A small group of South Asian students at Queen’s University, with the support of Queen’s International Students Working Group (ISWG), has set up a GoFundMe page to help fund grassroots work in India amidst the current devastation caused by COVID-19.
Since mid-April, news coming out of India has highlighted a shortage of ventilators, hospital beds, basic medicines, and halts to vaccination efforts amidst the nation’s second wave of COVID-19. To date, India has seen upwards of 250, 000 deaths from COVID-19, however, medical experts believe the actual numbers could be five to 10 times higher than what has been reported.
The Queen’s students responsible for the fundraiser connected through a shared pain and desire to help family and friends in their home communities. With assistance from ISWG, an advocacy group working towards a more equitable and fair work and study experience for international graduate students at Queen’s, what began as a WhatsApp group has grown into over $8,000 raised in 12 days. The GoFundMe goal rests at $50,000.
“This cause is very dear to us, not just because we are all connected to India through blood and birth, but also because we feel that there is a disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on developing countries,” said Mandeep Gabhi, a doctoral candidate at Queen’s Faculty of Education and one of the organizers of ‘CAre for India.’
“As a result, [India’s] weak structural systems in healthcare and government need external support and scaffolding.”
The fundraising campaign is entitled ‘CAre for India,’ a name meant to denote the important relationship between Canada and India.
Within the first week of local fundraising, the students were able to send $2,000 to Hemkunt Foundation and an additional $2,000 to Helping Hands Foundation, two organizations based in India that are directing their resources towards essential aspects of COVID-19 relief.
Hemkunt provides free use of oxygen cylinders to people in Delhi and several other states in India without access to healthcare, while Helping Hands provides food and medical supplies to unemployed migrant workers and daily wage earners, shelters for people who are displaced and other marginalized communities, and additionally gives personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontline workers.
“The social structures in India operate quiet similarly to any other country in the world, where there is a big division of haves and have nots,” said Gabhi. “[We] want to focus on people who cannot afford to amplify their needs on social media, people who cannot afford to ‘work from home,’ as they are sewage workers, garbage collectors, house helps; people who do not have access to clean drinking water or running water to wash hands regularly; or to give their loved ones a respectful farewell upon their death.”
“These are the communities and people who keep India running, and now, when they are disproportionately affected by the virus and the toll it has taken on our healthcare system, we don’t want them to be forgotten and left behind again.”
The students are appealing to the larger Kingston community, including local businesses and organizations, to provide financial aid and assist those living in India at the height of the pandemic.