Two members of the MTSU community are reaching out to an underserved population to help its members stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sabitra Basnet, who graduated with a nursing degree in 2019, and sophomore nursing major Jashna Timsina are co-coordinators of the BRAVE Nashville Project.
BRAVE stands for Bhutanese Response Assistance Volunteer Effort.
The all-volunteer effort is designed to help families from the South Asia nations of Bhutan and Nepal who are affected by the coronavirus, either directly or indirectly.
BRAVE Nashville employs an organizational model created in Columbus, Ohio, by Sudarshan Pyakurel, a director of the Bhutanese Community of Central Ohio.
“I am so impressed with the determination and compassion of these young women,” said Casie Higginbotham, a lecturer in the MTSU Department of Health and Human Performance.
“They are using their expertise to fill an urgent need in their community — helping people understand the risks of the novel coronavirus and important steps to take if they develop symptoms of COVID-19.”
Under this model, different volunteers serve as family liaisons, information gatherers, resource collectors and resource deliverers. Volunteers help families with food, cleaning supplies, COVID-19 information, financial issues and mental health issues or with making the appropriate connections for these items
In addition, nurses, medical assistants and medical residents are providing health screenings and helping with hospital admissions as needed. Two Nepali-speaking doctors are volunteering their services, which can be administered in both English and Nepali.
Timsina said the Nashville Bhutanese/Nepalese community, which she estimates at about 5,000 members, has experienced such a severe outbreak in part because many people have jobs that require them to work close to one another. However, the community is taking appropriate safety measures.
“The community has been following strict guidelines of social distancing, washing hands and wearing masks,” Timsina said.
Pandemic protocols have taken their toll on the community’s religious gatherings, but Timsina said people are adapting their worship practices.
“All of the services are either done at home with families or via Zoom,” Timsina said.
To date, BRAVE Nashville has provided support to 45 families, each of which has an average of five members. Of those families, more than 20 families have recovered from the coronavirus and the rest are still in quarantine.
“(Basnet and Timsina) are doing real public health work as volunteers while also maintaining their regular work and class schedules,” Higginbotham said.
“They have not let their youth or lack of experience deter them from pursuing their very ambitious goal of taking care of their neighbors.”
BRAVE Nashville’s supporters and partners include Woodmont Hills Church of Christ, Project COVID Care, The Branch of Nashville, Mother to Mother, the Community Resource Center and the Tennessee Hindu Community.
As of May 29, health officials had documented 5,210 total cases of COVID-19 and 59 deaths due to the virus in the Metro Nashville/Davidson County area.
The Tennessee Department of Health had confirmed 21,679 total cases and 356 deaths statewide as of May 28.
For more information about BRAVE Nashville or to make donations, visit the group’s Facebook page or call the help line at 615-601-1335.
— Gina Logue (firstname.lastname@example.org)