Every morning, amidst the days of the pandemic in 2020, when hospitals were overburdened, homeless migrants and burning pyres dominated the news, volunteers of Project Mumbai
took some joy in smiles they were spreading the faces of children among whom they had just distributed bananas and packets of biscuits. In 2021, as the situation eased a bit, they moved on to donating mobile phones among municipal school students so that they could attend online classes. The NGO also deposited Rs. 25,000 each in the name of 3 girls who lost a parent to Covid-19.
Shishir Joshi, founder and CEO of Project Mumbai, said, “It has offered them a sense of security because they have some money to meet their expenses.” Project Mumbai is an NGO which won the United Nations SDG Solidarity Action Award 2020 for its Covid relief work. The NGO was among 50 organisations globally to receive this award.
Project Mumbai is a public private people partnership model, is focusing on initiatives in areas of healthcare, environment, governance and education
. Their target group changes depending on the situation. 2020 was about providing meals, medical aid, sanitisers and PPE kits. In 2021, the NGO focused on providing medical equipment, oxygen cylinders, financial assistance to those who lost the means of livelihood during the pandemic.
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In the second wave, the NGO also launched a free delivery service of oxygen concentrators to those below poverty line, provided ventilators to as many as 15 districts of Maharashtra. But their work didn’t stop with number of Covid cases diminishing. After the second wave, he partnered with the Maharashtra govt to provide education of children across state who lost a parent to Covid-19. Joshi said that almost 12,000 children across Maharashtra have lost at least one parent to Covid and there are more than 400 who have lost both. So far, the NGO has donated money towards paying the school fees of 65 students after verifying details of the requests.
In June, when Mumbai was trying hard to get their hands on vaccines, Project Mumbai launched vaccination drives
for neglected sections of society, like those in prison and destitute homes or people without ID cards, like street dwellers. The unique ones Mumbai, done in collaboration with the state authorities, were conducted at Arthur Road and Byculla prisons, and the Regional Mental Hospital in Thane. They have also provided door-to-door vaccinations for the bedridden / homebound. He said, “There is immense relief and happiness on the faces of family members when their elderly and homebound get doorstep vaccination support, especially when stepping out remains a huge risk.”
Their work hasn’t cease here. He says, “The pandemic has affected people beyond their physical health. Mental health and means of livelihood have also been severely impacted. Children’s education has suffered.”
To address these issues, Project Mumbai launched a toll-free mental health counselling helpline in Marathi
, and also launched a free data top-up for the municipal school children to ensure their studies continue without disturbance. It is also in talks with a digital educational platform to upload free content on to children’s phones to provide them with quality content. Joshi says that the pandemic has been particularly tough on children. Their focus is on their emotional wellbeing, as well as their education. They only want to see a smile on the face of every beneficiary child.