From the marginalised to frontliners

Rajib Kanti Roy

19 May, 2021 12:00 AM printer

From the marginalised to frontliners

Transgender volunteers are helping a female patient put on oxygen support at Dhaka Medical College Hospital. The photo was taken recently. — MD NASIR UDDIN

Kashfiya Mahmud, a daughter of COVID-19 survivor, has donated some personal protective equipment to the members of Brihannala, a social organisation, which has been working at Dhaka Medical College and Hospital to help patients with various diseases.

More than half of the volunteers of the organisation are transgender.

Volunteers of Brihannala have been extending support to the Covid-19 patients and their relatives since April 15 at the hospital.

“I have given them head shades, face shields, sanitisers, gloves and masks to be a part of their noble work. All should support them as they are doing an excellent job for hapless Covid-19 patients,” Kashfiya said while talking to the Daily Sun.

Recalling her personal experience, she said when she was taking her Covid-19 infected father Fazle Mahmud to DMCH a couple of weeks ago, she did not know how she would admit her ailing father and manage everything.

But as soon as their ambulance reached the Covid unit of DMCH, Kashfiya found that a group of volunteers wearing orange jackets rushed to their ambulance.

One of the volunteers was holding a placard where it was written that “I am a volunteer. How can I help you?”

After a little chat with her regarding her father’s symptoms, they got him out of the ambulance, put him on a stretcher and took him to the Covid unit carefully.

They also did not forget to carry the necessary goods that Kashfiya and her father had brought with them from their house.

“My father has survived Covid-19. Along with the doctors and nurses of the hospital, I am grateful to the members of Brihannala as they were with us throughout this fight,” Kashfiya said.

“We will always remember how they helped us in a crisis situation when even the nearest ones leave corona patients alone and avoid standing beside them,” she added.

Brihannala members have succeeded to spread a sense of relief in the last three weeks that they are there to assist patients staying in front of the Covid unit of DMCH from morning to night every day.

A team of 15, of whom 10 are from the transgender community, and five males, help both Covid and suspected Covid patients there.

Munmun, Chadni, Sagarika, Ruhee and Priya were receiving patients and Sadiqul Islam, their team leader, was coordinating their works.

Volunteer Munmun Akter said, “We always remained on the last row of the society and went through different types of disdain in our life. Now we feel proud as we are working for those who are the most neglected people.”

“We help patients through collecting tickets for admission, showing them the right direction and sometimes carrying them to and from the wards,” she added.

They have been working since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak last year by distributing masks, and conducting awareness campaigns regarding the importance of hand washing in different places.     Their activities were closed for a few months as the number of coronavirus cases decreased in the country but they have returned due to the recent surge in corona cases.

Sadiqul Islam, a student of the Institute of Education and Research at Dhaka University and the president of Brihannala, said sometimes they felt that a few people are not ready to accept their initiative positively.

“Most of the people have appreciated our works. But a few relatives of Covid patients are not ready to accept transgender volunteers yet. Besides, a small portion of hospital staff and the brokers working here are against our voluntary works,” he said.

“We don’t consider these as big obstacles since we have chosen a greater duty of saving lives,” Sadiqul added.

Apart from assisting the Covid patients in the hospital, the members of Brihannala have also arranged a three-wheeler auto-rickshaw to serve the hapless patients and their relatives.

They transport around 10 to 15 patients every day by this vehicle.  Whenever they get informed, they bring patients and their relatives to DMCH from different corners of the capital or take them to diverse areas free of cost.