Neha has the kind of perseverance and grit you read about in superhero books. The ones where the superhero is admired for saving an entire town of people and fighting off an invasive villain. He inserts himself into the heart of the problem, risks his own safety, and asks for nothing in return. He’s the one running toward danger while everyone else is running away from it. Except in this story, Neha is a woman, and she’s not the main character of a fictional novel. She’s the Changemaker of Daheru, a village in Punjab comprised of about 2,000 people, and the villain she’s fighting is Covid-19.
The devastating effects of the Coronavirus have been felt around the globe. From quarantine and lockdown to high death tolls and insufficient medical supplies, everyone has had to alter their way of living to accommodate the pandemic.
Neha, an employee at RoundGlass Foundation, took it upon herself to enact change in her village when she noticed that people didn’t thoroughly understand the severity of the virus. Some villagers were making a mockery of Covid-19 and deeming it was planned by the government. To combat this widespread misconception, Neha saw an opportunity to connect with healthcare workers, gather data regarding the number of people who still needed to be vaccinated, and spread awareness about the importance of getting the vaccine.
Whether she is hosting an informational meeting to educate people about stopping the spread of the Coronavirus or going door to door and encouraging villagers to get vaccinated, Neha is persistent about protecting people against the harmful reality of Covid-19’s side effects. She sees it as her duty to engage in #VillageKindness and educate her neighbors, especially during the pandemic.
Although she has seen a positive response from her efforts, Neha has faced a lot of difficulties. Only about 10-13% of villagers in Daheru have been vaccinated, leaving the vast majority of people unvaccinated. Neha has leveraged the support of Sarpanch, the head of the village, to spread awareness of the Coronavirus, knowing that he is well-respected and highly regarded in the community.
Being the observant and clever woman she is, Neha also coordinated an event for children in Daheru to make a “Covid dos and don’ts” video with their mothers, focusing on social distancing and handwashing concepts. She is aware that strengthening children’s knowledge is powerful for many reasons. One of them is that when children are educated, they go home to their parents and enlighten them with their knowledge. The transmission of information helps to educate more people about how to protect themselves and their families from contracting the virus.
In addition to the videos, Neha advised the children to make posters about the severity of Covid-19 and helped them hang their posters around the village for people to see and read.
Before the pandemic forced the village into lockdown, Neha offered free education to children at the community center in Daheru. She taught all subjects but had a primary focus on teaching Punjabi. Some children in the village are encouraged to learn English, but many also do not know how to properly read and write in their own mother tongue.
Neha often had to teach herself the material before teaching the children, and she did so through the use of YouTube videos, the internet, and the children’s school books. It is important to Neha that children are educated and that there’s more of an incentive for girls and women to have opportunities to take on roles outside of the house. She wants to help elevate the status of women and break the stigma that men are more capable of doing valuable work.
Changemaker is a title that Neha is proud to have. She has a passion for helping children, but she feels called to help anyone who approaches her and needs assistance because of her tenacity and empathy. A listening ear, a helping hand, and a knack for service are what inspire Neha to donate food, raise funds, and promote factual information time and time again.
When asked if she had any plans to organize more events for the community, Neha said that she concentrates on solving problems as they arise. She encounters each situation that needs assistance with a determined attitude and doesn’t give up until it’s settled. Neha does whatever she can to help out families in need, despite not being very financially stable herself. When there is an issue that she can’t solve independently, she elicits the help of her coordinator, and together they brainstorm ways to find a resolution.
It’s easy to feel defeated and overwhelmed during this tumultuous time. It’s even easier to stick to the status quo and refrain from getting involved with the general welfare of an entire village. Neha has shown how invested she is in her community and her deep affinity for service to others while being appointed Changemaker during the pandemic. She has gone above, and beyond spreading #VillageKindness and has shown that being a Changemaker is a position she was made for. The impact she has had on the village has not gone unnoticed.
Superheroes go above and beyond what is expected of them and act selflessly. They protect their communities at all costs, and they find a way to prevail in the end. The people of Daheru may not have elected Neha as “Superhero of the Village,” but there is no doubt that as a “Changemaker,” she is precisely that.