I have been working in various disasters like cyclone, floods, droughts, tsunamis and so on since last 21 years. Health emergencies like COVID19 are always very tricky for various reasons. There are no ‘visual effects of large-scale destruction’ like that of a big natural disaster like Tsunami or a cyclone. The  pathogenic microorganisms, such as Corona virus that cause the disease is invisible, dangerous but predictable. Predictable in the sense if we take all the precautions, we can avoid getting the disease. Apart from the medical aspect, there is fear, social discrimination and stigma of disease, loss of livelihoods. This is my second experience working in a health emergency like COVID19 pandemic. Earlier I worked in Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone where thousands died. But COVID 19 pandemic is much bigger in scale and impact. COVID 19 is an example of one of the most destructive global pandemics in history. Whatever may be the type of health emergency, it is important to respond quickly to reduce its impact and minimize the loss of lives.

I was involved in an organisation called ActionAid with our local partners and volunteers to provide cooked food, dry ration, hygiene kits to the families and it was real pleasure to see the smiles on the faces of families, especially children. In some areas our volunteers helped in engaging with children – bringing awareness on corona virus and safety measures, helping children in learning lessons or reading books. Girls who leave education and sit at home are likely to get married, so it is essential to talk to their parents to continue their education. Overall, this has been a rewarding experience for me as personally everyone is facing problems but to find time to work for others’ happiness is a blessing in itself.

As I was preparing for the Christmas holidays in 2014, I got a call for the Emergency Fast Action Support Team (EFAST) deployment to Sierra Leone. I welcomed the opportunity to use my experiences and learnings from managing humanitarian projects. Although concerns of personal safety was there, with God’s grace and blessings I was able to serve the people there with my utmost ability. This year in February, I went to work in Mozambique food crisis. With God’s grace and Swamiji’s blessings, I was able to complete the work. Just a day before the lockdown I was able to fly back to India in the last flight to India before the lockdown. Miracle! Otherwise I would have stuck in Mozambique for quite some time. I was quarantined for 15 days on my arrival.

The quarantine days was a blessing for me as I found more time for contemplation and it was sheer blessings to do Navaratri Yajna along with Swamiji virtually. ( Actually I had planned to go Badrika Ashram during this period). This gave me lot of strength. I realized that if you are bent on doing good surrendering the fruits of action to God and Guru, his grace will save you and your life will be strewn with miracles. After the quarantine period, I got engaged myself with the relief support to migrant labourer and to the victims of cyclone Amphan. Due to this relentless action which involved contact with public, I tested positive for COVID. But lo behold another miracle – I was with absolutely no symptoms for COVID 19. I was happy that another opportunity for contemplation was given to me. Thus, from one Navaratri to another, there was lot of challenges and surprises. What a year 2020 has been! But God’s grace and Guru’s blessings and sincere action were the key to tide over any challenges crisis. Thanks and Pranams Swamiji.

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Debabrata Patra

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