A Toronto non-profit organization that promotes trade between Canada and India says it has raised $440,220 to send oxygen to India “in all shapes and forms” as the country fights a deadly wave of COVID-19.
The Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce (ICCC) has begun to hold virtual fundraisers called “Oxygen for India” on Sundays. Its goal is to raise $2 million. Its first event was on Sunday and a total of $88,220 was raised between 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. It will hold three more virtual fundraising events, with the final one on June 6.
All money collected will be used to send oxygen concentrators and oxygen generators to India and to help the country create capacity in its hospital system. About 1,500 oxygen concentrators it has purchased are already on their way to hospitals in India.
“We want people to know that India does need help,” Vijay Thomas, president of the ICCC, told CBC Toronto on Sunday.
“This is something that the best of nations, if they got hit with what hit India, they would not be able to do it on their own as well. They would need help as well. This is help that is probably temporary in nature,” he added.
“If anybody does donate, I’m pretty sure there’s going to be a big IOU from the Indian nation, from Indians, from Indo-Canadians, and I’m pretty sure you can call upon India to assist if any time there was a need. And what we’ve seen in history, it doesn’t take long.”
Thomas noted that Canada accepted vaccines from the Serum Institute of India two months ago and now it is Canada’s turn to step up. He said the ICCC has decided that it will send oxygen because that is what the country needs.
“There is no oxygen in India. Right now, we’re not sending money to India. We’re sending oxygen in all shapes and forms,” he said.
“If we can get oxygen to India, that is what can help. That is what can save lives. People are dying of COVID, but people are also dying from not having oxygen, which is kind of indirectly COVID. The lack of oxygen got them. And that is the part that we think we can help and that’s what we really want people to help us with.”
‘We are all in this together,’ ICCC president says
Thomas said the organization has enlisted the help of more than 82 other Indo-Canadian organizations.
“The world is a small place. We are all in this together,” Thomas said.
The fundraising events run across a number of social media platforms and television channels. To double the impact, Thomas said certain donors will match up to $1 million in donations.
Vic Fedeli, Ontario economic development minister, said during Sunday’s virtual fundraising event that the provincial government extends its sympathies to India.
“We grieve with India in the lives that it has taken and the families it has devastated,” Fedeli said.
For Toronto residents who have lost family members in India, the efforts to raise money for oxygen to help people who are still suffering are appreciated.
Kriti Sehgal, a project manager in Toronto, said her grandmother, Suwarsha Minocha, contracted COVID-19 last month in India and died five days later on May 4, 2021, She was 83. Her grandmother was like a second mother to her. Sehgal lived in India for 10 years and spent much time with her.
“She was the most loving and nurturing person in my life,” she said. It was definitely very shocking when all of this was happening. It happened so fast. She was just this wonderful person.
“She took so much pride in giving to her family and anyone that was in need that met her.”
Sehgal said she is getting married next year and had “high hopes” that her grandmother was going to attend, be part of the wedding and meet her new family.
“Just the thought of her not being here and not being able to see her just feels really heartbreaking,” she said.
Sehgal said her grandmother was healthy — “she’s never even had a cavity” — and the family had trouble finding a hospital bed, medical help and medicine when she got sick with COVID-19 in India. Help came too late, she said.
“I wish we were there near her when all of this was happening,” she added.
Sehgal said efforts to send oxygen to India may mean people get to spend more time with their loved ones and may give those who are suffering the help they need. “It just makes me feel hopeful and it makes me feel like there is a brighter future,” she said.
India has reported more than 24 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 270,000 deaths due to the virus.