A bystander who cares

Through SaveLIFE Foundation, Piyush Tewari is on a mission to minimise roadside deaths in India. His unique initiative has won him the coveted Rolex 2010 Young Laureate Award for Enterprise. Piyush speaks to Manoj Khatri about his work and the need for bystander care

What is SaveLIFE Foundation [SLF] and what is its scope of work?

SaveLIFE Foundation is a non-profit and non-governmental organisation focused on enabling bystander care for road accident victims in India. Bystander care is the immediate care that police and community volunteers can provide a critically injured person in order to improve his or her chances of survival. Our focus is to achieve this enablement by facilitating establishment of legal, ethical and training standards in our society. By mid-2011 we plan to establish a call centre in Delhi that will locate and mobilise trained volunteers to respond to road accidents and other medical emergencies in Delhi. By then, we will have a pool of over 3000 police officers and 12,000 community volunteers trained by SaveLIFE Foundation and our partner hospitals in Basic Trauma Life Support.

We have also, recently, started working with various governmental and non-governmental groups to enhance road safety in order to prevent serious accidents. Our effort in this area is to push for better licensing and driver's training norms and awareness initiatives that people can relate to [unlike present initiatives].

Considering the population of people and vehicles on the Indian roads, the goal of SLF is monolithic. What roadblocks did you face or continue to face in your efforts?

The sheer size of India in itself is a challenge when it comes to expanding the initiative, but we strongly believe in innovation and technology and their potential to overcome these challenges. Our model provides a community-driven emergency response system to cities at the cost of buying and running just two advanced support ambulances. And the model is scalable and replicable. We, therefore, intend to partner with credible groups or non-profit outfits in different cities and enable them to start SaveLIFE in their town or area. Over the next 12-18 months, we plan to expand to Mumbai, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Bangalore and Chennai.

Our only continuing road block at present is limited capacity driven by limited sources of funding. Hopefully, with contributions now coming in from the Rolex Award, corporate India and philanthropists, we hope to overcome this challenge one day.

In your opinion, how does India/Indians compare with other nations and their citizens with respect to responsiveness to road accidents?

Most people in India are afraid to touch a victim for fear of getting involved in a legal hassle. This leads to thousands of deaths every year that could have been avoided, had someone rushed the victim[s] to a hospital or provided the necessary care by the roadside. There is a great need for our state and central governments to bring in legislations that will not only protect citizens who help road victims but also recognise and reward them for their acts.

Several countries in Europe and America have legal standards that encourage common people to help those in need of urgent medical care. I still remember the scene from 30th April 2009 when the Dutch Royal Parade was attacked by a car driver who ran over several people. Six people including the driver died in the incident but seven others were saved because bystanders and police provided immediate care to them. The absence of such help would have certainly taken more lives. This is what my vision for India is—to make India a place where people can help others without fear of harassment or prosecution.

So, the main reason why a lot of people don't approach roadside victims is not because lack of medical training but because they fear getting involved. Does SLF do anything in that regard?

SLF's main objective is to help establish legal, ethical and training standards for bystander care. While the training aspect is the most visible part of our work, we do have an ongoing effort where we are pushing for policies and laws to be revised to create a better environment for people to use the training that we provide. In the interim, we will provide each trained volunteer a special identification signed by local Police and SaveLIFE officials that will enable them to help accident victims with skill and confidence.

If we understand correctly, as of now, SLF operates only in New Delhi and Noida. Do you plan to expand SLF's operations to other cities?

We are in discussions with groups in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. We are also actively looking for partners in other states and would like to invite medical and non-profit groups to partner with us by way of this article in Complete Wellbeing.

Is there scope for volunteering with SLF? How can a common individual help the cause?

There are three ways by which volunteers can support us: ? become trainers and spread the knowledge, ? help us start SLF in their area, and ? help us with our organisational activities such as cause promotion, coordination with police and hospitals, coordination with media and government, fund-raising, website management, and the like.

Apart from health-conscious readers, we have thousands of specialist doctors among our readers—do you have a message for them?

Doctors are our most important partners because it is their knowledge that we are spreading to the community. We invite them to partner with us, become community trainers and help us establish bystander care in India. Doctors can contact us if they wish to establish SaveLIFE in their area and we will provide them all necessary support to do so.

You recently received the Rolex 2010 Young Laureate Award for your work through SLF. Can you tell us more about the award?

The Rolex Award for Enterprise is given to individuals who have ideas that can positively impact the world. This year, besides me, there are four other winners of this prestigious award given every two years: Reese Fernandez from Philippines, Jacob Colker from USA, Nnaemeka Ikegwano from Nigeria and Bruktawit Tigabu from Ethiopia. The award includes a financial grant. Most importantly, it gives you access to some of the brightest minds from around the world who have made a significant contribution to humankind. I consider myself truly privileged to have become a part of this family. Personally, it has been a very humbling experience for me. The award has helped SaveLIFE enhance its capacity, get access to innovators from around the world who have shared new ideas with us and the benefits of global publicity of the initiative.

Tell us three things that a person can do to help a roadside accident victim.

The simple mantra for helping someone is CHECK-CALL-CARE. Check the scene for your own safety first and then the condition of the victim[s]. Call or ask someone to call for help immediately. And then start providing care. The three things to remember are:

  • Assume that the victim has a spinal injury. Never lift the victim with a jerk, as it may aggravate the injury. If possible, use a stretcher or a flat board to lift the victim but ensure that the neck and spine are supported, and the victim is rushed to a hospital soon.
  • If the victim is unresponsive, check for a pulse by placing two fingers on the neck, under the place where the jaw bone sticks out the most. If the pulse is missing, start CPR [cardiopulmonary resuscitation] by immediately placing the heel of your palm in the middle of the victim's chest and pressing it 30 times in 18 seconds followed by two normal breaths. Continue even while rushing the victim to a hospital.
  • Control the bleeding by applying pressure on the wound. Even if you have tied something, ensure there is enough pressure on the wound to restrict further blood flow.

Piyush Tewari

Meet Piyush Tewari

A graduate of the University of Delhi, Piyush Tewari is building a highly successful career as a director and general manager of a private equity firm. After his 17-year-old cousin died following a road accident, Tewari investigated and found that the reason for his death was the length of time it took to provide basic life support. This prompted him to set up the SaveLIFE Foundation [SLF] to minimise avoidable roadside fatalities.

Courtesy: young.rolexawards.com

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Manoj Khatri
Manoj Khatri likes to call himself an eternal soul disguised, among many things, as a writer. He is the author of more than 1000 published articles — on business management, philosophy and everything in between. He is a certified counsellor and has addressed thousands of students and parents on exam-stress in public seminars. He is the author of What a thought!, a critically acclaimed book based on powerful ideas of some of the greatest thought leaders. Manoj is Editor and Publisher of Complete Wellbeing.

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