With the Concerned Citizens of “Lockdown Hero”, Help is Only a WhatsApp Message Away


With the Concerned Citizens of “Lockdown Hero”, Help is Only a WhatsApp Message Away

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

The nationwide lockdown to curb the coronavirus pandemic over the past few weeks has created challenges for healthcare personnel, police officers, and essential workers – but a few ordinary citizens have come together to lighten their burden.

Offering their time and services for free amid the crisis, the volunteer group “Lockdown Hero” is doing exactly what its name suggests. Armed with phones and internet connections, some time to spare, and the hope for a better tomorrow, Lockdown Hero is working across 95 cities including Mumbai, Pondicherry, Delhi, and Guwahati, to ensure help is provided where it is asked for – in a timely fashion. Most of the volunteers, consisting of office-goers and freelancers, are added to a WhatsApp group dedicated to the city they belong to.

With belief in the idea that everyone needs a hero and that everyone has the ability to be one, Lockdown Hero operates at three levels – City Hero, Neighbourhood Hero, Area Hero. The best part? It is immaterial whether the group has to figure out a “small” problem (like sourcing ration for a family), or a “big” one, like finding a caretaker for an elderly person.

Mumbai-based Ajinkya Chikte helped start the initiative. Chikte has previously managed back-office work for Anubhuti Trust and Project Mumbai among other NGOs and volunteer groups, so the 33-year-old was familiar with the workframe. The group is driven by the thought that an easy-to-reach, reliable system was needed for ordinary people trying to navigate the lockdown.

At present, with multiple WhatsApp groups, the volunteers cater to the needs of urban poor, the underprivileged, the elderly, the infirm, and children. Providing meals for a family of five is just as important as arranging for a laptop for an underprivileged kid for whom this might just be the last shot at continuing his education, explains a volunteer recounting a recent incident.

A Bandra resident had tweeted about a young boy in their neighbourhood needing a laptop as the lockdown had forced schools to shift to online classes, and as he came from a family with financial constraints, they could not afford to buy one. It barely took the Lockdown Hero Mumbai group a few hours to connect a generous donor who’d stumbled upon the tweet with an authentic laptop vendor that another group member verified. In less than two days, the child had a brand, new device.

It started with a request to source cat food. A cat dad himself, the unusual request was dealt with – but now that his number was floating around, Chikte started receiving requests to help source and deliver groceries, medicines, and even a hot plate among others. In early April, with the help of his friends, Chikte set up lockdownhero.com to track every request that poured in, and to provide the group with the army of volunteers it was going to need to function.

The group follows a strict rule of always providing photos and videos after a request has been fulfilled for verification. In cases where medical help is requested, the group treats it like an emergency. Be it delivering specific medicines, connecting with a doctor, or even arranging for a blood pressure pump, the team is quick to put their resources together.

The concerned citizens in the group do not hesitate to donate money from their own pockets, if needed. When a 77-year-old Mrs D’Souza* who lives all by herself needed a walking stick after a fall broke her old one, the group not only pooled in the money to buy her a new one, they also hired a caretaker who could look after the elderly lady.

It really is just about making the effort to reach out to people, until you can connect to the right one. The group believes that even if they can’t help someone, they can still make calls to people who might be able to help. Which is why the group is willing to do everything from providing tech support to working out the logistics. It’s all about paying it forward.

A world post-lockdown will have its own set of struggles in a corona-fearing society. But it’s groups like Lockdown Hero who can make life a little better.

During the lockdown, if you are in need of any help or know someone who does, or believe you can lending a helping hand, you can fill out your details at https://lockdownhero.com/ or connect with Ajinkya Chikte on +91 96191 28660.

*Name changed to protect privacy.