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A STORY: TINA the CHAMP AND HER TINY GANG | English Story by Dr.Daisy Lekharu


‘Where there is a will, there’s a way’

       Tina lives in a village called Dinagram somewhere in the eastern part of the country. She goes to school and is currently studying in the sixth standard. 

She lives in a small house located at one end of the village while her school is located a few miles away. She takes the public transport and sometimes also walks to school and back. Her father is a vegetable vendor and her mother goes to work in other people’s homes and does cooking and cleaning jobs. She has a younger brother who is two years old. She helps her father sometimes with the selling of vegetables by the roadside after school and helps her mother with some of the household chores as well. Tina is a very sweet, hardworking and sincere girl, studies regularly and never misses school. They have electricity in the village but often there are power cuts and she has to study under an oil lamp. They are not rich, but are self–sufficient. Her parents always encourage her to read and gain more knowledge so that one day she could have an office job, gain some respect and wouldn’t have to do the kind of work that they do. Her parents are very nice and hardworking people, but have always felt that nobody really cares for them in the society. They also could never go to school as circumstances never allowed them, but they didn’t want the same future for their children. They, however picked up the basic alphabet and numbers and could read and write and even put their signatures down. Tina is also very popular with her teachers at school and in her village Dinagram for being a nice hardworking girl. She had also been an advocate for girls in school. Due to her initiative, the school has made arrangements for access to clean water for drinking and washing including sanitation and hygiene for girls as well as stocks sanitary pads for girls who would have periods in school. She used her pocket money, which she saved by walking to school instead of taking the bus to buy sanitary pads for friends in need, and always carries one with her. She has also inspired some of her friends who have also learnt to save and keep them in a small box or container.

          Due to COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns were imposed and schools were shut down with the introduction of online teaching and learning. Tina and family had only one phone at home and a simple one to make calls. She listened to some of the classes, but the phone bills had increased and could not continue further as it was way beyond their means. Her mother had to stop working in other people’s homes and father also could not go to the market to sell vegetables as there was a lockdown and people were directed to stay home. They had some savings and managed for a while with the bare minimum that they could provide. Online classes were going on but she missed many classes. Her best friend Ayana was from the same village,  but came from a well-to-do family and had a smart phone. She told Tina to come over to her house and they would sit in their garden to take classes. Tina was happy to resume the classes and being one with a brilliant mind, she was able to catch up with the lessons that she had missed. 

        Her friend also showed her some WHO videos where there were briefings on COVID-19 and Tina found it very interesting and fascinating. She requested her friend to let her listen to all those videos. She also learnt how COVID-19 spreads and how they could protect themselves. A few days back she had heard of a few deaths due to COVID-19 close to their village and that a whole family passed away. She also learnt that wearing masks would protect people and people need to wash their hands regularly and frequently and keep distance from each other. She also learnt that vaccines were available which offer protection and were being given for free in the government run health center in their village. The briefings and some of the WHO images also showed about some new variants ‘Delta’ etc and that the new variants could infect more people and hence it was important for people to use the tools available. She also understood that if the elders behave well and followed the guidance, the children also would be protected, as there was no vaccine for children of their age and were also at risk. She also learnt that a few more villagers who had gone to the city and were against wearing mask or receiving a vaccine were infected with the virus and were asked to stay in isolation in their own homes and some had to be admitted to the hospital and needed ventilators. One of them even died due to lack of oxygen. Some authorities came and marked these houses with a cross. People were now scared of going close to these homes and Tina and friends could feel the rising new stigma and scare in the society. 

         After listening to and reading about all this and COVID-19 updates, Tina came up with an idea. She immensely thanked her friend Ayana for providing her all the new information and requested her to keep sharing. There were not too many educated people in the village and the ones that were did not give much time to educate the people in the village or even raise their awareness. Tina questioned a few of her neighbours about the use of masks, physical distancing, COVID-19 vaccines, but the results were very dismal and pathetic and she realized that people did not have any information at all, let aside knowing enough. 

        She thought it was time again for a new operation in the village. She opened her pocket-money box and went to the pharmacy to buy masks. Her friends Ayana and Ryan also did the same. They went from door-to-door in their village and talked to them about the need to wear a mask and also taught how to wear it correctly and when to wear it and also how to remove it correctly which she learnt from her watching of WHO videos and messages. Tina led the gang and assigned them different areas in the village. They also asked the people to repeat what they said to ensure that they understood correctly and requested them to share the information with other members in their families and also with friends and contacts. The news reached the village headman who was at first angry as he too refused even wearing a mask. Tina explained to him and convinced him not only to wear mask, sanitise and maintain physical distancing, but also to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Later however, he also informed some of his village folk over phone and Tina heard him say ‘Wear a mask, wash your hands regularly and go and get the vaccine if you want to stay healthy and alive.’ There were no real classes in school, but the school Principal as well her class teacher came to know about Tina and her gang and were very happy. 

         Tina had done brilliantly in the class despite not having internet access at home. The school principal and staff gifted Tina a smart phone with one-year internet access and said that they would renew it if she kept up with her efforts. The school also nominated her name to the Ministry of Education for spreading awareness and contributing to society at large. Schools have now reopened, but Tina has preserved the phone with care. She wanted to give it to her father, but he refused to take and said that she deserved it and made the family and village proud. Tina is a role model in school and many students in school now save their pocket money and use them to buy masks etc. When you go to Dinagram now, almost every body knows that masks should be worn and why, they maintain physical distancing and most people have been vaccinated. The village headman also arranged for soaps and water for hand washing at several locations in the village for people to sanitize.

        Tina was given a certificate of appreciation by the School authorities and she also requested the same to be given to her friends Ayana and Ryan as well. 

        Tina is known as a Champion and with her little gang now called the 'heroes of the village' have made their parents, school and village proud by their act of raising awareness, protecting and saving lives with their tiny brilliant minds at work. You too can strive to become champions in your own way if you believe that ‘Where there is a will, there’s a way’.

Dr.Daisy Lekharu
Writer's address:

Dr.Daisy Lekharu 

Senior Public Health Expert, Author, Poet

Geneva, Switzerland.

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