Expats in India use online groups to barter essentials, bust myths, exchange information on Covid-19

Far from their homes and locked up inside their homes in a country that is trying to control a raging pandemic, hundreds of expats living in Gurugram have found strength and hope at one place — their online WhatsApp groups.

These expats often take the help of these WhatsApp groups to post about commodities or essentials that they are running out of. The response is usually swift, with a fellow expat often volunteering to supply of essentials — like medicines or milk — for those who can’t. Views are exchanged, myths are busted about Covid-19 and messages are forwarded to their native countrymen about how India is fighting back against the virus.

Some are also using these WhatsApp groups as a platform to barter things they have at their home with fellow expats living near them.

Penny Mcluckie from New Zealand, who runs a management consultation agency and stays in sector 66, recently shared wine she and her husband had with other expats after she got a WhatsApp message of liquor running out at their homes. “I have been sharing with other expats stuff that they are running out of. We shared wine with people who didn’t have liquor. We recently ran out of dish washer soap and someone gave it to us. So, that’s how expats are supporting each other during the lockdown,” said Mcluckie.

WhatsApp groups have become the go to place for expats if they are in a hurry to find things which are not easily available at their place. Luka Baldin, who is from Italy and has been staying in the city for the last one year, said these groups have turned out to be the only medium they look up to in case they need anything.

“I needed a print out of an important document. So I had posted it in one of the expat groups and someone immediately helped me out with it. Similarly, I often write in the group that if anyone wants my help, then I am here to do whatever I can.”

A handful of Japanese expats have also created a WhatsApp group, where they are busting myths about Covid-19 disease and telling people what they can do during the lockdown period. Seiko Uchida, one such Japanese expat who lives in M3M Golf Estate, said, “I have created a dedicated WhatsApp group for Japanese expats to keep them abreast with the latest developments during the lockdown.

This initiative helps them overcome language and cultural barriers, while accessing the correct information. I have received numerous requests from expats regarding the purchase of medicines and I help them in sourcing details of pharmacists, so that they don’t have to go out during the lockdown. Since most expats here do not own a vehicle, I often drive them for their grocery shopping. However, we have stopped venturing out nowadays given the magnitude of the pandemic.”

Gensei Asada, a Japanese student who has been staying in the city for the last six years, said he has created a WhatsApp group of Japanese people to share how India is dealing with the pandemic. “I am telling people through WhatsApp that people should not leave their houses. India has a strict law asking people to stay in their house, not like the one in Japan. India has been dealing with COVID-19 in an excellent manner. I have a YouTube account where I tell people about what is happening in foreign countries.”

Besides this, there is an Irish expat who is helping out rag pickers in the city. Tara McCartney, co-owner of Duke Horse Riding Club, is making sure that these underprivileged people in the neighbourhood are well fed and looked after during the lockdown. McCartney grew up in Northern Ireland and has been living in the city since 2018.

She distributes food items to a nearby locality every day. “We started with soaps, towels, sweet bread and gave grocery packs like rice, lentils, oil and vegetables to a group of people. I am also supporting a rag pickers community of 350 people along with 26 construction workers from Bihar and three families of flower pickers in sector 58,” said McCartney, who has obtained a curfew pass.

Serbia-born Danijela Radonic Bhandari, who has been in Gurugram since July last year, has been conducting online counselling classes during the lockdown. “As a health coach, clinical hypnotherapist, and energy healer, I have been providing free online counselling and distant healing to those in need, both in India, and outside,” said Bhandari. She also participates in online group meditation and chanting sessions.

Like Bhandari, Carina Bravo — who is from Argentina — is a teacher who is also conducting online classes daily for students. “I am busy taking online classes for students in Spanish. The lockdown period has been spent by making assignments for students and making sure they complete them,” said Bravo, who has spent 20 years in the city.

Managing to give full salaries to their employees is also one way of asking people to stay indoors and that’s what Argentinian Mariano Martinez is doing. “I run a garments manufacturing unit in Udyog Vihar. Ever since the lockdown started, I have ensured that i give full pay to all the employees,” said Martinez.

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