Real Heroes of Coronavirus: Project SKAR lends a helping hand to make India safe with one shield at a time
Project SKAR co-founder Karamjyot Singh Chawla talks about the reason behind starting the crowdfunding initiative to help frontline workers and challenges they faced in the sixth episode of 'Real Heroes of Coronavirus'
Project SKAR initiative was started by four like-minded individuals residing in Bandra, with the aim to carry out charity work and contribute to the fight against COVID-19. After a few initial hiccups, Project SKAR is leading the fight against COVID-19 by providing face masks and face shields to India's frontline workers including doctors, nurses, police personnel, BMC workers, security guards and shopkeepers.
So how did Project SKAR come into existence?
Karamjyot Singh Chawla, co-founder of Project SKAR explained the idea behind the project, "While rushing back to India from Canada after the COVID outbreak, I saw how panicky people were about the entire coronavirus situation. While boarding, an old woman was offloaded by the crew because of the risk posed by coronavirus for senior citizens. The incident rattled everyone in the flight. Even after donning certified N95 masks many fliers were afraid. At that moment, a thought came to my mind - What about our frontline workers and doctors? They were treating infected patients despite shortage of protective equipment and that thought was horrific. An immediate desire to do something to support the frontline workers arose and that is how the idea took shape."
Karamjyot Singh Chawla with Abhishek Trimukhe, DCP Mumbai police zone 9
Project SKAR is an initiative led by four students - Sarabjyot Chawla, Karamjyot Chawla, Avneesh Bhargava, and Rishika Bhargava and the name SKAR has been conceptualised using initial letters of the names of the four founders. The group aims to raise funds and provide face masks and face shields to frontline workers who are risking their lives for others in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the help of Congress leader Asif Zakaria, the team took a big step by joining hands with the local civic body in Mumbai with the aim to provide protective equipment to frontline workers. Project SKAR then piloted a city wide initiate which saw eager citizens from Worli, Goregaon and Versova, wanting to participate and be a part of the noble cause. Initially, they started with the distribution of face shields, later Project SKAR met India's largest manufacturer of school bags and began making face masks. Gradually, Project SKAR tied up with the BMC, the police department and few hospitals in Mumbai to distribute face shields and masks.
To date, Project SKAR has distributed over 20,000 face shield to frontline workers including doctors and security guards
"Today, Project SKAR is operating in 8 cities including Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Bangalore, Daman, Vapi, Baroda, Delhi, and Panipat among others. From a small drive of distributing face shields in Bandra, we expanded to other places in Mumbai and soon began distribution in other cities too. We have distributed over 30,000 masks and face shields across the country till now to migrant labourers, doctors, nurses, BMC workers, police officials and other frontline workers who need it the most," said Karamjyot Chawla.
Project SKAR opted for crowdfunding in order to raise money to support their cause. Interestingly, the team came up with this unique concept that every time they sold a face shield or a face mask, instead of taking the money they asked people to donate the amount on their crowdfunding link www.ketto.org.
What prompted them to opt for such a method? Karamjyot explained, "Few people thought that we sold the masks, shields and pocketed the money. To ensure transparency, we asked people to donate money on our crowdfunding page instead of paying us the amount, which we used for helping the frontline workers."
"Our motive is 1+1 = 3" added Karamjyot. Explaining the math behind the logic he elaborated, "Every time we sell a face shield, Project SKAR and its vendors donate one extra shield to frontline workers. For example, when Rs 100 is raised by selling a face shield, Project SKAR donates two face shields to the front-line workers." To date, Project SKAR has raised over Rs 8,50,000 in Mumbai and Rs 4 lakh in Delhi through their Ketto crowdfunding page. In the last 40 days, they raised nearly Rs 15 lakh through crowdfunding to buy masks and face shields in order to help the frontline workers. Project SKAR has distributed over 20,000 face shields and nearly 30,000 face masks.
"It was not a smooth sailing in the begining," said Karamjyot as he talked about the challenges. "We faced a lot of challenges with the distribution process. It was tough for people to go out during the COVID-19 pandemic. We made sure that our office workers who helped us with the distribution were wearing proper PPE kits and following the guidelines laid down by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Even during our visit to the slums for distribution, we were accompanied by BMC and Police authorities. We have taken all safety measures and have full support of the civic body and police department as they know what we are doing."
Initially, Project SKAR distributed face shiedls to nearly 450 people at Pali Hill in Bandra
Along with the challenge of the distribution of masks and face shields, Project SKAR was also facing the shortage of equipment with the rise in demand. Even 1,000 face shields distributed to the police force, were not enough because of the daily use of the equipment. "In order to match up to the demand, we also needed to come up with funds and sometimes it was tough to raise money though crowdfunding as there are so many events happening that people are often confused about whom all to donate," said Karamjyot.
Project SKAR has got support from nearly 40 young ambassadors, who are helping them to distribute masks and face shields across different parts of the country. Talking about future plans, Karamjyot stated that post COVID-19, the team will focus on other issues that concerns the people of the country.
"Stay safe, stay indoors and do whatever little bit you can for the frontline workers as they are doing their job selflessly to serve all of us. We must follow the rules and the guidelines laid down by the government," said Karamjyot before signing off.
The cost of the facemask and face shield sold by Project SKAR
The number of face mask that the group of four friends have distributed till date
The number of face shields Project SKAR has donated to frontline workers
Rs 8.50 lakh
The amount Project SKAR has raised through crowdfunding in Mumbai
Rs 15 lakh
The amount Project SKAR has raised through crowdfunding in the last 40 days
You can donate to Project SKAR's cause at: One shield at a Time
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