Here I Am

Rekha Balakrishnan

More than 70 volunteers are part of the Here I Am squad, a Bengaluru-based initiative whose mission is to perform the final rites of COVID-19 victims. A Google form was circulated, which volunteers could use to sign up. Depending on different age groups, volunteers were segregated for different tasks. There are four helpline numbers for Bengaluru East, West, North, and South to take calls for help.

After the documentation is done (Aadhaar card details, death certificate, COVID-positive certificate), as a coordinator, Akshaya (a volunteer-coordinator of the initiative) calls the family member to ask what they require. Those who cannot afford a coffin are sent one.

Initially, free transportation of the bodies to the burial/cremation sites was done in association with the Mercy Angels, but now the group uses ambulances donated by VTT, a local enterprise.

Volunteers are also present from morning to night at the funeral sites to help family members of the deceased.

Once the number of cases reduced, the Here I Am initiative decided to halt its activities in January 2021. But as soon as the second wave hit India, the volunteers were back on the field, without even being asked, Akshaya says.

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