At Rajaji Nagar in Villivakkam, an autorickshaw fitted with a sound system, goes around the locality around 8 a.m., blaring an important message — “wear mask before you step out”.

What is special is that the local residents’ welfare association is driving this initiative — resident-volunteers who are part of the volunteering wing of Rajaji Nagar Residents Welfare Association carry out this work.

Rajaji Nagar has 42 streets and every day, a resident hops on to the auto along with the driver and goes on the awareness drive. The association has hired an auto for this purpose, and the sound system is sponsored by the Greater Chennai Corporation.

“The auto campaign ran for five days before June 19 we had to give it a break, but we had covered all the 42 streets and some even twice, that together have around 3000 families,” says T. Manoharan, president of Manitha Neya Narpani Mandram, as the volunteering wing of Rajaji Nagar’s RWA is called.

Awareness skit

On June 14, the Mandram organised a skit at three crowded places: Villivakkam market, a subway and the entrance of the neighbourhood to reinforce the message.

“We promote the MASS technique, which stands for M – Mask is Must if you step out; A- Aware about Airflow (No closed crowded place); S – Social Distancing and S- Sanitiser and soap wash to be done frequently,” says Manoharan, adding that they joined hands with the Chennai Corporation to conduct events.

The members have also put up stickers and posters about this outside key outlets.

Children as campaigners

In some communities, children are campaigners.

DLF Garden City, for instance, follows a multi-fold approach. The entrance to the lobby of each tower and insides of lifts sport a message about mask-wearing. Each of the 21 tower coordinators are responsible for lapses in mask-wearing, and monitoring is carried out via multiple CCTV cameras.

The community has children spreading messages about mask-wearing via digital tools.

“Older children from every tower were tasked with doing a power-point presentation on how to wear masks,” says S. Vasanthi, a tower coordinator.

Similarly, Rani Meyyammai Towers at MRC Nagar have posters along the walkway, all created by children, and creativity has a free run — one poster shows all emojis wearing masks, driving home the idea that irrespective of the current state of mind, you have to wear a mask. Another child has done a poster where her superheroes are wearing masks.

Directives to residents

There are residents’ welfare associations that have been asking their to shop only from outlets that follow social distancing and where shop-keepers wear masks.

At Villivakkam, when residents carried out a campaign at a busy area, they would distribute a mask to those not wearing one. As a second step, residents along with the Corporation supervisor went around warning those vendors who were not wearing masks. “As the Corporation official accompanied us, vendors took us more seriously, and some were warned that their shop will be sealed,” says Manoharan, who works with a pharmaceutical company.

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