Here’s how a social entrepreneur became a first responder to India’s COVID crisis

  • Social purpose organization Mann Deshi is using his position on the frontline of the pandemic to provide critical relief from COVID-19.
  • It also offers interest-free loans to businesswomen affected by COVID and runs online business training courses to ensure access and opportunities.
  • The organization is well placed to help because it is rooted in the local rural community and therefore builds trust, and because it attracts private funding alongside public sector support.

“In rural Manharashtra, India, we have a local saying that the sky has burst – we are trying to fix it with little pieces – it’s a bad situation,” says Chetna Sinha, founder and president of Mann Deshi Bank and Mann Deshi Foundation.

“India is having the worst of times in its second wave of COVID-19. In our district alone, 2,000 people test positive every day. And the Foundation, which she created 25 years ago, is doing its best to keep pace. “With the second wave, what we found is that the flow to hospitals is so fast – young people are very badly affected, everyone needs oxygen. Donors say they can give us money, but we just need oxygen. It’s impossible!”

Social purpose organizations provide first-line relief

Mann Deshi normally works to support and empower rural women to access finance, develop skills and identify markets. It is now using its position as a social-purpose organization on the frontline of the pandemic to bring critical relief from COVID-19 throughout the district. The team works around the clock with the healthcare system to provide oxygen beds, ventilators and appropriate medication to critically ill patients.

Successful transition of concentration in the face of such uncertainty requires great agility.

“When the pandemic first hit, we were mainly involved in immediate food and medical aid for thousands of people in Satara district,” Sinha recalls. “It was all about prevention. They used the radio to communicate with over 200,000 households at that time and digitally trained women to make 1.5 million masks. “We are 7 hours from Mumbai. Once we get COVID, we don’t have the health facilities. We have prepared ourselves.

Rural COVID-19 cases on the rise in Maharashtra

Rural COVID-19 cases on the rise in Maharashtra

Image: Reuters

A year later, they have worked tirelessly – from delivering 20,000 food packages to families, 25,000 meals to migrant workers, and distributing 5,000 masks and PPE kits to building a COVID hospital. of 300 beds with all the latest medical facilities in partnership with the district government and HSBC. They also renovated an unused rural hospital in a remote part of the state, turning it into a free facility dedicated to COVID. Over the past six months, thousands of people have benefited from both.

Partnership on lives and livelihoods

They have also provided interest-free loans to businesswomen whose businesses have been affected by COVID and have digitized all training so women can access business training.

Support came from HSBC, IndusInd Bank and Cipla, while Credit Suisse and Accenture allowed Mann Deshi to redirect funding to the COVID-19 cause. The partnership has been crucial in response to this crisis, with the government joining together to provide equipment, disbursement processes and logistics.

They have made significant progress, but the speed and severity of the infection has, like everywhere in India, pushed them beyond all limits. This remote location now has more than 100,000 COVID-positive patients. Testing is weak across the country and there is a massive oxygen shortage, in part due to transportation and supply chain issues.

Testing and the vaccination program continued in the face of the crisis. Sinha explains how they “very calmly” focus on variables they can control, such as providing food to patients, closely monitoring chest x-rays with one machine, and obtaining much-needed drugs from donors.

“We are constantly working to support the health system. Even my son Prabhat is spending all his time right now finding essential drugs, beds and oxygen.

Social entrepreneurs are often integrated into their communities and highly reliable.

Trust builders: integrated into communities

As people die and families suffer, social entrepreneurs like Sinha and her team are doing essential work as first responders in underserved areas of the country. One of the reasons they are in a good position to help is that they are integrated into the community. Mann Deshi has been part of the fabric of the district for almost 30 years, making it a trusted resource – so much so that Sinha was asked to be one of the first to publicly receive the vaccine in order to encourage others to do the same.

A strong network is invaluable. Sinha says she is grateful to be in touch with the financial industry and the corporate world, and to have a keen sense of politics. “In a very concrete way, it shows the impossibility of fighting this kind of battle without radical collaboration.”

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And they are not over yet. “From today we started with a medical fund so that people who cannot afford to go to the hospital can go and work to provide food for 200 people a day, what we hope to increase. We are also looking for funds for an ambulance to transport people to medical facilities. ”

For Sinha, doing what he can is an imperative that goes beyond simple philanthropy: “It’s about being a part of you – it’s not doing something for them – it’s for all of us. .

The Mann Deshi Foundation is in critical need of medicine, beds and oxygen; to obtain a cryogenic oxygen tanker for a period of at least one month from the collector of the district of Satara in the state of Maharashtra for the transport of liquid oxygen. The Foundation is also seeking funds for an ambulance.

This is part of a series of articles published by the World Economic Forum COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs on India’s response to the second wave of COVID-19. The Alliance is hosted by the Schwab Foundation and includes 86 social entrepreneurship leaders, who collectively support around 100,000 entrepreneurs.


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