The news of pandemic began to creep into everyone’s life in early 2020, with lockdown announcements in most countries across the world. The UK’s lockdown in March 2020 brought a set of extraordinary circumstances, impacting thousands of Indian in the UK and some Indian nationals who were on a short visit to Britain for exams or other reasons.
Recognising the reasonable panic among the stranded students and nationals, INSA UK stepped up to help the needy and the distressed.
INSA, in collaboration with FISI (Friends of India Society International), set up a dedicated team of 35+ volunteers to address the crisis faced by the stranded Indian students and nationals. Towards the end of the first lockdown, INSA and FISI were able to address 4,800 queries from students, deliver 25,000 meals (grocery & prepared food) through a network of volunteers, helped with 380+ temporary accommodation issues; responded to 3,300 social media inquiries across all platforms; and also supported 70 people with health-related problems.
INSA also conducted four Positive Connect Webinars addressed by famous personalities and attended by hundreds of students. Our work was appreciated by various national and international media houses, both here in the UK and around the world.
As the restrictions slowly started easing up from early June, a majority of students got used to the new virtual world and were more equipped to deal with the pandemic. INSA continued to support those in need, including with part-time jobs, food, and provide advice regarding visa and immigration as well as complex travel-related issues.
Come December 2020, with the Covid cases continuing to rise at a fast rate, could foresee another imminent lockdown that was going to hit the UK, and knowing the consequences of it, INSA quickly jumped into mobilising its volunteers for the upcoming needs of students. While the student support via social media continued, INSA talked about precautionary measures at its events, one of which was also joined by Sri Manmeet Singh, Minister (Co-ordination), High Commission of India, London. The event provided answers to many frequently asked questions, ranging from admissions to jobs, visa rules to life in the UK, and other problems exacerbated as a result of the pandemic crisis.
Apart from events and online support, INSA has a pool of supporters, connections with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and with alumni networks of various universities (such as IITs, IIMs, LBS, Imperial etc) in India and the UK. Often our links have come to the rescue of students left in dire situations.
Most recently, INSA was approached by a group of students left in the lurch by employers who turned away from honouring their job offers. INSA’s network came in full force to help the students, providing legal advice, and to find alternative roles.
While the UK is witnessing another wave of cases, Team INSA remains poised and experienced in helping the students. And with its growing network, INSA can provide help to every part of the UK and beyond.
With every new challenge, we try to better ourselves with the belief that we are all part of a big family and selfless service or sewa is the highest form of dharma.
by Kishore Dattu & Akshat Jaganmohan
Design Engineer Kishore Dattu is the Mentor for North England and Scotland Coordinator with the Indian National Students Association UK (INSA UK) and Healthcare Entrepreneur Akshat Jaganmohan is INSA UK’s Mentor and Midlands Coordinator.
*This column is part of a regular 'iGlobal' series