IT IS — to feel sad, scared, angry or stressed during a crisis. The options: not normal, normal, good and bad.
This was one of the questions in a quiz distributed among over 2,000 adolescents staying in Kandivali, Dharavi and Kalwa areas on WhatsApp by NGO Sneha. While the topic for this quiz is mental health during the lockdown, previous week it was related to information on COVID-19.
With nothing much to do during the lockdown, NGOs, which work with children in Mumbai’s slums, are banking on weekly quizzes, one-on-one conversations with children and involving them in outreach programmes to keep them engaged.
Mitchelle D’Souza, ICT consultant with Sneha’s Empowerment Health and Sexuality of Adolescents (EHSAS) programme in Dharavi, Kandivali and Kalwa, said they came to know from their volunteers that youngsters were not taking the COVID-19 threat seriously and were “grouping” in their areas as they did not know what to do with the free time.
“Our volunteers also told us children were panicking every time a patient tested positive in their locality. Mid-March, we had a brainstorming on what could be done to keep them engaged. We asked them about it. Majority of them said they wanted to learn English,” D’Souza said. The suggestion led to the quiz every week on WhatsApp. “However, we wanted to do more. So, while the focus was English, we themed these quizzes around topics like COVID-19 and mental health during the lockdown,” D’Souza added.
Volunteers are also talking to these children over phone. Rama Shyam, programme director of EHSAS, said, “We have moved to tele-counselling support as field interactions are restricted due to COVID-19. Last week, we collected phone numbers of those part of our programme or the contact numbers of their parents.” D’Souza said, adding that on a daily basis they are reaching out to 72 adolescents.
It has its fair share of challenges. “Unlike face-to-face interactions, we have to coordinate with the work timings of their parents as they do not themselves own a phone. Sometimes, their responses are monosyllabic as they are around their parents but they call back later,” Shyam said.
Adolescents are also helping out with outreach programmes. “In Kalwa, there are families who live on the other side of the pipeline where the food truck did not reach. Twelve girls in touch with us identified 119 vulnerable families there and contacted the local corporator, who ensured food reached these stranded families. Adolescents in Dharavi too are helping locate people having trouble receiving food,” D’Souza said. Arun Kumar, CEO of Apnalaya which works in M East ward, said, “We knew most youngsters would struggle to stay indoors given the small houses. Hence, we have involved them in relief distribution in their own communities. It is playing to their strength as they know their communities better than any of us. With their help we have completed distribution in 12 slums.”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines