Goodwill haunting: The trauma of being a volunteer
A few months ago, Zameer Baig, 29, was running his father’s business, manufacturing
From about a month, Baig’s life has changed so drastically that he sometimes can’t recognise it’s his own. Ever since he started volunteering to help with covid burials as a
Baig could do nothing. Not even hug the boy who did not have a PPE. The boy cried, a deep guttural cry that rose from his stomach and shook his frame. He clutched on to a sheaf of documents to calm himself.
We cannot share the trauma, which we go through as volunteers, with our families. I think our fellow volunteers will be able to understand better. Though there are helplines available, I didn’t feel like calling them for counselling
— Zameer Baig, Mercy Angels volunteer
This was on July 21 but when Baig sleeps the sobs are still real, fresh and loud. He wakes up emotionally drained. That he sleeps alone, isolating from his family, makes things worse. Images of another covid death, of a 70-year-old man, have also made indelible memory traces. He remembers the son of the man, refusing to even see his father’s face one last time because he was so consumed by fear. Baig had gone to Columbia Asia Hospital in Yeshwanthpura on July 17 to ferry the body to the Magadi Road
“When someone dies, the family members do not come forward to even wrap the body. They stand at a distance and expect us to handle the dead. It’s just heart breaking. Covid has changed everything.”
Baig has done what the family members of the dead don’t do – accompanied the dead on their last journey and given them a dignified burial /cremation.
Baig says he consoles himself, tries to hush the sobs in his head and hopes sleep will take over. He didn’t think he would be waging these midnight battles when he decided to volunteer after he read a call by the Mercy Angels – ‘Calling out the young, the fit and the strong. One day in a week, few hours. Let’s give the deceased a dignified cremation or burial. It could be one of us tomorrow!’
When Baig comes homes, there are no hugs and no chatter of his kids. He goes straight to the bath and scrubs himself clean, soaks his clothes in soap water and Dettol. After dinner, he lies down on his bed and hope the demons don’t came to haunt him.
The taunts he hears during the day are worse than the demons that come at night. “I’m often asked ‘are you the only one meant to do these things, while others, including the family of the deceased, stay away from their loved ones?’” Zameer has no answers for his family but he continues with his work, hoping that his family’s support will continue.
“We cannot share what we go through as volunteers with our families. I think our fellow volunteers will be able to understand better. Though there are helplines available, I didn’t feel like calling them for counselling,” says Baig.
Speaking of the trauma and stress the volunteers will experience,
If the feeling persists or gets worse, seeking professional help is advised, says experts.