Odias living in the UK are rallying together to support one another in these difficult times when the entire world is affected due to COVID-19. Members of the Odia Society of UK (OSUK) have formed a WhatsApp group to stay connected and help each other.
Healthcare is very effective in the UK but people are scared as many medics and paramedics are also losing their lives in the Corona battle. Even some Odias (including very good doctors) have already succumbed to the pandemic. COVID dial-in number 111 and emergency dial-in number 999 in the UK help to some extent, but the long wait is very frustrating.
My place Norwich in Norfolk County is famous as it is a private estate (Sandringham House) of the Queen used for her winter vacations and other private breaks. After the pandemic spread its tentacles in the UK, schools were not closed immediately as they did not receive the go-ahead from the Government. They were worried that if the schools are closed, the parents, most of whom are working, would find it difficult to manage. Another factor was that not all workplaces had a work-from-home option.
Children of parents who are working for some departments, which are treated as frontline offices, like NHS, Carriers, Police, Utilities and other emergency wings, are still going to school. They are under a special caregiver. The parents pick them up on their way back home.
My wife and I are also working but have taken the work-from-home option. So our daughter, Olivia does not have to go to school. Olivia is now busy with online classes and the school is monitoring the progress giving homework and issuing appreciation e-letters, e-awards etc.
Although the Norwich Odia community is small (around 35 families), the members are in touch through a common WhatsApp group. Actually, the group existed even before, since we celebrate all the festivals, Holi, Raja, Saraswati/Ganesh Puja, Kuanra Punei and Diwali together. Now, during the pandemic the members are helping each other to pick up groceries. With wide acceptance from this initiative, we have extended to Norwich India Community (300+) and to another nearby city like Ipswich (where I work).
The Indian stores here were out of stock in the initial days of the pandemic but all the supermarkets were open with enough stock (barring Aatta). The main problem we are facing now is getting medicines barring those meant for common ailments like cold and cough that can be bought over the counter. Getting a prescription involves even a longer waiting period. Besides, many stores are closed and sanitisers etc are in short supply. We maintain social distancing everywhere.
Many stores have opened now with reduced working hours and slots for senior citizens when no other age groups are allowed to enter. Some stores are operating with click and collect mode (buying things over the internet from home and then collecting them from the store from a designated spot at a certain time). Some Indian stores helped us with home- delivery.
Some stores are scanning debit/credit cards across closed glass doors/gates.
On the work-from-home experience my take is that the offshore companies like mine based in India and my wife’s (a British company) challenges are different. Firstly, companies in the UK, irrespective of their headquarters ask their staff to sign a NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) first and once the workstations and networks are ready, the work can start from home.
While my wife has been given a large screen and a comfortable chair to work from home, I am managing with my office supplied laptop and a normal chair of mine (which is naturally not ergonomically designed for work purpose). Luckily, I was provided with a laptop stand, headset, Wi-Fi mouse and Wi-Fi keyboard which are helping me.
Secondly working with Indian network and the local UK British network has also got its own issues and a person working from home has to work on the network optimization and security maintenance issues as well. We are onsite and helping our offshore teammates by working long hours to cover their challenges. Connecting to the customer network here is a bit easier/quicker than our offshore counterparts.
Members of Odia group facilitate a forum of doctors (who deal with COVID -19 cases daily) to get their viewpoints and answers to Coronavirus related queries via video conferencing or offline depending upon their availability. The questions could be on how to deal with symptoms, how to get relief, food habit, treatments, home remedies, how to know when your condition is critical etc. The doctors are also helping the community members in the best possible way.
There is also a forum for teachers who can teach /guide the students. They share “Teaching remotely resources and strategies’’ for various grades, with the families to keep the children busy with learning and occupied with lots of board games, library books, tinkering/up cycling with household junks. Virtual tours of famous museums, thinking games by grades etc are some of the awesome ideas for home schools.
OSUK is also taking similar steps to provide general advice related to COVID through our NHS doctors who have volunteered to help and support.
We had a clapping session to encourage our brave NHS staffers, who are working tirelessly during this extremely challenging situation.