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Arizona nonprofit helps raise $7M to send oxygen concentrators to India

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Posted at 6:22 PM, May 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-07 21:22:20-04

The COVID-19 crisis in India is hitting very close to home for the millions of Indian Americans living here in the United States. Heartbreaking news reports from India depict hospitals overflowing, people dying on the streets and the death toll has now surpassed 230,000.

The crisis has sparked an outpouring of support around the world and from Indian Americans in Arizona.

Prasad Koranne, the Phoenix Chapter Director of the non-profit Sewa International, said the response to their calls for donations had been overwhelming.

Donations were pouring in from all over the country. A Facebook fundraising account that originally launched with the goal of raising $500,000 surpassed that within a day. Now, the account stands at over $7 million.

Sai Kalluri, an advisory board member of Sewa International, said this was an indication of how the COVID-19 crisis has touched the hearts of so many in the community. Kalluri added that their organization has helped send aid to India after many disasters, but he had never seen anything like this.

Ritu Daryani, another Sewa volunteer from the Valley, likened the crisis to a biological war with many casualties.

But more than thoughts and prayers, air was what was desperately needed in India. With help from many supporting organizations, Sewa International has been able to send thousands of oxygen concentrators to India, with thousands more on the way.

Venkat Kommineni, an Indian American living in Arizona, said shipment for these oxygen concentrators could be costly, but thanks to all of the donations they were able to meet those expenses. Kommineni also said there were many Indian Americans who were scrambling to get oxygen concentrators to family members as many of the sick were recovering at home.

"It is just so devastating at this point in time," said Kommineni.

The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) has also donated toward the oxygen concentrator shipments being sent to India.

"Oxygen concentrator is one of the low-tech items that we can immediately [sent]. It can be used in the community at home, pre-hospital, post-hospital. It is really a lifesaver," said Dr. Ravi Kolli, the Vice President of the AAPI.

The organization, which represents tens of thousands of Indian doctors in America, is now urging the Biden Administration to release 30 million AstraZeneca vaccines for India.

While much of the work was logistical, there were some volunteers who had the tough job of helping families with loved ones who were sick in India.

Ritu Daryani was one of the Sewa volunteers who worked directly with these families which was an emotionally tasking job. She told ABC15 Arizona about an Arizona family who had reached out to the organization for help after being unable to secure a hospital bed for their sick father in India. Daryani said she was so thrilled when they succeeded in getting him that hospital bed, but the excitement was short-lived.

"Unfortunately, the father passed away yesterday, and I don't know, my heart broke. I could not handle any more cases," said Daryani, her voice shaking.

She realized the silver lining here was that the oxygen concentrators they were shipping out were also saving many lives.

"Whatever we are doing right now is a drop in the ocean, but at least we are able to do something," said Daryani.

From large efforts to small ones, the COVID-crisis has touched many people's hearts as they saw and heard horror stories of the suffering so many Indians are undergoing right now.

Astha Dedikiya, a 17-year-old Valley high school student, said she felt she just had to do something to help, as that was in her nature. Her grandfather who is in his 70s in India had contracted COVID-19 but had since recovered.

Dedikiya decided to put care packages for people in India. It started with clothes she did no longer wore, then grew to include sanitation items, masks, gloves, rice, crackers and blankets as well.

She spent hundreds of dollars from her own savings account to buy the items. She was further inspired after organizations in India sent her pictures of Indian men, women and children using some of the items she had donated. The pictures also showed people eating the rice she had included in her care packages.

"It was just something like I knew I had to do something," she added.

If you would like to donate toward COVID-19 aid for India, below are a few links to fundraisers currently taking place: