Specially-abled, 20-year-old Ankush Bhende’s* struggles increased when his mother tested positive for Covid-19 and was taken to the hospital. Unable to take care of himself, he was left all alone at his home in Mumbai’s Dharavi.
Ankush needed external support to get through the day, he needed someone to help him with his routine and chores because he could not tackle it all independently. Seeing his ordeal, one of his neighbours reached out to Rouble Nagi Art Foundation (RNAF), a non-profit organisation that is helping children of people who have tested positive for Covid.
Rouble Nagi, the founder of RNAF, says, “We are the external family that these kids adopt for a phase, and we nurture them like one until they are ready to go back to their real homes. In these circumstances, we cannot let these innocent ones suffer in pain only because their parents or guardians are affected by Covid. If ignored, these children will develop psychological concerns due to alienation and neglect, along with the risk of having other physical health issues. Furthermore, children’s overall wellness reaches a new low if they lose a parent. This realisation made RNAF step forward for those in need.”
Care centres provided by RNAF look after children of Covid patients. Rouble Nagi Art Foundation (RNAF), have converted the balwadis or daycares, into Covid-care centres. They don’t charge any money for keeping the kids. The centres provide beds, food and study material to the kids.
However, very often some children even lose their parents as they succumb to Covid-19. Nagi says, “The situation often gets out of hand if one of the parents is critical or the kid loses them to the virus. Observing the ongoing scenario, we could not bear being just a spectator. We had to do something to aid these children and we converted the balwadis into Covid care centres to help such kids. We are accepting kids who were already attending the balwadis and whose backgrounds we are aware of.”
Less privileged families are finding it difficult to isolate and quarantine themselves when the children involved are to be taken care of. The centre will be equipped to house the children till the parents recover and it is done completely free of cost. Till their parents come back, RNAF gives them a positive environment and looks after them.
Nagi explains, “People in slums are suffering immensely as they are unable to isolate themselves and their kids are paying for their situation as well. We, at our organisation, heard numerous cases of children feeling intimidated or parents hurting themselves because they are unable to care for their children at this point.”
Children at RNAF centres are served breakfast after which they attend classes while maintaining the social distance.
Gauri Bai Savitri, a parent from Delhi who got her child admitted at the centre says, “We have an autistic kid. During the pandemic, we are thankful to the organisation for taking good care of our child when my husband and I were infected with Covid.”
As many as nine RNAF centres are operational in cities including Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Rajasthan, and Noida. Currently, there are over 250 children residing in the centres. Nagi states, “All the children at our shelters are tested negative for coronavirus and we make sure to continue keeping a check on their health by getting RT-PCR done every ten days for everyone’s safety.”
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