Around 15 years ago, when IT professional and social activist Kala Balasundaram used to travel by bus to OMR, she was aghast at the frequency of accidents she came across in the area. “What’s worse was the total lack of empathy by the by-standers and other vehicles passing by. It also struck me that most of the accidents were happening to young people; the breadwinners of their family. That’s when I looked at myself and wondered what I was doing to change this situation?”
It was a wake-up call for Kala, and she decided to take matters into her own hands. She quickly enrolled herself in a first-aid workshop and was surprised at how simple the skills she acquired were – enough to save a life someday.
“The value we attribute to a life has reduced drastically. I wanted to bring about the concept of ‘first responders’ again, who could save a life with just simple techniques. So I decided to teach more people and volunteers, who could take this forward. In 2006, along with Dr JS Rajkumar, I founded ‘Alert’ that had three principles – empower regular citizens to save lives, take away their fear/ inhibition of court cases if they stepped in to help an accident victim and also make training affordable,” Kala said.
Since then, she and her team have trained over 75,000 people across India. “The basic training has been provided for free to residents all over, security guards and students. We also work with corporates for a nominal fee,” Kala added. Now, she has a personal aim– one that was given to her by former President APJ Abdul Kalam. “He wanted us to ensure that at least one person in every household would be trained in first-aid skills, and I’m working to achieve that.”