(From left) Mathews Jacob, Aji Varghese, Biju John and Praveen Kumar with Sabarish Dileep, the first person Helping Hands managed to send home in an air ambulance.
Fifteen years after he had last visited his hometown in Chengannur, Kerala, Jayan Madhavan flew home on a chartered flydubai flight on June 26. Jayan’s was not just another repatriation – he was suffering from a rare disease that caused blisters around his waist, epilepsy and brain haemorrhage. Moreover, he was living illegally since his visa expired in 2014 and his passport in 2016. The homeless man who once ran a successful workshop in Ras al Khor’s industrial area had fallen into bad times and ill health. The Dubai Police found him lying on the wayside and admitted him to Rashid Hospital on May 19. Mounting hospital costs and advanced treatment made him yearn to return to his family in Kerala.
That was when the helping hands of a few Good Samaritans in the Arabian desert came to his aid. Aptly named Helping Hands, the volunteer organisation has been guided by social workers Praveen Kumar, Aji Varghese and a few other dedicated souls who have taken time off their busy work schedules to help Malayalis in dire straits during COVID-19.
The group was originally conceived to help a young man from Pathanamthitta district who had come job hunting to Dubai on a visit visa, but was incapacitated by a stroke. During peak-COVID times, on May 5, the team managed to send Sabarish Dileep on an air ambulance to Kochi airport.
The success of the mission invigorated the group to take up more such challenging missions. From expediting the travel of another visit-visa job seeker Bijimol who wished to return to her children upon the death of her cancer-stricken husband back in Kerala on May 28 to this day on June 30 when it sent home comatose Prashant Unnikrishnan supported by ventilator and a full medical team in a repatriation flight.
In a short span, Helping Hands has gained 125 members, including president of Indian Association Sharjah E. P. Johnson and Fr. Ninan Philip, vicar of St Thomas Orthodox Cathedral Dubai. Its charity has extended to send stranded Indians home, as well as to provide food packets to around 250 people daily during the holy month of Ramzan this year. The Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the consulate in Dubai actively support and provide necessary assistance on genuine issues it brings to their notice.