Rishabh Shah, founder and president of India’s International Movement to Unite Nations (IIMUN)I
n April, when the country was reeling under the pressure of the second wave of Covid-19, an army of 194 students decided to step in and help. Seeing thousands of requests for beds, oxygen cylinders, ICU beds and other medical supplies on social media, these students decided to create India’s first national repository of beds and quarantine centers for patients with mild symptoms or those who are asymptomatic.
They worked a straight 72 hours to build a website, findabed.in, where on entering the city and pin code, the website presents a relevant list of centers nearby. Launched on May 1, the platform is currently available in 11 regional languages and has 19,217 centers in 446 cities listed on it. The students collected the database by personally verifying details and listed centers, hospitals and even hotels available as quarantine centers.
These students belong to India’s International Movement to Unite Nations (IIMUN), the world’s largest youth-run organisation. More than 20,000 students from this organisation are volunteering for the #findabed initiative. Among them are also students who lost family members in this wave, and decided to contribute to the initiative so that no one else would have to go through the same. “I’m personally fed up with how the government is dealing with the Covid-19 crisis. The #findabed initiative to me is a way of doing my bit and contributing towards sorting out this national crisis rather than just blaming it on others,” says 15-year-old Samyukt Gopalakrishna, a student volunteer from Chennai.
Student volunteers behind #findabed initiative
It all started on what was a regular day and in a regular IIMUN virtual team meeting. “Everyone was talking about how they’re doing their bit and trying to help people in need by providing leads. That’s when we thought something more needs to be done and the idea of the #findabed initiative struck,” says 29-year-old Rishabh Shah, founder and president of IIMUN.
After extensive research the team found that around 98 percent of people infected with Covid-19 don’t need hospitalisation and can easily be isolated at home or any quarantine center. “Many people were unnecessarily crowding the hospitals due to lack of information and awareness. These asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic patients can easily be treated at the Covid-care centers,” says Shah. Since its launch, findabed.in has helped impact more than 2,10,000 people.
This group of young people, some in their teens and most in their twenties, are also encouraging people, through the website, to convert their second homes, offices, schools and colleges into Covid-19 centers for those who have mild symptoms. Till date 900 people have signed up for this, agreeing to provide their premises for converting them to Covid-19 centers.
In collaboration with the Ananya Birla Foundation, the IIMUN team set up their first 25-bed Covid-19 center facility in Jhunjhunu in Rajasthan
“These students are so dedicated, when I ask them to take it easy, they say we have to focus on the third wave, probably the fourth wave because we’re not going to get through the pandemic easily given that we’re also seeing a shortage of vaccines,” says Shah.
Besides this, the team is now also focusing on building Covid-19 centers in rural India where there is a huge shortage of medical facilities. Setting up centers will help them fight the upcoming waves. After analysing the worst-hit districts, the team zeroed in on a location to set up their first center.
“In collaboration with the Ananya Birla Foundation, we set up our first 25-bed facility in Jhunjhunu in Rajasthan. A police superintendent was kind enough to lend us the police guesthouse to convert it into a quarantine center. We inaugurated it a few days ago,” says Shah.
The team has identified 100 more districts in rural India and will start setting up Covid-19 centers to ensure they are prepared for the upcoming waves. “We need more people to come forward to offer their premises so that we can convert those spaces to Covid-19 centers and reduce the burden on hospitals,” says Shah.