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Ribbons of Remembrance at Docklands Primary School

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By Brendan Rees

Students, parents, and teachers of Docklands Primary School have gathered in solidarity to remember friends and loved ones in India who have tragically lost their lives to coronavirus.   

Hundreds of colourful ribbons were tied to the school’s fence on May 25 in a symbol of care and support for victims and those suffering in India where the devastating second wave of COVID-19 has claimed the lives of more than 300,000 people.   

More than 100 people including Lord Mayor Sally Capp attended the moving ceremony called Ribbons of Remembrance where a morning tea sponsored by local businesses was also held.   

One of the organisers and school parent Samba Murthy Nagidi said the initiative was greatly received and praised the community’s support.   

He said many families in the Docklands community, including his, had been impacted by the crippling crisis in India. 

“We just wanted to remember someone who they have separated from,” he said. 

“There are many families who have been impacted and who we have lost,” he said, adding “a lot of families have come together for their support.” 

 “[It’s] extremely devastating in India. We wanted to stand up and conduct some moral support to all the families.” 

School principal Adam Bright said it had been a “really humbling experience”. 

“The kids have really got behind it and they’re tying ribbons around the fence every morning,” he said. 

“Our families wanted to do something to symbolise our community behind them, to show the families that we’re here for them and that we care for them, and we’re thinking of them.” 

“The parents came up with the initiative and the school 100 per cent backed it.” 

“We ended up with one of our parents purchasing all the ribbons herself, and spending nights cutting them into the right lengths.” 

“Another parent who runs a digital marketing group put together a video that’s gone up on our Facebook page.” 

“We’ve had lots of families come to us and say how appreciative they are of the event, and the way they feel supported.” 

The public art piece will run until June 22 with members of the public invited to join the community in tying a ribbon to the school fence.

Mr Nagidi told Docklands News the situation in India was “heartbreaking” after three of his relatives caught the virus and tragically died. 

“Two of my cousins are still being hospitalised and still being treated,” he said, adding that one was fighting for life. 

Mr Nagidi, who was born in India and arrived in Australia in 2016, said he had heard of friends also succumbing to COVID in the country’s latest surge. 

“I’m so sad. I have to pray that nothing is going to happen. But it doesn’t look like it’s going to end because every time I hear of a new variant.”

“Many people cannot get oxygen on time because of the dire situation.” 

The Docklands resident said that he was grateful to have flown his family and two children aged six and 17 months to Australia last March to stay as permanent residents.

But he now felt a sense of guilt as his parents and other family and friends hunkered down in their homes in India. 

“They’re really scared,” he said, with his father, 65, mother, 58, staying at home in western India in a city called Bhimavaram and in a fortunate position to buy food. 

For others, he said, “it’s devastating and heartbreaking”. 

“It’s finding a bed in a hospital is extremely tough, people are queuing outside the hospitals.” 

People have died waiting for beds with a severe shortage of emergency supplies, oxygen, and ventilators. 

According to India’s Health Ministry, each village must have an adequate number of pulse oximeters and thermometers to monitor the oxygen of COVID patients.   

Mr Nagidi said while his mother-in-law, who had caught the virus was lucky to be “out of danger” and recovering at home, his aunt, uncle, and brother-in-law’s mother who were all infected had died. 

“We tried to get a hospital bed but we couldn’t,” he said of his aunt aged in her 70s. After she developed a fever “she was told to isolate, but while under medication she passed away” within a week. 

Mr Nagidi’s uncle, who was a former state minister, also had a fever but despite him being placed in a prestigious hospital, “even then he could not survive”. 

He added his brother-in-law’s mother, who had a heart condition, also had a fever and died within three to four days of experiencing symptoms about six months ago. 

“I’m helpless because I’m here and then I could not reach out to my family,” he said. 

“I wish I could bring my family here and have peace of mind.” 

“I do want to take care of my parents but the question is if I’m able to go back will I be able to go back. I have a job and to take care of things here financially.” 

Mr Nagidi, who works at NAB as a business analyst after studying at university in India, said he had begun raising funds with friends called Helping Hands to support the people of India. 

He said between 700 and 1000 meals per day were being distributed to communities, which he described as the “best we can do” from nearly 10,000 km away.   

Meanwhile, Docklands Primary School has encouraged people wishing to help to donate to Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) or a charity of their choice •

For more information: msf.org.au/donate-now

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