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As Covid ravages India, diaspora pledges to help

After a disturbing call with his mother in New Delhi about the severity of the Covid-19 crisis in India, Priyank Lathwal said he felt an urgent need for help.

Lathwal, a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, quickly started a fund and, along with Harvard Business School student Shyamli Badgaiyan, helped unite 30 groups of Indian and South Asian students from across the United States for support.

“I had turned on the news, then my mom called me and said, ‘Things are really bad,’” Lathwal said. “When that happened, I thought, ‘Well, I have to do something about it.’”

Priyank Lathwal.Courtesy of Priyank Lathwal

Lathwal’s “Help India Breathe” page raises funds for oxygen and other supplies. Badgaiyan, who also has roots in Delhi, had started a fundraising initiative through the nonprofit fundraising page Give India. Together, they raised approximately $ 275,000 in six days.

“I was so anxious last week – there was so much hopelessness and just sadness and helplessness,” Badgaiyan said. “Ever since I started doing this, I feel so much – I don’t mean better – but at least like I can channel some of that anxious energy into something productive.

A spokesperson for GoFundMe told NBC News that since April 17, fundraisers related to Indian Covid-19 relief have raised more than $ 2.1 million. These campaigns are also global in scope: GoFundMe has calculated that 23,000 donors from 77 countries have contributed to date.

Lathwal, the president of the Carnegie Mellon Graduate Students’ Association of India, said he had started hearing from students worried about family members in India. Official figures released by the Indian government indicate the country has passed 218,000 Covid-19-related deaths, and many experts fear the number may be much higher.

The devastating second wave severely overtaxed India’s healthcare system, with many hospitals having to turn away patients due to lack of beds and medical oxygen. The White House announced on Friday that travel from India to the United States would be limited as of Tuesday. the Centers for Disease Control. and prevention

The Lathwal and Badgaiyan fundraising project is just one of many projects organized in the United States to benefit Indian Covid-19 relief efforts. Connecticut resident Sujata Srinivasan began fundraising for Covid-19 patients in India at the start of the pandemic, using GoFundMe to raise funds for a hospital in the city of Vellore, in southern India. ‘India. As the severity of the third wave became clearer, she knew she wanted to mobilize her contacts again.

“I heard from a friend who is an intensive care specialist at one of the best nonprofit hospitals in India and he called the situation apocalyptic,” said Srinivasan, who immigrated to the United States. 20 years ago. “It’s a pretty strong word to use because it’s really not prone to hyperbole, but it is.” She also overheard another friend ask her if she could personally purchase and ship an oxygen concentrator to Bangalore, India, as the availability in the city was so low. Srinivasan spent the weekend figuring out how to do it.

Last week, Srinivasan began encouraging friends and neighbors to donate to Oxygen for India, a new initiative that focuses on purchasing medical oxygen for hospitals and patients at home. As an incentive to give, Srinivasan offers to cook a three-course Indian meal for anyone local to her who donates $ 100 or more.

“There will be flavored Indian soup and appetizers like pakoras, aloo parathas and a paneer dish and chickpeas and all that,” she said. The meals will also be accompanied by a six-year-old son of Y Srinivasan, drawn by hand. “It’s also a way for me to teach my son to care and be socially aware,” she said.

For members of the yoga community, directing students to ways to help also serves as a way to continue to highlight the roots of yoga in the Indian subcontinent. Tech worker and yoga teacher Divya Balakrishnan recently hosted a free online course in exchange for donations that supported four Indian nonprofits that raised more than $ 11,000 in crowdfunding donations. Since many of these donations were matched with corporate sponsors, the event raised a total of $ 22,600.

As she began to plan for the event, Balakrishnan said she also began to think more about the disparities that exist in Indian society. “It made me clear that there are so many privileges that I have as an Indo-American,” said Balakishnan, who grew up in California and has family in the Indian city of Chennai. “I think everyone probably knows someone who has been affected or who has been ill.”

Anditi Shah, a yoga and meditation enthusiast at Le Peloton, uses her platform to encourage her audience to donate While Shah does not often post about her private life on social media, that is to say – to say that she had the impression in this case that she had stopped talking. On April 25, she wrote a detailed Instagram post about her connection to India and the sharp rise in coronavirus cases, while urging readers to donate to one of the nonprofits mentioned. “I wanted to suggest ways to truly understand that we are all citizens of the world and that we are all interconnected – especially my community, where many are practitioners of yoga or meditation,” she said.

Fundraising also serves as a much-needed outlet for those dealing with the fact that they are thousands of miles from their friends and family during a public health crisis. “The response has been very galvanizing when it comes to people from different walks of life trying to participate in whatever they can,” Lathwal said, adding that he always receives emails from people he doesn’t. has never met and want to help. “This sense of community is definitely part of this fundraising experience.”

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