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British Tamil community rallies together in wake of coronavirus outbreak

British Tamils across the United Kingdom have rallied together in the wake of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, with community organisations putting in place a raft of initiatives to help those most in need as the country goes into lockdown.

One such initiative has seen volunteers from the Tamil Co-ordinating Committee (TCC) helping to deliver shopping and other essential goods to the most vulnerable members of the community, from Southampton to Scotland.

“We’ve been trying to band together and help those most in need,” said Raj, a volunteer with TCC. “There are thousands of people who need help with essential services and us as a community are trying to unite and do our best to contribute.”

Alongside this initiative, a Tamil language helpline has been set up staffed by volunteers to help those who may have language difficulties when accessing medical services.

“I wanted to get involved because I have parents at home whose language barrier has made things like medical advice or seeking general advice quite difficult for them,” said Priya, a paediatric audiologist who has been volunteering with the helpline. “Knowing this I wanted to help those who are in similar situations.”

“In times like these where people are vulnerable medically - people who are unable to access information are also vulnerable which is why this is extremely important that our people are informed on everything that is going on in this current climate,” she added.

Others have organised Tamil language posters with information on the outbreak and how to stay safe.

One such example has been from Samantha S Kumar, a graphic designer who created her own set of posters after hearing about the struggles that Tamil refugees were going through in understanding the outbreak. “Working alongside the London COVID migrant and asylum support group, it was clear that many weren’t informed of methods such as isolating to avoid spreading,” she said. “Fleeing or migrating to this country not knowing the language is terrifying as it is. Now being misinformed about the outbreak not only puts them in danger but endangers those around them”.

“Designing these raised the bigger question as to how much medical support we have available to non-English speakers- and where we do have them, are they easily accessible and adapted to everyone’s needs?,” she added.

With schools shut down, TCC has also gone on to organise a free emergency education service for pupils across the country.

“We are a strong and resilient community,” added Raj. “Although this is a new crisis, we have faced genocide and rally with that same spirit to help those less fortunate.”

“I believe that the Tamil community always comes together in times of struggle and we have done with everything that has been going on in our homeland,” added Priya.

“The importance of education and work ethic is in our blood which is why there are loads of Tamil professionals out there. I think this initiative has come together well and it’s also readily accessible in terms of getting involved.”

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