A service that shines through the pandemic

For Kalaivani, the pandemic came as an opportunity to help the sick

R. Kalaivani works long hours in the COVID care facility at the Chennai Trade Centre.

For the transgender who went from shop to shop asking for money, the pandemic destroyed her source of livelihood as shops were shut during the lockdown. Her childhood friend, also a transgender, was diagnosed with cancer. “She died despite treatment and I managed to repay her debt. I had no job and no livelihood. I approached three companies but they said they would not appoint a transgender. It was at this point that a company, Sumu, offered me a job in housekeeping,” recalled Ms. Kalaivani.

The company placed her in the COVID care centre in Guru Nanak College. Here, apart from her housekeeping work, she assisted the nursing staff in changing diapers for patients; feeding the very sick elderly; and helping people visit the washroom.

Her sincere work fetched her a promotion as supervisor. During the second wave of COVID-19, she was transferred to the facility at the Chennai Trade Centre where she was made in-charge of eight supervisors. She has benefitted from the government’s scheme of free housing in Kannagi Nagar, Thoraipakkam, but owing to the long-distance travel,the 36-year-old stays in Mandaveli.

“I left home at the age of 13 and since then I have been on my own. At that time, there were no schemes for transgender persons. I would like to lead a peaceful life with the help of a government job,” says Ms. Kalaivani. Since her young age, she has been doing odd jobs at Billroth Hospital and later at the Institute of Mental Health. “I have handled even patients who required oxygen support. I have been vaccinated fully,” she says.

As for being accepted by strangers, she says patients find it easier to ask her than men or women.

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