CHENNAI: #EachOneReachOne. This was one of the hashtags trending worldwide on Twitter the past few days. Away from the spotlight, women’s wheelchair basketball players of Tamil Nadu are following that motto to ease the pain under the lockdown enforced in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. In a display of grit and compassion, Malathi Raja has been engaging in volunteer work to help the physically challenged community in this crisis.
She has also encouraged some of her teammates, who stay at the Chennai Corporation shelter for differently-abled persons, to stitch masks. Metilda, Mary, Kalai, Nadhiya and Kavitha are doing just that, using reusable fabrics. Malathi has so far helped around 200 people with dry ration, medicines and other essentials. The 35-year-old bank employee coordinates with others to reach out to the needy. It began with providing teammates with basic essentials.
At the government-run shelter, women are assured of accommodation and food under normal circumstances, mainly with the help of donations. However, with everything coming to a grinding halt, they struggled to get essentials like sanitary napkins and baby diapers.“As a person who understands the needs of the physically challenged people, I wanted to help with whatever I can. Since I can’t step out, I coordinate with people who are willing to help,” Malathi said.
To reach a wider audience and spread the message further, she took to Facebook. The response was encouraging, as people came forward to volunteer and donate. “When I get to know there is a need for a specific item, I spread the word among my friends and family members who stay near that area and see if they can deliver it to the people concerned. Sometimes, NGOs help,” said the sole bread winner of her five-member family. “I got messages from people asking for basic needs like rice, pulses, etc.
Some even asked for cash. We have delivered even to Puducherry, Bengaluru and Tiruchirapalli,” added Malathi. At the shelter which accommodates close to 30 women, who are either physically challenged or from economically backward communities, they work close to 10 hours making 300 single and double- layered masks a day. “With everything coming to standstill, players wanted to contribute in this time of crisis. Once they came up with the idea of stitching masks, I posted it on Facebook,” she said. These masks are used mostly by sanitary workers of the Corporation.
Coping with mental stress Although Malathi provides a helping hand, she had to fight her own demons in the initial phase of the lockdown: mental anguish. Working from home, she spends long hours in a seated position. The discomfort in the back led to mental stress. Malathi acknowledges this kind of stress might be common among people with disabilities and urges them to seek help. To cope with this, she sought the help of doctors as well as her basketball teammates. “I discussed it with other players as to what we can do to overcome the pain and stress. We try to motivate each other and keep our spirits up. Gradually, things are falling in place,” she said. For details, call Malathi on 9840682726