When her father became infected with the coronavirus, Sumona Khanom struggled to find a bed for him at Dhaka Medical College Hospital. The hospital was already crowded with too many patients.
This was not her only struggle. Her family did not have enough money to buy food. And she was extremely tired. But then, some comfort came.
Volunteers working for the Bidyanondo Foundation brought her family a gift basket. It was filled with fruit -- mangoes, lychees, oranges, apples, and lemons -- as well as other food. There was also a get-well card for her father. It read, “We are here to stand by you.”
The Bidyanondo Foundation, established in 2013, is known for its food assistance programs for street children and the poor. Now it is also known for building awareness of COVID-19 in the community. Its name, Bidyanondo, means “learn for fun.”
The foundation began supporting COVID victims after hearing news reports of abuse of victims, or hostility toward them.
One family abandoned an old woman in a forest near their home. They feared she was infected with the coronavirus. In another incident, a father came home from work with a high temperature. His family did not take him to a hospital. Instead, they locked him in his room, where he died. Other families have refused to take bodies for burial.
Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed her regret about incidents like these in a speech in Parliament.
The Bidyanondo Foundation’s Salman Khan Yeasin said “those news reports are very shocking.” He said that usually when someone becomes sick, relatives gather at the hospital. But this time, he added, is different.
Foundation officials said families should understand how important it is to support those fighting COVID-19. This is the time when they need their family the most.
On its website, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States says stigma surrounding sickness is not uncommon. CDC experts explain that fear about a disease can lead to social stigma. They add that a person who has recovered from COVID-19 or has been released from quarantine can also be stigmatized.
Yeasin said that “in this time of corona(virus), humanity” is slowly disappearing. To fight the stigma surrounding COVID-19, the foundation said it wants to demonstrate ways to treat those infected with more kindness and humanity.
The foundation depends mostly on crowdfunding. It has built a partnership with the military, military agencies and about 80 other groups across Bangladesh.
Since June 1, the group has given out about 1,400 gift baskets. In March, the Dhaka Tribune reported that the foundation was giving out protective supplies such as face masks and hand cleaner.
Yeasin said that the first responsibility of the foundation is to support patients and build awareness. However, it does not want doctors and other health workers to be forgotten.
“Many health workers are staying outside home, away from their families to provide health care,” he said. “We wanted to thank them. They also need mental support.”
So, the foundation has sent health care workers thank you cards. One reads: “We become brave to do more (for people) seeing your efforts, we know you will continue [to] fight to save our lives if we become ill tomorrow.”
Many support Bidyanondo’s efforts. Sumona Khanom said she is thankful that the foundation has come forward to help her father.
“I hope,” she said, “they would come forward to help all other fathers.”
I’m Anna Matteo.
The AP reported this story. Anna Matteo adapted it for VOA Learning English, using addition information from the CDC and the Dhaka Tribune. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
Words in This Story
comfort –n. a state or feeling of being less worried, upset, frightened, etc., during a time of trouble or emotional pain : –v. to cause (someone) to feel less worried, upset, frightened, etc.
get-well card –n. a greeting card sent to a person who is unwell, expressing a wish for a speedy recovery
abandon - v. to leave and never return
stigma – n. a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something
humanitarian – adj. a person who works to make other people's lives better : humane : humanity
quarantine –n. the period of time during which a person who has a disease being kept away from others
crowdfunding – n. the practice of obtaining needed funding (as for a new business) by soliciting contributions from a large number of people especially from the online community