Port Blair | As the Covid pandemic raged through the world, a 49-year-old nurse - Shanti Teresa Lakra – who works at the GB Pant Hospital here, braved cyclonic tides to travel by a dinghy to Tirur island to vaccinate the primitive Jarawa tribe to save them from being wiped out by the disease in 2021.
Today, at age 51, she is being considered for a prestigious Global Nursing Award 2023.
Two years back, while travelling through the choppy seas, Shanti, who was leading a small medical team, had once thought that they would not be able to make it when their dinghy was caught in a storm in the Andaman sea.
"The sea was extraordinarily rough and we thought were all going to drown … But God willed it otherwise and we managed to reach and vaccinate the Jarawas successfully. We also managed to explain to them the precautionary measures they have to take during the pandemic," Shanti told PTI from London.
The Jarawas who have minimal contact with outsiders were considered particularly vulnerable to the disease as the tribe has little medical help available to it at the best of times.
Over the years, Shanti's dedicated service to the primitive tribes of Andaman and Nicobar Islands has paid off as she was selected for the top ten 10 finalists for the Aster Guardians Global Nursing Award 2023, which honours nursing staff worldwide.
She came into the limelight in 2004, when after a devastating Tsunami, she went out to work among the Onge tribals to bring them relief and succor after the death and destruction wrought by nature.
On May 3, she received a call from the management of Aster Guardians Global Nursing to tell her that she had been shortlisted as one of the top ten finalists for the prestigious award. "after the call, I could not hold back my tears...I was excited," she said.
"The award ceremony will be held today at 7 PM here in London at Queen Elizabeth Hall and I am very excited to see who (among ten) will get the first prize. I am thankful to my parents, my husband, son and my elder sister for supporting me all these years," she said.
Working among the primitive and nomadic tribes of Andman and NIcabar island has been a passion for her, she said.
She was selected from among 52,000 entries sent by 202 countries, including 13,156 from India. The first prize carries a reward of more than Rs 2 crore.
In 2011, Shanti was awarded the Padma Shri for her outstanding service to the tribal community of Andaman and Nicobar. Over the years, she gained the trust of the shy tribal people, overcame the language barrier and worked relentlessly for the welfare of vulnerable tribal groups.
"If I win this award then I would like to dedicate the rest of my life for the welfare of these tribal people who call me 'Yumma' (motherly figure) in their language," she said.