Amrita Helpline Comes to the Rescue of Thousands of Lives During Kerala Floods
- Volunteers fielded more than 25,000 calls over five days.
- More than 100,000 flood victims were assisted via the Helpline, connecting them with rescue crews from the Navy, Kerala Police, NDRF and local fisherman
During the Kerala floods, students and faculty at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham’s Amritapuri campus were desperate to think of some way to help the lakhs of flood victims throughout the state. Feeling that they had to do something, on 16th of August, volunteers from the campus set up a 24-hour call-in rescue helpline. Within five days, the team had fielded more than 25,000 calls, connecting more than 100,000 flood victims across the state with appropriate relief services, including government officials, the Navy, NDRF, Kerala State Police, local fishermen and other volunteering agencies. The helpline services also ensured that rescued victims were provided with food and clothing and other basic necessities.
The Amrita Help Line was set up at Amritapuri Campus at 1:00 pm on August 16 in association with Amrita Yuva Dharma Dhara (AYUDH), the international youth movement of Mata Amritanandamayi Math. More than 400 Amrita students and staff worked in three shifts for five days straight, with 20 phone lines in parallel servicing the Help Line number in order to ensure that every single call was answered. Not only did the Amrita volunteers work the phone line, they also fielded help requests via social media as well.
“I can say with confidence that we fielded every single call that came in,” said A.R. Amritesh, the AYUDH coordinator for Amritapuri campus, who helped with the operations. “Each of the student volunteers would ensure the caller’s information was passed on to the relevant rescue teams. They would then follow through until the stranded persons were secured to safety.”
The Amrita volunteers used special techniques to identify and verify information from the Internet and social media about locations, routes, relief agencies, volunteers and suppliers. They then conveyed this information to rescue teams to help them precisely target their operations. This commitment made the services provided by Amrita Helpline invaluable and popular both among the public and rescue teams. In addition, the Helpline also coordinated the distribution of food, clothes, medicines, and other essentials among the rescues.
The Amrita Helpline also helped provide assurances to relatives of flood victims living abroad. “There are Malayalees all over the world,” said AYUDH Core Committee Member Ramesh Azhakesan. “The fact that we were able to field calls from the Gulf, Europe and the U.S. and help families learn the whereabouts and safety of their relatives gave thousands of people a lot of relief.”
The Amrita Helpline was a demonstration of how technology and teamwork can help during calamities through the positive use social media. The motivation for Amrita Helpline came from the Compassionate Kerala group, an initiative by former Calicut Collector Prashanth Nair, IAS, for the benefit of the flood-affected.
“I can speak for all of the volunteers when I say that we were ecstatic to be able to help in this small way,” said Amritesh. “We got a lot of positive feedback from the Indian Air Force and Navy, telling us that the information collected through the Amrita Helpline helped them to better target their rescue and relief operations and to follow through with greater speed.”
Swami Amritaswarupananda Puri, the Vice-Chairman of Mata Amritanandamayi Math, handed over a cheque of Rs 10 crore on behalf of the world-renowned humanitarian and spiritual leader Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (Amma) to the Hon’ble Chief Minster of Kerala Sh. Pinarayi Vijayan as contribution to the Kerala Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund for flood relief.