With love from America: How we raised Rs2.4 crore for India's COVID relief
This blog is a part of the HT Initiative: Coping With Covid.
Priyank Lathwal (4th year Ph.D. student, Carnegie Mellon University) and Shyamli Badgaiyan (2nd year MBA student, Harvard Business School) joined forces to raise nearly $330,000 ( ₹2.41cr) for COVID-19 relief in India. Hear their story in their own words.
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The surge in Covid-19 cases in India has been devastating to watch from afar. Within a few weeks, scores of lives and livelihoods have been overturned and a fragile health system burdened. The situation has painted a stark contrast to much of the United States, where rising vaccination rates began to usher the elusive ‘new normal’. As students at US universities, the realities in our two homes could not have felt more far apart. As our loved ones experienced grief, anxiety and illness, and strangers on our screens cried for oxygen, we couldn’t help but think of ways to make a difference.
It turns out we were not alone. Students across the US were grappling with similar instincts, carrying with them both despair and a drive to act. Beneath the emotions, there seemed to be an opportunity for us to help. We had vast university networks that could be tapped to channel vital resources to urban and rural areas across the country that needed them. While medical supply shortages were large and growing, so was the desire to give and support.
We both met (virtually!) in the hopes of playing a part in addressing India's worsening situation and decided to set up a nationwide student-led fundraiser that could help address critical medical shortages. We were overwhelmed by support, effort, and enthusiasm from student organizations across the country. There was a feeling of power in students coming together as a united front, and we soon realized we could achieve much more by joining hands than we could alone. Instead of starting separate relief initiatives, we decided to rally behind a single effort that could serve as a ‘go-to’ student-led platform for those seeking to help.
The total was indeed greater than the sum of its parts. What started as two graduate students on a Zoom call across different universities quickly scaled to 35 student organizations, 25 universities, 50 student leaders, and over $300,000 raised in just a week. The joint-student fundraiser was set up on GiveIndia’s platform, and is co-signed by South Asian organisations from Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, Wharton, Stanford, MIT, Columbia and a growing list of US universities. The group of students intend to initially direct relief funds to NGOs such as SaveLIFE Foundation, Doctors For You and Rural Health Care Foundation for oxygen concentrators, cylinders and isolation centres. With this first round of disbursements complete, we are looking to expand our efforts to a larger number of NGOs and causes, and explore opportunities in corporate matching. We hope to continue their fundraising efforts as long as the pandemic continues to strain India’s medical system -- a heartening target for a heart-breaking situation at home.
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The authors are students in US. Priyank Lathwal is a 4th year Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon University and Shyamli Badgaiyan is a 2nd year MBA student, Harvard Business School. The views expressed are their own.
The views expressed are personal.