How US-based Indian students are joining hands to help India in its COVID-19 fight

The North American Association of Indian Students (NAAIS) launched two campaigns to raise funds for India.
The consignment from the US which reached Believers Hospital in Kerala
The consignment from the US which reached Believers Hospital in Kerala
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The second wave of the pandemic has had an adverse impact on people across the country. The grim reality in India and people’s cry for help saw a lot of NGOs and groups coming forward to do their bit to ease the situation. Several countries also extended help by sending in aid, equipment and in some cases, even oxygen cylinders and concentrators. The situation back home also pushed the North American Association of Indian Students (NAAIS) to launch a campaign to aid India’s fight against COVID-19.

Hoping to raise funds for India, the association came together and began mobilising the Indian diaspora, particularly Indian students and members of the young Indian professional community. They aimed to bring the diaspora together so that their efforts could yield a significant impact, raise funds and ship essential medical equipment to India.

Speaking to TNM, Arunika Chandra, communications director of the North American Association of Indian Students, threw light on the efforts taken by the association. “Hoping to create a difference, we launched two campaigns — the ‘Students against COVID India’ campaign and the ‘COVID-19 India Crisis Response’ campaign. Through the first phase of the ‘Students against COVID India’ campaign, NAAIS managed to raise more than $20,000 (over Rs 14 lakh). This provided for 40 oxygen concentrators that can cumulatively support 160 patients at a given time,” Arunika explained. 

Image Courtesy: Instagram/NAAIS

Students Against COVID India campaign

This crowdfunding campaign across North America aims at procuring and sending oxygen concentrators to India. The campaign's first phase was in partnership with the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) and the Embassy of India. Along with AAPI’s second shipment to India, NAAIS was able to send 40 oxygen concentrators to India. This shipment was sent out on May 3, 2021. This campaign was supported by donations collected through individual fundraisers organised by more than 40 Indian Student Associations across North America as well as donations by private individuals.

One of the consignments being shipped to India

In the second leg of the campaign, the funds raised by NAAIS will go towards providing hospitals with bigger, portable high-flow oxygen concentrators (6 litres per minute), which cost $1,500 (over Rs 1 lakh) per machine and can support 60 people per month. “NAAIS is already working with its partners to raise funds for the latest shipment of over 2,000 oxygen concentrators, which are being shipped and distributed in India,” Arunika added.

For the second phase, the association has partnered with the Delhi government and the Navya Network, a US-based company that offers timely, personalised and affordable treatment plans for cancer patients, caregivers and physicians. The procurement and logistics are coordinated by NGOs such as Community Partners International (CPI) as well as companies such as Inogen, FedEx and AirIndia. Distribution is being handled by the National Cancer Grid, a network of major cancer centres, research institutes, patient groups and charitable institutions across India. 

NAAIS is also in the process of mobilising an additional 100 student organisations across the United States of America for the cause.

COVID-19 India Crisis Response campaign

While the first campaign is aimed at bringing together the students across North America, through its second campaign, the NAAIS aims to mobilise the large network of Indian professionals in North America. Several companies and organisations in North America not only have a significant number of Indians and Indian-American employees but also have a sizable presence in the Indian market.

The COVID-19 crisis in India has a direct impact on the workforce of the private sector in the US. Hence, this campaign aims to mobilise the private sector on humanitarian grounds.

NAAIS equips interns and professionals working in these organisations with email templates that help create a conversation on what aid can be provided to India from their employer. The template includes language, suggestions, links and other resources that can be used to generate a strategy on the basis of employee matching, donations, philanthropic efforts and advocacy, among many other possibilities.

So far, 10,000 professionals have accessed this template and mobilised companies such as Google, Spotify, Black Rock, Microsoft, Uber and several others. The number of professionals and companies referencing this template is exponentially increasing each day, said Arunika.

Image Courtesy: Instagram/NAAIS

“While the response from students and different associations well exceeded our expectations, we knew that India’s COVID-19 surge is expected to persist for a while. And so, fuelled by the success of the campaign’s first round, NAAIS will be kicking off the second leg of the ‘Students Against COVID India’ campaign. We are fortunate to be able to broaden our impact and now partner with Tata Memorial Center to reach state governments and a larger number of hospitals,” explained Arunika.

READ: 269 doctors across country lost lives in the second wave of COVID-19: IMA

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