Hello, my name is Sanjeevani Gaadi. I travel to different villages across India. My job is to visit villages across the country while providing communities with valuable information on COVID-19 that could help protect them from the virus.
Looking back at how the world changed in January 2020 was something no one could have prepared me for. Watching the virus travel from country to country, infiltrating homes, has left people with more questions than answers. Fortunately, this is something that I can help with.On my current route, I visit 5 districts across the country which has led to some interesting conversations. Each day, I have the pleasure of interacting with hundreds of community members as I travel between villages. My journey takes me to both, urban and rural localities which provides me with the opportunity to interact with a diverse group of people. The profile of these individuals spans across age groups, socio-economic backgrounds and genders. Even though we are at a crucial point in the pandemic where vaccines are now available, my job as the Sanjeevani Gaadi is as important as ever. For instance, on my last visit to Indore, I was asked many questions about the vaccine. The most common one being “Agar tika lagaya to COVID-19 infection hoga kya?” (If we take the vaccine, can we still get infected with COVID?). Some people also ask “Tika kaha milega?”(Where can we get vaccinated?). I always make sure I travel with plenty of informative leaflets, messages and a team that answers everyone’s questions. Often, small children run up to me, announcing my arrival to their families. “Gaadi aa gayi!”(The van has come!). To maximize outreach, it is important to adopt an inclusive approach to ensure that my messages reach everyone without having literacy as a barrier. For this, my audio-visual screen projects “how-to” videos on key points such as registering for the vaccine, following covid appropriate behavior etc. This way, people can use me as a visual guide when they need help. Some also register themselves while watching my videos which shows the benefits of using multiple forms of communication to create awareness. Positive responses mean more people are practicing COVID-19 appropriate behavior, which in turn, will make their communities a safer place to live.
My job also entails addressing vaccine hesitancy. Myths and misconceptions have scared people into forgoing vaccinations entirely, but these are the people that I am most eager to interact with. In stark contrast to the questions mentioned previously, some of the responses include statements such as “People are dying even after being vaccinated, why should I take the risk?’ and “I don’t believe in foreign substances going into my body”. Such individuals could have been directly impacted by COVID-19 and/or have deep-rooted thoughts that contradict what modern science has to offer. These are the villages that I spend more time in, attempting to undo what could possibly be years of misconception. By highlighting the importance of getting vaccinated to protecting oneself, one’s family and breaking the chain of infection, I have had the pleasure of witnessing people slowly discover the wonder that is scientific facts and evidence that supports the benefits of being vaccinated. I also talk to them about other individuals, just like them, who have registered themselves because of the information-based support that I have been able to provide.
Additionally, there is strength in numbers. By following this ideology, I try and interact with village officials such as the Sarpanch, Gram Panchayat etc. during each visit. By doing so I can reach a wider audience and enlist their support to promote COVID-19 appropriate behaviour and reduce vaccine hesitancy. They also help spread positive messages about me, Sanjeevani. This often reaches leaders in other villages who then welcome me into their communities. By being able to travel across state lines, I also have the opportunity to share my learnings which enables my team to provide targeted support in the selected districts. By understanding where reservations come from and linking beneficiaries to the assistance they require, I, Sanjeevani Gaadi, play a key role in breaking the chain of infection by improving knowledge levels, attitudes and practices amongst members of society. By staying up to date with current, relevant information, I am also seen as a trustworthy source, which, in today’s climate, can go a long way in helping reduce the risk of being infected with COVID-19. Over the next few months, my goal is to reach out to over 3200000 individuals and provide them with the knowledge-based support they need to feel safer.
To the selected villages in Indore, Guntur, Dakshina Kannada, Nashik and Amritsar – I look forward to seeing you soon.
Tara Raghunath, Coordinator, Community Investment, United Way Mumbai