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From food, meds to oxygen, Hyderabad cyclists are running errands for the city’s elderly

While ‘Relief Riders’, as the group of cyclists, is christened, offers to deliver medicines for elderly people, the requests for assistance range from arranging oxygen cylinders, blood plasma units, emergency drugs, and even ICU beds.

Written by Rahul V Pisharody | Hyderabad |
Updated: May 4, 2021 1:38:52 pm
Hyderabad, Relief Riders, CyclistsRelief Riders, which began on April 30 now has over 100 volunteers.

Ever since Hyderabad-based Santhana Selvan, a programme manager in an IT firm, shared his phone number online last week expressing his willingness to run errands for elderly people who are homebound amid the raging pandemic, requests have been pouring in.

Selvan, who has been adjudged the ‘Bicycle Mayor of Hyderabad’ by Amsterdam-based ‘BYCS’, a global initiative to promote the use of cycles in cities, started the initiative on April 30 with support from a handful of like-minded friends. Over the weekend, the number of volunteers crossed 100, with Selvan now confident to offer help to senior citizens all across Hyderabad.

While ‘Relief Riders’, as the group of cyclists, is christened, offers to deliver medicines for elderly people, the requests for assistance range from arranging oxygen cylinders, blood plasma units, emergency drugs, and even ICU beds. “We are cyclists and regular IT employees. As of now, we are delivering medicines before and after our office hours. With more volunteers joining in, we are thinking of expansion by adding food and other essentials, too, which can be delivered on cycle,” said 41-year-old Selvan, whose parents live by themselves in Chennai.

With the launch of Relief Riders in Hyderabad, Selvan has received support from groups like Hyderabad Cyclists and Happy Hyderabad. “We see a lot of aged people live by themselves and have no one for assistance. We want more and more people to join us and also collaborate with others who are doing excellent work,” he added.

Thirty-year-old Dinesh Sale, an IT engineer and co-founder of the Happy Hyderabad group, said he was not sure if the initiative would be welcomed as it has been now. “I took a request from a 75-year-old woman who is homebound with her 80-year-old husband. They are both COVID positive and in isolation while their children live abroad. When I handed over the medicines that she sought, her eyes welled up. It was a very satisfying experience. As cyclists we all want to give back to society,” said Sale.

When Selvan receives a call for assistance, the details are verified and a message is posted in their Relief Riders WhatsApp group. Based on the locality mentioned in the message, any volunteer can take the request if it falls within his five-kilometer radius. At present, he is taking request calls on 9566170334, between 6 am and 9 am and later from 6 pm to 9 pm.

Ravi Sambari, an IT engineer and a key coordinator of the Relief Riders, said the group receives nearly 70 calls per day. “We get requests for hospital beds, oxygen cylinders, emergency drugs, blood plasma, and food, etc. We cannot cater to all but our volunteers are connected to several other groups as well. We all have to work together at this juncture,” said the 34-year-old. Echoing Ravi, Selvan added that the cyclists would continue to deliver medicines till the panic around the COVID-19 pandemic subsided.

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