International Studies & Programs

MSU Students for COVID-19 Relief in India close to meeting $50,000 fundraising goal

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Published: Thursday, 13 May 2021 Author: Ramya Swayamprakash

A variant of the COVID-19 virus first found in India is currently ravaging the country. At a time when the number of new cases is falling worldwide, India reported 348,421 new cases Wednesday, May 12 and a record 4,205 deaths. In the last month, the situation in India has worsened. The Washington Post reported that the variant dominant in India has also been found in 49 countries. According to the World Health Organization, the new variant was responsible for “half of all new infections in the world over the past week and 30 percent of all the deaths.”*

For Indian students such as Darshana Devarajan, “living so far away from our homes and families, watching the country in crisis is heart wrenching.” Devarajan along with other MSU graduate students and alumni including Manasi Mishra, Ramya Swayamprakash, Radhika Sen, Vanika Grover, Amit Sharma, Sadiq Mohammed, Abhinav Kapoor, and Vivek Vellanki conceived the Michigan State University Student Fundraiser for COVID-19 Relief in India which has raised over $40,000 in under a week. These NGOs have been running COVID relief camps that provide food and life care support in addition to procuring life saving PPE and oxygen cylinders. In the long term, this will help India and its citizens slowly work towards a new normal. Screen shot of the GoFundMe fundraiser home screen

“The feeling of helplessness was weighing down on us, and the fundraiser provided us with an opportunity to do something and send aid across to organizations doing excellent ground work, at the risk of their own lives, in India,” said Devarajan. Her concerns were echoed by Satish Upda, Former Acting President, MSU, who said, “help is needed to provide relief and succor to some of the disadvantaged communities in India. Now is the time for everyone to rally around the cause of the poorest of the poor.” 

The group raised their initial goal of $15,000 in two days. The funds were going to be divided equally amongst three NGOs working on the ground: Hemkunt Foundation, Enrich Lives Foundation, and HelpNow. “We felt overwhelmed by the support of the MSU community when we reached the goal of 15k in less than 48 hrs,” said Mishra. “All Spartans—not just the Indian community—came together to stand with us to support the amazing work of the organizations in helping less privileged communities in fighting the pandemic in India. We realised we have built so many valuable relationships during our time at MSU and that has helped us amplify our appeal to the community.”  

A group of Indian MSU students gather on a lawn.
MSU Students for COVID-19 Relief in India organizers

Watching the fundraiser succeed at this pace gave the team momentum to work harder everyday and reach out to more people. The group has increased their goal to raising $50,000 by Saturday, May 15 and intends to contribute funds to Association for India’s Development (AID) and Child in Need Institute in addition to Hemkunt Foundation, Enrich Lives Foundation, and HelpNowInitiative. For the NGOs working on the ground, the fundraiser provides an important fillip to their efforts. Sheivani Upadhayay, Co-founder, Enrich Lives Foundation said that it is “only when we start recognizing our privilege in this situation that we will be able to work harder for those who are not privileged.” 

The Indian community at MSU is hurting. The crisis is unprecedented and unparalleled. The group implores the MSU community to support the fundraising efforts. Divya Victor, Associate Professor, Department of English implores the larger MSU community to “respond to our plea for funds with empathy and to contribute any amount they can to help this campaign meet its 50K goal. Please help us ameliorate this collective fear and grief with your generosity.” The crisis “may seem located in a far away place for many of us, it pierces through the lives of so many South Asians in the US who are your neighbors, friends, students and family members.” she added. Amita Chudgar, Professor, Department of Education Policy, pointed out that a “crisis like the one unfolding in India right now requires us to come together and respond as a global community.” 

"A crisis like the one unfolding in India right now requires us to come together and respond as a global community.”

The MSU community has rallied around the students’ initiative. Sanjay Gupta, Eli and Edythe L. Broad Dean of the Eli Broad College of Business said, “It is truly heartbreaking to hear about the extent of suffering in India and the toll on humanity, but it is also heartwarming to hear about the manner in which Spartans are rallying to support each other. We hope and pray that the worst is behind us and that good sense will prevail to take the right precautions to put an end to this pandemic.” Chudgar added, “This group of Indian MSU graduate students are providing exemplary leadership to create just such a global community of support.” On behalf of the India Council at MSU, Satish Joshi, Professor, Agricultural Food and Resource Economics appealed to “the MSU community for support" whilst commending the group’s efforts. 

You can read more about the organizations the fundraiser supports, here: 

  • Hemkunt Foundation (Instagram and Twitter), which provides relief for COVID patients who don’t have access to hospitals, in their relief camps in Gurgaon and distributes free oxygen cylinders to COVID-19 patients to low-income communities, helping up to 500 patients per day and has helped people with 150,000 litres of oxygen. 
  • Enrich Lives Foundation (Instagram and Twitter), which ensures that the country’s migrant and daily wage laborers’ communities, who have been most impacted by the crisis, have access to food and groceries, distributing means to 35,000+ underprivileged families.
  • HelpNow Initiative (Instagram and Twitter), an initiative by students of IIT Bombay providing free sanitized and well-equipped ambulances with ventilators within 15-20 minutes to transport COVID patients. 
  • AID (Instagram and Twitter) is providing food support to COVID-19 positive families in rural parts of Tamil Nadu. Additionally, they update the type of support depending on the most urgent need of the community. In the past several weeks they have provided grocery support, protective gear, mental health services, oximeters, and thermometers.
  • Child in Need Institute (Instagram and Twitter) has set up multiple COVID Sahayata Kendra (CSK) or help desks in rural and urban areas to raise awareness on COVID appropriate behavior and link them to organizations providing emergency COVID relief. Additionally, they are distributing wellness kits to affected families, and mobilizing funds to support the district health authorities with emergency gear.


Questions or want to help in other ways? 

Darshana Devarajan: darshana(at), 517-515-8019

Manasi Mishra: mishram1(at), 517-402-0972

Ramya Swayamprakash co-authored this article in partnership with ISP Communications. She is a doctoral student in the College of Social Science and one of the organizers of  MSU Students for COVID-19 Relief in India.

*Schemm, P., & Beachum, L. (12, May, 2021). ‘Indian coronavirus variant has now spread to almost 50 countries, says WHO,’ The Washington Post