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I asked everyone to gather clothes which they are not needing, for me to collect and share with the people who lost everything in the fire.

When She Leads: Reshma

June 15, 2020

This interview is part of our When She Leads Under Lockdown series. Learn more.

Reshma is a third-year Shadhika Scholar pursuing a nursing degree at Rufaida College of Nursing Jamiya Hamdard in Delhi. She is a participant with our grantee partner site, STOP India. Reshma was interviewed by Kendra Nicolai, Shadhika’s U.S.-based Program Officer.


Hi Reshma! Can you tell us about yourself?

Hello, my name is Reshma. I am studying to earn my nursing diploma. I have completed 2 years of courses thanks to my scholarship from Shadhika. I’m pursuing nursing – my family wouldn’t have done this for me. I have freedom, and my English has improved. I was afraid to speak to people but now I feel confident to speak to everyone. I am able to help others too.

Has the scholarship helped you have more confidence?

Yes! It has helped me to gain confidence  and improved my communication too. More than anything it has given me an education. Before, my family was planning for my marriage, but now my family is very proud of me and supports me.  

What area of nursing would you like to pursue?

I have studied in every nursing area but my favorite posting (i.e. clinical nursing rotations) is injections – for new born babies and immunization vaccines. I also really like psychology. We are observed by our teachers, and they have a good opinion about me.

Reshma (center) leads a health training for young women at her community center.

How are you coping with COVID-19 and virtual classes?

My classes are happening all day on ZOOM, with an hour lunch break. I took an exam online today. I have final exams in July and September. My teachers send us a syllabus and notes online, but I have to use my phone to read the notes. Good internet network is 250 rupees/month (~$4 USD). It is difficult and distracting to study at home. In one room, my brother and his wife stay and I stay in our other room with four other family members. I take my online classes in the same room with our TV and all of these people around.

Are you still doing hospital postings (i.e. clinical nursing rotations)?

Because of COVID-19, nursing students have not gone to the clinic for 3 months. If you buy the PPE kit – 500 rupees/day or 2,500 rupees/week (~$33 USD) – you can go to the clinic. My teachers have said if students have money to buy the PPE kits, they can come to the clinic for rotations. If we don’t have the money for PPE kits, we must stay home.

My clinical studies have stopped because of the PPE kit cost.  My theory is ok, I can study this at home. COVID-19 patients are in the hospital, so it is not safe for us to do our postings there. Our teachers say we need to come to the college, but we still need the PPE to go to the clinical area. I don’t know how we are supposed to afford the PPE to keep up with our clinical studies.

I do feel excited to complete my second year in August and graduate next year after 3 years of studying. My hope is to get a job as a nurse in a private hospital for 1-2 years to get experience. After that, I hope to begin taking government exam classes.  Each year, the government offers a few hospital jobs. It is very competitive, and you are lucky to be chosen. To be selected, you need 2 years experience. A nurse at most private hospitals earns 20-25,000 rupees per month (~$330 USD) versus 60-70,000 rupees per month (~$920 USD) at a government hospital job.

Even though my studies are much different under lockdown, I have achieved 100% attendance this year, and my teachers have made me a leader in my nursing cohort of 10 students.

On May 26th, your neighborhood experienced a fire and many people lost their homes. Can you share what happened and how you decided to help your community?

Firstly, we saw the fire, my mother went with neighbors to see what exactly happened. She came home and said there are so many displaced people in need of food and clothes.  I thought I could help and decided to gather clothes and food. I found 15 sets of clothes – some were mine, my brother’s and my mother’s. I also had neighbors who wanted to help by giving clothes. I asked everyone to gather clothes which they are not needing, for me to collect and share with the people who lost everything in the fire.

That evening we went to the area of the fire. At first the police wouldn’t allow us to go nearer to the area of the fire. But, eventually they let me to go into the fire area to give out the clothes. That night we also collected money and made food for anyone in the fire area who needed it.

After 2 or 3 days, the government gave 25,000 rupees (~$330 USD) per family to help with basic needs like temporary shelter, clothes, blanket, mat, and fans. Families have started rebuilding their homes in the same area where the fire happened.

How did this make you feel?

When I saw the fire – it was devastating. People were crying, even younger boys and elders were all crying.  I felt really sad – it was difficult to take in what had happened. Home is important to us.

I saw these things, and thought that even before when there wasn’t a lockdown, many of these people needed food and clothing. They made their homes here and collected all of their things, but now all of those belongings are gone. Many survived with only what they had on their body, but many didn’t survive.

STOP helped distribute food to 50 families, and gave money to my father to purchase food items to give out to survivors as well.  I helped survey our community. We found that 90 people needed food, but we only had a budget to feed 50 people.  After we gave away all the food, people from the fire still came to our home. My mother gave out more rice and salt from our own lockdown rations. (The government is giving rice through ration cards during the lockdown 1kg of rice per member of household and up to 7 kg total for a family.)

Reshma (far right) assisting with food distribution for her community.

How are you coping through all of this?

It’s difficult and a lot of the time I feel unwell. I have so many things going on in my mind – exams, classes, tests, having enough internet connection and data on my mobile. I take a walk in the park grass most mornings with my mother. We wear masks. Exercise is good and being outside helps with our mental health.


Shadhika continues to closely monitor the circumstances in India in order to best support our partners and program participants. In order to remain nimble and responsive to the needs on the ground, please help us meet our goal of raising an additional $15,000 for COVID-related funds.

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