- Lawmakers, industrialists, entrepreneurs, tech leaders, CEOs, venture capitalists, physicians, celebrities, and community members are all pitching in to help.
American government, business community and diaspora community Indian authorities and hospitals continue to struggle with record COVID-19 infections and deaths, help is coming from all corners of the world. For many Indian Americans, the deadly second surge is personal, with several members of the family and friends being affected. In a time of crisis, lawmakers, industrialists, entrepreneurs, tech leaders, CEOs, venture capitalists, celebrities, and community members are all pitching in to help India.
Many are participating in fundraisers and drives to help those battling the disease back home; while some are resorting to prayers and good wishes. Overall, India has seen nearly 22 million cases of the coronavirus and almost 240,000 deaths, according to figures released by Johns Hopkins last week.
Helping India in Hour of Need
Pledging unwavering support from the U.S., Vice President Kamala Devi Harris said on May 7 that the surge of COVID-19 infections and deaths in India is “nothing short of heartbreaking.” She was speaking at the State Department’s Diaspora outreach event on U.S. COVID Relief for India. “At the beginning of the pandemic, when our hospital beds were stretched, India sent assistance. And today, we are determined to help India in its hour of need,” she said. “We do this as friends of India, as members of the Asian Quad, and as part of the global community. I believe that if we continue to work together – across nations and sectors – we will all get through this,” she said. Noting that India’s welfare is critically important to the U.S., she said the entire government machinery has been galvanized to help the country in this hour of crisis.
Similarly, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) issued an urgent appeal to raise funds for India. “India needs our help and it’s our moral responsibility to rise to the challenge. This is a global pandemic and until we crush the virus everywhere, we cannot fully recover,” Jayapal said on May 7. She said all funds raised would go to three initiatives: WISH Foundation, GiveIndia and EdelGive Foundation.
Mobilization of Support
A few weeks ago, when the crisis in India began, Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, pledged $10 million. Google has also pledged $18 million, while its founder, Sundar Pichai, has personally pledged $700,000 toward relief efforts. Microsoft is partnering with the U.S. government in providing aid and oxygen, and FedEx and UPS are transporting life-saving health care equipment like oxygen cylinders, ventilators and oxygen concentrators to India.
Indian Americans have come together and are raising millions of dollars to send life-saving health care equipment and medicines to India. Several community organizations across the U.S. have also stepped up to help the vulnerable and marginalized groups.
Mukesh Aghi of U.S. India Strategic and Partnership Forum (USISPF), told the Press Trust of India that he expects the assistance to touch almost $1 billion by the end of the month. Nisha Desai Biswal, president of the U.S. India Business Council (USIBC) told the PTI that “the outpouring of support from the United States over the past two weeks was a spontaneous mass mobilization of support for the Indian people from across the American government, business community and diaspora community and the American people.”
Texas-based USICOC Foundation has shipped over 85 ventilators and nearly 500 oxygen concentrators to aid in India’s COVID19 pandemic relief efforts. The latest shipment of 128 oxygen concentrators are headed to government and NGO hospitals in three states across India including Mercy Mission, an organization of more than 300 volunteers including alumni from Bangalore Medical College, who are providing medical care for migrant workers and rural communities during COVID in and around Bangalore, Karnataka. Neel Gonuguntla, President of the U.S. India Chamber of Commerce DFW, who is leading efforts on behalf of the USICOC Foundation and nearly 20 partnering community organizations in Texas credited many individual donors, businesses, and community organizations for their efforts. Gonuguntla who, along with Ashok Mago and Jagdip Ahluwalia, has been overseeing the fundraising as well as helping to coordinate the efforts said, “this effort is only possible because of the hundreds of helping hearts. This entire effort has been a symphony of compassion on behalf of donors, logistics providers, airports, airlines, and the teams on the ground in India.”
In California, Parivar Bay Area is partnering with local grassroots organizations in India to support basic necessities for transgender people affected by the crisis. An initial GoFundMe page raised $10,000 in 48 hours. Anjali Rimi, who started Parivar in 2018 and identifies as transgender, told The New York Times that the crisis hit home for her as her parents were hospitalized in India because of COVID-19 last year.
Telehealth and Online Campaigns
Indian American physicians, who make up almost 20 percent of all foreign-trained doctors in the U.S. Unable to be there physically to help, Indian American doctors provided friends and family with medical advice over phone and video calls, according to a CNN report. “Some of them are now staying up nights, when it is daytime in India, to advise other coronavirus patients and raise money for medical supplies,” the report said.
Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, president of AAPI, told CNN that they are planning to send more oxygen concentrators, ventilators, remdesivir and personal protective equipment to India. He said donations flooded in after he sent out a call for help, and they raised a few million dollars in less than two weeks. Dr. Prasad Garimella of Gwinnett Pulmonary Group in Lawrenceville, Georgia, lost his younger brother to Covid in India. He told CNN that although he was far, he jumped in to help by advising them over the phone. “In fact, I deal with this on a daily basis and have a standard format that I have made. So depending on what stage or what phase they are in, I can give them the right advice,” he said.
Dr. Sreeni Gangasani, chairman and co-founder of eGlobalDoctors was also able to help his family in India when they were sick. When his parents and brother in India, all contracted Covid-19, Gangasani helped them via Whatsapp and video calls so that they were able to manage their symptoms at home and did not have to go to the hospital. He says that is when he decided, “Why not help more people by just using our resources here?”
Indiaspora, a nonprofit community of global Indian diaspora leaders, raised around $2.5 million. million toward COVID-19 relief efforts. On May 8, the group hosted ‘Help India Breathe,’ which virtually brought together several powerful voices from the Indian and AAPI community, including Lilly Singh, Deepak Chopra, Dhar Mann, Payal Kadakia, Kunal Nayyar, Humble the Poet, Jay Sean, Radhanath Swami, Janina Gavankar, Vishen Lakhiani, Deepica Mutyala, and others. “This is the biggest crisis India’s ever seen,” Indiaspora founder M.R. Rangaswami told PTI. The entrepreneur and philanthropist lost his sister in Chennai due to COVID-19. “So, what I urge them to do is two things: One is make sure you support your family and friends in India. But this is the one time that everybody should do more,” Rangaswami said. Funds raised during the ‘Help Breathe India’ event will go toward GiveIndia, which launched India COVID Response Fund-1 in April 2020.
Several online campaigns have popped up for relief efforts in the world’s second most populous country. Ayesha and Avani Singh of New Jersey started a GoFundMe fundraiser to help pay for her maternal grandfather Kanwarjit Singh Walia’s medical care when he was sick in India with Covid. He unfortunately passed away, and now his granddaughters are donating donations to organizations fighting COVID-19 on the ground in India. So far it has raised more than $9,000.
The Power of Prayer
Many Indian Americans are resorting to prayers as well. Most cannot go home to be with their loved ones. Going to the temple/church brings them hope. In North Texas, the Indian American community organized prayers at the Karya Siddhi Hanuman Temple in Frisco. Temple chairman Prakasarao Velagapudi told WFAA 8 Dallas – Fort Worth that the prayers were streamed worldwide, and the smoke from the fire “will go all the way up to the sky, then as if he is an ambassador of all of our concerns, and tell our almighty.”
WFAA 8 Dallas — Fort Worth reporter Malini Basu tweeted some photos on her handle. “Karya Siddhi Hanuman temple, where the priests are sending prayers for #India,” she wrote. “With so many religions, & languages across India, prayer services are being sent from N. Texas.”
(Top photo: Mokshvi Shah, a 16-year-old high school student, holds a GoFundMe fundraiser for Indiaspora’s ChaloGive Initiative, which will be matched by Indiaspora. Photo courtesy: Indiaspora.)