New Brunswick

New Brunswickers rally to support COVID-19 response in India amid devastating impact

India has a long road to recovery as the country grapples with the aftermath of its declining COVID-19 second wave. Associations and local businesses in New Brunswick have raised $30,000 for the relief effort.

Businesses and community members across the province donate to fundraising effort

Family members mourn a loved one and victim of COVID-19 before his cremation on the outskirts of the city of Bengaluru, India. (Samuel Rajkumar/Reuters)

After his parents became sick and Ketan Raval's two aunts died from COVID-19, the Moncton resident knew he had to do his part to help with India's pandemic response. 

"Everyone was feeling helpless, and they cannot travel back to India."

In an interview, Raval spoke about how Canadians with loved ones in India felt dread at watching their family and friends struggle with one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks globally. 

Raval is part of the Indo-Canada Association of the Greater Moncton Area and sought the help of local businesses and other community members in raising $30,000 to donate to the Red Cross in India. 

"It feels good that at least we could contribute something if we will not be [there] facing this."

India has seen a downward trajectory in COVID-19 cases, but some experts are already warning the country could see a third wave this fall.

The country's health-care system has been under profound strain, coping with a medical oxygen shortage at the height of the country's second wave in May and tackling the highly transmissible delta variant.  

Ketan Raval, pictured here with his family in Moncton, spearheaded the successful effort to raise $30,000, which will go toward the purchase of life-saving resources in India's COVID-19 response. (Submitted Ketan Raval)

While the initiative started with the association in Moncton, word quickly spread to communities in Fredericton and Saint John, which also contributed to the fundraising effort that began in May. 

The money will be donated to the Red Cross in India and used to purchase life-saving supplies and services such as oxygen cylinders and access to ambulances. 

 

Varsha Wadnikop, also a member of the Moncton Association, said she feels immense grief when she remembers the death of her mother in March. 

"We did lose our mother and it's hard because we were looking forward for her to come visit us this year, especially with my daughter graduating," Wadnikop said in an interview.

As with many who have been separated by geography during the pandemic, the grieving process for Wadnikop has been difficult and farewells had to be done virtually because of travel restrictions.

But that motivated her to work with businesses to ensure some good could be done from half-way across the world. 

"It was good to see that collectively we were able to raise money so that it can go to help needed where it needs to go most."

Raval's family in India in 2018. Nine family members in this picture contracted COVID-19, including Raval's aunt, third row on the right, who died from the virus. (Submitted by Ketan Raval)

COVID-19 response

The Indian government's COVID-19 response has received backlash, with critics saying it should have better prepared for the second wave.

Raval believes that preparation could have saved his aunts.

"There could have been better administration. However, we also have benefit of the doubt because of the size of population that we have in India." 

Wadnikop felt disbelief over how grim the situation had become in India, considering how well the country handled the pandemic earlier this year. 

Varsha Wadnikop and her mother, Indumati Deokar, in 2012, when they visited their favourite resort at Tarkarli Beach in India. Wadnikop's mother died from COVID-19 in March of this year. (Submitted by Varsha Wadnikop)

"It seemed like India was doing great, and they were actually sending vaccinations to Canada and helping other countries.

"Hindsight is always 20/20 … I just feel sad and sorry that India got hit, and by the time they understood what they were hit with, they were in a dire state."

But Wadnikop also has hope the country will be able to bounce back from the crisis.

"India is a very strong country." 

On Monday, the Canadian government announced that it would be extending the ban on flights coming from India until July 21, citing concern over current case counts. 

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