Vinod Kumar has been a volunteer with the Alwar Network for People living with HIV (ANP+) as a part of the Social Protection COVID programme team. While talking about his experience, Vinod tells us that he has worked in 46 villages in the 3 blocks assigned to him. His view is that networks are necessary for teasing out problems and finding solutions. For instance, he recalls how he met a few widows in a village who had not received their pension. “They then talked to other widows in the area, many of whom had not been receiving pensions. They all collectively came to us” says Vinod. These women, he says, do not have anywhere to go, and no one to tell their problems to. “They can’t talk to their families, because they don’t support these women. I, along with some others, reached out to their families and explained to them why they needed to support these women,” says Vinod. Similarly, there were societal barriers to vaccination in Muslim-dominated areas where he worked. People were afraid that the vaccine would render them barren or impotent and refused to even talk to the volunteers. It was only after contacting community leaders that the volunteers could get through to the people.
While vaccination for all has been the primary target for the government, there are certain sections of the population that have been overlooked. Vinod was informed of an elderly person living on the outskirts of a village, who was not vaccinated. “I paid that person a visit and asked him to get vaccinated. He was more than willing, but he couldn’t go to the hospital since he was disabled”, recalls Vinod. In the absence of a caretaker, it was virtually impossible for the elderly person to get vaccinated. Vinod promptly contacted the village Sarpanch and arranged transportation for that person, and was finally able to get him vaccinated.
Vinod has been with ANP+ for 5 months but has worked in this field for over 6 years. He saw the work the programme was doing and decided to join them since he believes it is essential to form community-level resistance to the virus and its repercussions.