Since a large wave of COVID-19 infections hit India last month, Kiran Bandi has been constantly checking in on his family overseas.
Bandi, who left India in 1994, and moved to Minnesota in 2006, is originally from Hyderabad, a large industrial and tech city in the southern part of the country. Much of his family, including his father and several cousins, lives there. As of last week, one of these cousins was in the hospital and on supplemental oxygen after testing positive for COVID-19.
Procuring the oxygen presented “a bit of a challenge” for his family, Bandi said. So did accessing Remdesivir, an antiviral drug sometimes used to treat bad COVID-19 infections, which doctors prescribed for his cousin’s treatment. But all things considered, Bandi’s family appeared to be pushing through the crisis.
As president of the India Association of Minnesota (IAM), Bandi is plugged into a network of Indian Americans in Minnesota with connections to the subcontinent. Bandi heard much worse stories than his own from two friends here in Minnesota. On the same day last week, one lost her mother and while another lost her father.
“It’s very difficult when you hear about your family, your friends who are stuck with it,” Bandi said. “It gets a little bit challenging to work, when you’re thousands of miles away. I don’t really know how we can help from here, other than what we’re doing right now.”
The India Association of Minnesota is holding an online fundraiser to purchase oxygen concentrators—which provide supplemental oxygen to patients having trouble breathing—for hospitals and health care clinics across India.
In April, COVID-19 infections skyrocketed in India. At its worst, confirmed new cases averaged close to 400,000 a day, pushing the country’s health system to the brink of collapse. Pictures of makeshift cremations and horror stories about hospitals running out of supplemental oxygen filled news stories for the past month. As of press time, new case averages in the country are still high, at roughly 328,000 per day, though starting to recede.
Minnesota is home to a sizable Indian American population: some 50,000 people in total. Many, like Bandi, are hearing stories from relatives and friends on the ground living through the crisis. And, like Bandi, they’re stuck thousands of miles away.
So they’re doing what they can, and raising money locally to help the effort. The India Association of Minnesota is far from the only organization raising money to help during the crisis in India. Local nonprofits like Vidya Gyan, Marathi Association of Minnesota, the Chance Foundation, and BAPS Charities are all holding online fundraisers as well.