helping AVAG in their efforts. Since before the lockdown, AVAG has provided them with educational flyers about prevention, and a set of immune boosters. The boosters are homeopathic medicines, recognised health supplements advised by the Government of India. “The distribution of the first round of immune boosters and educational flyer was more or less completed before the lockdown.” They are now providing a second dose to each of the 20,000 families. Their women’s enterprise, AVAL, has stitched 5000 safe masks that have been distributed to families with infected members and sanitary workers.
Falling Between the Gaps
While the Tamil Nadu government has programs in place to help people deal with the pressures of lockdown, some slip between the gaps – this is a key area where AVAG steps in. “The Government is giving a total of 4000 rps [about 50 euros] and a mix of essential items to each family. To access these benefits, each family has to have a ration card from the government to be eligible.” As the government has cancelled these cards for single-person households, not everyone has access: “There are families who don’t have this card and who are having difficulties, but particularly single women, such as widows, are struggling.” Another group AVAG supports are those families who are sick with, or have lost people to, COVID-19
AVAG knows who has a need in the community, again thanks to their networks in the villages. “We have a list of people who are really poor, marginalized and vulnerable. It is made with the help of the village teams and the Panchayat secretary. Between them, they know who has the ration cards and what are the economic conditions in each household.” In this way, AVAG can make sure that they are taking care of those who need it most.
The Divine Energy
AVAG is working closely in affected villages, but has managed to continue work without too many of their staff falling ill. “Three of our team members also got infected, but they recovered.” Anbu thinks that it’s because they are continuously giving immune boosters in the office, but also because their work simply needs to continue: “I think this is the protection we got from the Divine Energy.”
AVAG is now fundraising for next steps. They want to continue distributing proper masks, immune boosters, and information on prevention and vaccination, while supporting the marginalised. They need 41,95,000 rps [about 50.000 euros] to do this work. “We have raised more or less 50% of our requirement. If we are successful, we will execute all the activities. If we don’t succeed, we decide on priorities with village teams and AVAG together.” Hopefully, these community-based efforts will help India towards a more manageable reality of COVID-19.
For a full breakdown of AVAG’s work and fundraising needs, see their COVID-19 campaign website here.
If you want to contribute to AVAG’s work, see the information on how to donate here.
AVAG’s official report on their COVID-19 response can be found here: