The catastrophic COVID surge in India, with record numbers of new cases every day, shows few signs of slowing down. A number of humanitarian organizations, governments, individuals, and even celebrities are finding ways to help supply urgently needed resources and medical supplies. Harvard Business School student Shyamli Badgaiyan was among those who quickly mobilized a fundraising effort that has already raised more than $160,000 in aid.
“I had been watching COVID-19 cases surge and been feeling terribly anxious and helpless,” said Badgaiyan, who is from Delhi. “I found myself thinking of ways to help from afar — an instinct I would later learn many students across the country were also feeling.”
Badgaiyan, who leads the initiative with Priyank Lathwal, a Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon University, has mobilized South Asian student organizations across Harvard as well as students from more than 20 universities including Stanford, Carnegie Mellon University, Georgetown, MIT, Northwestern University, Tufts, and the University of Pittsburgh to jointly fundraise.
The student-led effort, which launched last week, aims to use a united platform to pool funds and channel them to the organizations working in India to alleviate shortages in oxygen, protective equipment, and other medical supplies that are straining the healthcare system. The group is working with GiveIndia, an organization that is partnering with key NGOs that have been authorized to supply equipment to hospitals and COVID care centers in India. Funds are disbursed by GiveIndia to their nonprofit partners to provide resources and equipment like oxygen cylinders, oximeters, and food.
“I had noticed that although there were many fundraisers being spoken of, an urgent need to fund shortages in medical supplies, and a tremendous desire to help the unfolding crisis, people still felt unsure about which relief effort was a trusted and transparent option to donate to — particularly from abroad,” Badgaiyan said.
Along with the HBS South Asian Business Association, other Harvard groups, such as the Harvard Kennedy School India Caucus and the Harvard India Conference, partnered for the fundraiser.
“I felt sorry for my country and I wanted to do something even if I wasn’t there,” said Heer Joisher ’21, a molecular and cellular biology Ph.D. student at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and co-chair of the Harvard India Conference, one of the largest student-run conferences focusing on India run out of HBS and HKS. “If we don’t solve the Indian crisis, it’s going to trickle down to a lot of other countries.”
It’s why the students involved in the effort stress that even small donations can make an impact.
“Creating this fundraiser has been a lesson in the power of channeling despair into action and hope,” Badgaiyan said. “It’s been incredibly heartening to see this collective action materialize, albeit heartbreaking to know just how needed our efforts have been.”
If your organization is interested in joining the efforts, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject line “India Covid-19 Relief.” To donate visit: https://covid.giveindia.org/southasianstudents/.