A group of 15 Indian and Pakistani students at Queen’s University have started a GoFundMe page with a goal of raising $50,000 for those suffering with the COVID-19 pandemic in India, as cases surpass 20 million.
In only four days, the team has collected over $4,000 in donations.
Many of the students are international with immediate relatives suffering in their home country, where the need for oxygen tanks, medical supplies and basic needs grows daily.
International graduate student Paluck Kohli came to Canada in 2019 from Delhi. She has been here alone ever since and is scared for some of her family members.
“My parents are there, immediate relatives, all of my friends, so it hurts when you hear the bad news and you just don’t want to hear another one,” Kohli says.
The donation page was set up earlier this week with the intention to send funds periodically to various official organizations in India. Sending money on a weekly basis allows for the funds to be allocated to those who aren’t considered as front line, such cremation workers.
One of the organizers, Harshavardhan Thyagarajan, says there are many front-line workers that are excluded based on their caste and class.
“The additional challenge is associated with caste and class in India, where not everybody has the same access to what we could consider to be public,” Thyagarajan said.
“It’s something that becomes extremely critical, so some of the organizations that are looking to support urgently are to help provide basic needs to either those who are underprivileged or systematically excluded.”
Kohli, Thyagarajan and the many others that are involved say they feel a sense of guilt being in Kingston where they feel safe from the virus, compared to many of their relatives and friends in India.
“We just saw the COVID situation here versus what was happening back home so, you know, physically we were here almost reaping all of the privileges and our head and heart was back home, where things are getting out of hand and people are losing hope,” Kohli says.
In addition to collaborating with organizations in India, the students from Queen’s have also reached out to local companies and organizations. They say that many have responded, asking how they are able to help with donations.