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Indian American Organizations, Corporations, Doctors, Celebrities and Ordinary Citizens Step Up to Help India

Indian American Organizations, Corporations, Doctors, Celebrities and Ordinary Citizens Step Up to Help India

  • While Indian Americans are dealing with the risks and restrictions of traveling back home, they are also doing their best soliciting help and hoping for the best.

As Indian authorities and hospitals struggle to cope with record COVID-19 infections and deaths, help is coming from all corners of the world. The spike in infections  has led to deadly shortages of oxygen, ambulances and hospital beds. A severe second wave of COVID-19 has overwhelmed India’s healthcare system and caused an acute shortage of oxygen, ventilators, and hospital beds across the country. With the number of new cases crossing 300,000 daily and a steady rise in the number of fatalities, now estimated to be around 195,000 Indian hospitals are under serious stress to accommodate new patients.

In the U.S., companies, local organizations, prominent members of the community, doctors, medical students and regular citizens are all stepping in, organizing fundraisers and relief drives. Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella have publicly pledged to help battle the surge of coronavirus cases. 

In an interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow on April 28, Pichai discussed how his company is responding and what others can similarly do to lend support. “India deserves our attention right now,” Pichai said.

Volunteers at Little Mentors get the oxygen concentrators and supplies ready to be shipped to New Dehli, May 3. Founders, Gia, Karina and Armaan Gupta, have raised more than $280,000 to send these essential oxygen supplies for COVID-19 patients in India.

In an April 26 blog post by Sanjay Gupta, Country Head & VP, India, announced $18 million in new funding for India. As per the blog, the company will provide a grant to UNICEF for urgent medical supplies, as well as a grant to online donation platform, Give India, to support in-need families impacted by the virus. Google is also putting $15 million into public health information campaigns.

“I am heartbroken by the current situation in India,” tweeted Nadella. “I’m grateful the U.S. government is mobilizing to help. Microsoft will continue to use its voice, resources, and technology to aid relief efforts, and support the purchase of critical oxygen concentration devices.” 

Blackstone Group Inc.’s Chairman Stephen Schwarzman said his private equity firm is committing $5 million to support India’s Covid relief and vaccination services to “marginalized communities.”

Groups like Sewa International, BAPS Charities, American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin or AAPI, Desai Foundation, Share and Care Foundation and several others, are seeking donations towards COVID-19 relief efforts in India. Care India has supplied hospitals and frontline workers in India with more than 39,000 P.P.E. kits, along with masks and other supplies. 

15-year-old triplets Gia, Karina and Armaan Gupta have raised more than $280,000 to send essential oxygen supplies for COVID-19 patients in India. Founders of a non-profit organization, Little Mentors, they told the Press Trust of India that reached out to their school friends and families for funds so that they could arrange life-saving equipment like oxygen concentrators and ventilators for needy patients and hospitals in and around Delhi.

Celebrities are pitching in as well.

“India, my home, is suffering the world’s worst Covid crisis, and we all need to help! People are dying in record numbers,” wrote Priynaka Chopra on her Instagram page. “There is illness everywhere, and it’s only continuing to spread and kill at great speed and scale. I have set up a fundraiser with GiveIndia, the largest organization on the ground in India providing Covid relief. Whatever you can spare, truly makes a difference.” Singer Nick Jonas also joined his wife to appeal for donations. 

Chopra has also lent her support to actor Sonu Sood’s plea for free education for those kids who have lost their parents to COVID-19. Tagging the actor as a ‘visionary philanthropist’, she shared Sonu’s video on her Instagram account and extended support to his cause.

This week, SONA, the newest Indian restaurant in New York City, which is co-owned by Chopra, announced that funds from the “Floyd’s Goan Fish Curry’dish will be donated to #TogetherForIndia, a campaign initiated by Chopra with @Give_India to support COVID relief efforts in India. “Our goal is to reach one million dollars to help India’s shattered health care system,” reads an email from the restaurant. The dish, a light and fragrant striped bass that hails from tthe coastal state of Goa, was inspired by the late great and inspiring Chef Floyd Cardoz, who passed last year from this dreaded disease.

Hasan Minhaj has also been active on his Twitter page, sharing various platforms where people could donate to help Indians struggling. “I’ll be adding more organizations and places to donate in the coming days,” he tweeted on May 2. “TY to everyone who has reached out and wants to donate big or small. Every dollar counts, especially now.”

Mindy Kaling shared a link to Chopra’s Give India fundraiser on her Twitter. “Continuing to share resources to support the Covid crisis in India. Everything helps. Donations go directly to healthcare physical infrastructure, medical equipment, and vaccine support and mobilization,” she wrote. 

Actor Aasif Mandavi shared a link to donate toWorld Central Kitchen. “@WCKitchen has started deliveries to hospitals in Mumbai, India! They’ll be distributing meals 7 days a week in overcrowded hospitals where the people saving lives are struggling with food access. Please consider supporting their life saving work.”

Chef Vikas Khanna has also been coordinating relief efforts from New York to India, including 550 oxygen tanks and PPE. He won hearts and saved lives last year by organizing dry ration to thousands of families affected by the lockdown. He told CNN’s Anderson Cooper this week that instead of criticizing what’s going on, “we should be part of the solution.” His Feed India intuitive has partnered with Vibha, and “within a few days” they’ve raised “almost $435,000,” Khanna told Cooper. 

Sewa International, the Houston-based nonprofit that specializes in disaster recovery, education, and development, has ramped up their fundraising goal to $10 million to fight the COVID surge in India. The organization has volunteers working both in the U.S. and in India, round the clock, coordinating the work of both raising funds and procuring medical equipment supplies, as well as getting the equipment and essential supplies to hospitals, institutions, and individuals in India. Gitesh Desai, president of the Houston chapter of Sewa International, toldABC 13 that around 400 oxygen-concentrators have reached India, and 2,184 more concentrators are to be shipped shortly to India. According to Viswanath Koppaka, Director of Marketing, the Sewa International has had “a tremendous outpouring of support from individuals and organizations across the country.”

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Sewa India volunteers supply freshly cooked meals healthcare workers and police in Karnataka.

Similarly, BAPS Charities, through its network of partner  hospitals in India and newly created temporary medical  facilities,  is  working  to  accommodate  the  surge  of  patients  unable  to  receive  medical care by providing ventilators, oxygen supplies, concentrators, medicines,   medical therapies, and other diagnostic services. They are also providing PPE and other necessary supplies to healthcare providers and  those  displaced  by  the  pandemic. In  addition  to  the  physical  support,  volunteers  are supporting the silent victims of the pandemic, the families of the afflicted, by providing hot meals and more importantly comfort and emotional support. Roughly 30 oxygen concentrators have been delivered to India from the U.S., and BAPS Charities is in the process of sending 150 more. 

The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) has shipped by air freight the first batch of 1,000 of the oxygen concentrators to India last week. “Thanks to you, the generous and compassionate members, and others as well, AAPI has been able and continues to make progress in its efforts to deal with an unfolding and out of control COVID 19 crises in India,” said AAPI president Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda. Stating that AAPI in collaboration with its partners on ground in India “have identified destinations based on urgency and acute need for the medical equipment to be able to serve and save as many lives as quickly, and to prevent avoidable catastrophe for the simple lack of O2,” Jonnalagadda said, “We have no doubt, this is just the beginning of a long road ahead. We are assessing the situation on the ground constantly and coordinating with various local task forces and teams.”

Maryland-based Association for India’s Development has volunteers distributing food and protective equipment in most of India’s 29 states, while Project HOPE, also in Maryland, is providing medical training, health education and humanitarian assistance in India. AmeriCares, a nongovernmental organization based in Connecticut that specializes in emergency medical response work, told the Times that it is working in several states in India to deliver PPE ventilators and other medical equipment, as well as to educate people on how to prevent the spread of the virus.

American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin members oversee shipments of oxygen concentrators to be sent to India.

Jagdip Ahluwalia from the Indo American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston told the Press Trust of India that members from his organization are coordinating with hospitals, NGOs, medical schools and government bodies in India “to make sure the equipment is getting to trained professionals, who can put it to immediate use.”

Some like Texas-based radio jockey Shadnam Modgil are using her voice to galvanize the community. “It’s a very, very grim situation coming out of India and every day getting worse,” she told NBC DFW. “It’s hitting home to everybody right now,” she said. “Every single person that you will talk to has somehow got a family member and extended family, a friend or someone.”

In Philadelphia, Ruchika Talwar’s email plea for donations touched off a social-media campaign that’s now raised $50,000 — and already sent 25 oxygen concentrators to Lok Nayak Hospital in New Delhi. “We were looking for a way to directly help,” said the 28-year-old urologic surgery resident at the University of Pennsylvania. “I lived through the first and second wave in Philly, and saw patients with COVID. It changes you.”Now at **$70,000** in donations – I had to start a GoFundMe, which is at an additional $200,000.”

Several groups are holding virtual events like singing shows or a 5K walk/run to raise funds to send to India. The India Association of Greater Boston is holding a 5K walk/run to raise money for the American India Foundation, which will help provide critical medical supplies and other essential goods. The race will be held on May 8 or 9 and can be done at any time and any place.

As Indian Americans galvanize to support people in their homeland, there’s a silver lining, as Charu Sudan Kasturi, Senior Editor at OZY put it. “Complete strangers are helping each other source oxygen and hospital beds on social media platforms, showcasing the best of humanity in a time of shortage that could so easily have brought out our worst instincts,” he wrote. “Ignoring the tensions between their countries, ordinary Pakistanis are offering aid and solace to Indians in strife. In the U.S., the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin is sending oxygen concentrator machines to India.” 

And while Indian Americans are dealing with the risks and restrictions of traveling back home, they are also doing their best soliciting help and hoping for the best.

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