It was a learning time for six children of the Shreyas Foundation’s children’s home in Ahmedabad during their 16-day quarantine after they tested positive for Covid-19. They learnt to be independent and to care for each other.
Shreyas was the first children’s home to be declared a micro-containment zone by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation.
An electrician who came for repair work at the children’s home or ‘Balgram’ on August 19 tested positive a day after which everyone on the premises was tested for coronavirus. Of the 120 who were tested, including employees and residents, six children between age eight and 18 years tested positive.
Yogesh Thanki, administrative officer at Shreyas Foundation, said, “The electrician had symptoms, including fever. He had spent a couple of hours at the home as part of regular maintenance work on August 19. We approached the AMC to conduct testing.”
Balgram has 33 resident children aged six to 18 years and another four inmates who are above 18 years who have been pursuing higher studies. Owing to the Covid-19 lockdown, their hostels were shut and they were back in Balgram that has six buildings. Four matrons take care of the 37 residents and a head matron is the supervisor. The foundation did not disclose the identity of the children.
Head matron Harsha Dave said out of the six who tested positive, three girls were kept together in one building and three boys were grouped together and kept in another building. One matron was assigned to take care of their needs, including food, medicines, supplies and coddling from afar when the children would grow frustrated on being separated from their friends at the home.
“The elder ones among those who tested positive (girls aged 18 and 16 years and a boy aged 15 years) took care of the younger ones who were quarantined with them. One of the boys developed a fever in the middle of the night and we had our matron guide the older ones in lowering the temperature and generally taking care of him,” said Dave.
There were days when the younger ones would grow impatient, away from their active general routine. There were days when they would crave for spicy food. The matron or ‘maasi’ as the children refer to their caretaker, had to often sit at a distance and make them count the days remaining before they could go back to normalcy.
“We always made sure that we were around. The boys were especially eager to get over with the quarantine. Some times they would jokingly ask, ‘will you be with us if we touch you?’. The other children (who were Covid-19 negative), although initially apprehensive of what this meant and our extra attention towards those quarantined, helped their peers in their own way. A 12-year-old made a puzzle from scratch for two of our kids in quarantine,” said the matron who was entrusted with the responsibility of taking care of the quarantined children.
One of the most noticeable transformations seen was in an eight-year-old child of a single mother. “He was quarantining with another 15-year-old and the both would often involve in squabbles and fights. Now they are inseparable. Earlier the eight-year-old would perpetually trail his mother, but now he has become more independent, more involved with his friends,” says Dave and the maasi.
Some asked for school worksheets to be passed on while others asked for more arts and craft supplies, and games and puzzles. For another who wanted to listen to songs, an old mobile phone was arranged. The maasi in charge of the six children ensured she was available always. “I was particular that we serve the food hot,” she quips.
Dave adds, “We set up a temporary structure with a counter outside their window to provide them food and other essentials. We would provide hot water at regular intervals. Healthworkers from Sanjivani Hospital would come daily and instruct us on what to do and also take an update on their health status. Disinfection was also done, although we are yet to completely sanitise the two buildings where the six children were quarantined.”
Thanki added that they have an in-house maintenance team, which undertook sanitisation and disinfection.
The quarantine period that started on August 21, was expected to be over on September 3. However, the delayed public notification by AMC of the premises as a micro containment zone led to an extra day of quarantine.
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