Conserve's COVID Relief Program
Conserve India, since its inception, has been committed to working towards empowering the underprivileged sections of the society while at the same time working towards the goal of environmental conservation and sustainable development. We work with the urban poor on creating products from waste with waste pickers, artisans and refugees. Between these three communities, the waste pickers communities have been hit the hardest. Unsurprisingly, they are frontline workers managing untreated COVID waste from households to the landfill site without any protective gear, with little attention being given to their well-being by the policymakers. This has further magnified the problems that they face currently. These people are the unseen strength of India’s high recycling numbers in waste management, as they scavenge recyclable materials from the landfill. But with the onset of COVID, the recycling industry also took a hit, rendering most of them without their daily wages. This section of our society was already one of the poorest and most exploited classes. Without their livelihoods, there has been a rampant increase in domestic violence, sexual abuse and the onset of various diseases. Ever since the pandemic, Conserve has been dedicated to providing relief to the communities affected.
While COVID-19 has impacted everyone, some sections of society have been affected disproportionately with COVID-19 directly impacting their livelihoods, increasing risk of other diseases, domestic abuse and increase in drop out rate from schools.
The country saw a mass exodus and displacement of the migrant workers returning to their native place when the lockdown was announced last year. Those who were unable to return home were left with no assurance of livelihood or food security. Because of the lockdown, many migrant workers who depended on the food stalls for their meals had to look for alternate ways of feeding themselves. Conserve India immediately began raising money and rations to open about 15 community kitchens in their communities, trying to provide for as many underprivileged people as possible. We provided a month’s food supplies to more than 5000 families facing loss of livelihood due to Covid.
The demand for facial masks skyrocketed overnight. And there was a need for more producers to step in and fulfil the requirement. In the first week of lockdown, conserve India started producing masks using various materials from the now vacant factories by getting a permit and looping in our partners to obtain non-woven textiles for making new masks. A group of 50 odd women in Delhi took to sewing masks which were distributed among the underprivileged. Conserve is currently distributing free masks to NGOs and fulfilling orders for the Indian government.
Conserve has created a WhatsApp group with more than 300 members comprising various community groups, private citizens and donors. The group allows the team to even remotely monitor the community kitchens and facilitate conversations. Our WhatsApp group also includes several political leaders who are now helping us in the permit process and a better understanding of the government’s orders while maintaining their anonymity. Conserve India adopted WhatsApp as a platform for easier access and dissemination of information in the wake of the pandemic that could easily connect different interest groups, donors, individuals and even political leaders in order to bring quick relief to the people.
Short term Impact of Covid Relief Programme
- Aiding migrants by providing funding and supplying aid to 15 community kitchens.
- Distribution of one month’s food supplies to 5000 families.
- Distribution of 50000 People’s Mask and N95 mask.
- Mask and vaccine awareness campaigns reaching 20,000 people.
- Livelihoods initiative for 30 rural youth and women to counteract the long term impact of Covid-19.
Simultaneously, we have collaborated with national and international organisations to bring relief to those whose means of livelihoods were taken away because of the pandemic. Our collaboration with the Fair Trade Forum India has been aimed at creating a relief fund for the artisans by fundraising with the help of corporates. The funds raised are being used to distribute among the artisan groups per their needs as seed funding for restarting their operations. A partnership with the World Fair Trade Organisation, Asia aims to collect information on making high efficacy masks and teaching the same to the targeted communities to provide them with a source of livelihood. Conserve in a joint concert with Made 51, and UNHCR is committed to providing alternate sources of livelihoods to the refugees impacted by Covid. We assisted these organisations in distributing relief materials and conducting training courses on mask making for the refugees.
When everything came to a standstill due to the nationwide lockdown, we at Conserve India have tried to keep up with the times by keeping our product line dynamic and diverse. We have shifted from the production of upcycled bags to producing masks and home products, which have a larger market and requirement; doing so has helped maintain the income stream for the local artisans despite an overall dip in the economy. We have also created forward integrations for different groups so that the benefits are divided equally, ensuring a more significant number of people can sustain themselves. We have also kept the process decentralised so that it is easier to adapt to and adopt new ways.
As part of its long term rehabilitative initiatives, we have rolled out training programmes that aim at training people on the usage of Covid-19 care equipment. Conserve is engaging and investing in research and design on upcycling PPE waste, which can, in turn, serve as a means for creating livelihoods for the impoverished communities.
Long Term Rehabilitation Initiatives for Partner Communities
- Diversifying product lines to include home and utility products to sustain livelihoods for artisans.
- Training the trainers program on usage of COVID-care equipment.
- Mask production and distribution.
- Ongoing R&D on upcycling PPE waste to create livelihood opportunities.
Conserve has been awarded India’s Top 50 COVID-19 Last Mile Responders by the World Economic Forum for playing a key role in driving an inclusive recovery for Covid-19, with creating impact across four vital areas of need: creating awareness about prevention and protection from the virus; treatment and relief; creating awareness about the vaccines, and securing livelihoods for the underprivileged communities.
Conserve would also like to extend its sincere gratitude to our partners NEST, MADE51, UNHCR, The Good Deed, Baazi Games, Sud Chemie Pvt Ltd, Fair Trade Forum India and Every Infant Matters. Without their invaluable support and aid the Covid- relief programme undertaken by Conserve wouldn’t have been possible much less come to fruition.