Before the news of India’s massive Covid-19 second wave and the tragic collapse of the healthcare system made it to the front pages of the international press, it was already being conveyed across the continents on WhatsApp. Indians around the world had a direct line to the medical calamity, as they heard about the difficulties faced by family, friends and neighbours in the country.
In response, many are springing into action. From amplifying SOS calls to organising donation drives, many Indians abroad have begun efforts to send supplies and funds in the hope of providing some relief.
“These are our people suffering, and that’s why we decided that we should act and help,” said Ravinder Singh, founder of Khalsa Aid Foundation, which provides aid to communities hit by disaster and disease around the world. “Our team initially bought several dozens of oxygen concentrators and gave them to those in need on rotation, thus saving many lives. We have also provided firewood for cremation after a deluge of corpses overwhelmed the crematoriums and the resources needed for funerals.”
Singh, the chief executive officer of Khalsa Aid, said that the organisation received over a hundred oxygen concentrators within two days of appealing to their contributors for donations and that they will be shipping at least 300 units of the medical equipment to India by air this weekend.
“We are also trying to purchase oxygen in bulk to supply to smaller, rural hospitals in India which are now being hit by Covid-19,” Singh said. “The plan is to continue fighting the disease, stand with the people of India, and do what we can to save lives.”
The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin ran a donation campaign in collaboration with the NGO Sewa International and are scheduled to ship 1,000 oxygen concentrators to India on Friday.
“We want to use the money collected for the right cause in the right way,” a statement released by AAPI said. “We will be using the rest of the money for more oxygen concentrators, and oxygen delivery equipment such a BiPAP, CPAP machines and ventilators.”
Many Indians in the diaspora are also contributing to the volunteer efforts of amplifying requests for medical support, verifying leads and collating information on ongoing donation campaigns to aid people in distress.
Among those helping out is Mahesh, a Canada-based entrepreneur of Indian origin who moved out five years ago. He has been donating to fundraisers and amplifying these on his social media channels. But he said that checking in with families and friends is the most important thing to do in this hour of distress.
“I believe a quick text message might make your loved ones feel that you do care about them and are concerned about their health,” Mahesh told Scroll.in. “This situation in India makes me anxious at times, but then I remind myself that it won’t help me in solving the problem that’s in front of us. So, I try to stay connected with my family and friends. I know things are quite out of control and that’s what most of the countries felt in the beginning, but now they are in a much better state and that hope keeps me going.”
New York-based research scholar Sheenam Khuttan has also been calling hospitals, oxygen providers and others to verify availability, and sharing leads with her friends and family back home.
“The past one week has been especially rough,” she said. “Every day, I wake up to see someone I know scrambling for oxygen or medicines or a hospital bed. The best I can do from here is verify resources available on the internet and broadcast them.”
Khuttan also praised her mentor and programme officer who asked her to take breaks to preserve her mental health, if needed. “My parents and friends are in India, and this crisis is overwhelming, to say the least,” she said. “But, my priority right now is to give them a listening ear because this situation is taking a toll on everyone’s mental health, and I am doing my best.”
Canadian poet of Indian origin Rupi Kaur has thrown her weight behind non-governmental organisations working to supply aid to Indians in trouble. In an Instagram post, she asked her followers to donate to the Hemkunt Foundation, Khalsa Aid, Mission Oxygen, and Students Islamic Organisation of India.
Support has also poured in from politicians and elected representatives of Indian origin around thew world.
The New York Times published a list of fundraisers detailing how readers could contribute to the effort in India.