British Asia News By Sushma Lobo
London April 10 (SL/BAN) When we talk about people who make a difference and are volunteering through this coronavirus crisis time, we find support coming in all shapes and sizes. British Asia news speaks to Amit Tiwari President of the Indian National Student Association (INSA), Amit and his team are #Communityheroes out there supporting people most of us probably haven’t even thought about.
We have heard a lot about the British nationals stuck abroad desperate to come back to their homes, safe grounds, but what about the Indians from India stuck in the UK due to travel restrictions. Amit explains to us the crisis with Indian students and Indian nationals stuck in the UK during this difficult time.
As British citizens we have our home here and we are within our comfort zones at home, our safe haven, but for Asians in the UK from India stuck here during this time it’s a totally different story. Some had come for a few days, maybe for exams, are students or came on a tourist visas, what support network is available for them during this very scary time.
Amit tells British Asia news “around 8-10,000 students are stranded in the UK from India.”
The hardship for them here is “they have become homeless, they have been laid off work, they can barely speak English” he says. “There are financial issues, health issues with coronavirus, mental health issues, anxiety issues, people are panicking. So, we are having to manage a lot of different sides of things, calm them down, talk to them, understand the issues.”
Amit and his team aim to point them in the right direction and give correct factual information at this point of time.
They are #communityheroes. So what exactly are they doing?
Amit explains exactly what their new volunteering roles involve, “we have made a list of people who are providing accommodation, either free of charge or at a subsidiary cost, or organisations or individuals who can provide empty flats or houses. Once we have assessed the case and its is a genuine case impacted due to corona rather than it just being a ongoing residential case, we advise them this is what is available. Also accommodation is a very location specific issue, so we have contacts all over the UK, we can point them to local people who will support them”.
“Food is a big issue, dietary concerns, or it’s out of their reach to go to get groceries, we connect them to a local people who can provide food”.
Amit and his team are all full time workers like you and I and following all the UK health guidelines and protocols to stay safe and have taken this support role up as volunteers.
The team have quickly managed to build a infrastructure in response to COVID-19 and are #communityheroes whose work needs to be recognised through the communities like all our other community heroes. They are taking queries over various channels “we have a phone team manning the phone from 8am to 10pm, on 2-hour shifts. A team of 4-5 responding to email queries, team of 5 looking at social media queries, FB, IG, twitter and a Last Resort team whose job is once the solution has been provided whether its is healthcare, food, accommodation they action it”.
This support requires cultural awareness and Amit has sourced translators who can support with the various different Asian languages spoken all over India he said “a lot of the queries come from parents of students here who can not get in touch with them, and they call in various languages”.
One of the key drivers for this support has been with the students, “we are not alien to students calling in for support but of course the magnitude of support needed has meant we had to step up in both the quantum of people needed to support and the innovative approaches we are having to take” Amit explains.
“Initial phone calls were panic we want to go back to India, now it’s more genuine people calling with issues linked to healthcare, accommodation or food support- so now we are putting our resources into this support. How can we ensure for example a Indian family stuck here in the UK who needs their insulin, the NHS system is unknown to them, they do not have a prescription, and would have no idea where to go to get insulin”.
What we are going through is unprecedented irrespective of who you are, COVID-19 is not sparing anyone and it is community heroes like Amit and his team who have stepped in to support the community, and what a gap to fill. We appluad you INSA team, keep up the great work.
If you are a student of a Indian national stuck in the UK and need support during COVD-19 you can contact Amit and his team via Facebook; INSAUK, Twitter; @INSAUK and Instagram; INSA_UK
Lets all clap for our INSA #communityheroes team