Volunteers at Hindu temples, Muslim groups and Sikh relief organizations across the United States are mobilizing to support India as the world’s second most populous country struggles to handle a devastating surge of the coronavirus.
From coast to coast, faith groups tied to the Indian diaspora have collected hundreds of oxygen concentrators and electrical transformers to ship to overwhelmed hospitals, raised millions for everything from food to firewood for funeral pyres and gathered in prayer for spiritual support for the Asian nation.
“This is a human tragedy, said Manzoor Ghori, executive director of the California-based Indian Muslim Relief and Charities, which has donated more than $1 million for purposes including supporting teachers and providing families with thousands of medical kits and more than 300,000 meals.
Ghori said he has had five loved ones, including two nephews, die in India from COVID-19 — “so, it is a personal tragedy” as well.
He’s one of many in the U.S. diaspora to have lost relatives to the virus in India, where total confirmed infections and deaths have surpassed 22.6 million and 246,000, respectively, though the true numbers are believed to be much higher.
The U.S. branch of Khalsa Aid, a U.K.-based Sikh humanitarian organization, is sending another 500 concentrators and 500 electrical transformers this week to New Delhi, where the group’s team is already helping COVID-19 patients, hospitals and NGOS with essential supplies as well as wood for cremations.
At a warehouse on New York’s Long Island, workers busily packed, sorted and labeled dozens of boxes containing transformers on a recent day ahead of their shipment.
“In these last two weeks, many of us haven’t slept. We’ve been running our day jobs at the same time,” one of the group’s directors, Manpreet Kaur said.
Khalsa Aid’s India relief effort has gotten grassroots support from individuals all over the country, such as Tahil Sharma, a Los Angeles-based interfaith activist born to a Hindu father and a Sikh mother. He raised nearly $3,000 on Facebook for the initiative.
“It’s a small amount for a really big crisis,” Sharma said. “But it helps mitigate the costs that Khalsa Aid needs to take upon itself sometimes in being able to get oxygen concentrators, to be able to secure beds at gurdwaras (Sikh houses of worship) on the ground in New Delhi, to help them get the resources that they need so people don’t get hit by more waves of deaths.”
Seeing individual pledges like that on social media platforms motivated members of Shri Shirdi Saibaba, a Hindu Temple in South Brunswick Township, New Jersey, to organize as a religious organization for their own effort, temple founder and chairman Rajesh Anand said. So far the temple has raised about $3,000 to buy concentrators for two hospitals in New Delhi.
Support for India has come, too, from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which sent ventilators to hospitals in Mumbai and Ahmedabad and personal protective equipment to rural communities. It is also recruiting U.S. and Israeli intensive-care doctors and nurses for a telemedicine training program.