IT is not only global charities and governments helping to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on the Indian sub-continent.
Friends of India Network, tiny by comparison to UNICEF and Save the Children, is a Ballarat-based community group that aims to bring residents of Indian origin and the local community together to contribute to community projects in Ballarat.
FIN, as it is known, also has India’s battle with the pandemic at heart.
Dr Sanjay Sharma, deputy director of Sessional Clinicians Anaesthesia at Ballarat Health Services and FIN’s founder, is appealing, with folded hands, to the Ballarat and Australian wide communities to help this unprecedented crisis that has befallen India.
FIN aims to raise $90,000 to purchase and ship 30 oxygen concentrators to India.
Dr Sharma said that in Ballarat, with a population of 100,000, if everyone donated $1 each, the target would be very quickly achieved.
“Our network generally raises funds for the community by accepting donations, holding social functions and running the annual cricket match,” Dr Sharma said.
“Due to the restrictions COVID enforced on all activities in 2020 we have been unable to support the Ballarat community in our usual manner.
“So as India’s health resources are overwhelmed and overrun, we are turning our attention to India and asking for support.”
Dr Sharma and his wife Associate Professor Dr Deepika Monga together with their two children, moved to Ballarat more than 20 years ago.
Sarah Masters, Head of Fundraising and Engagement at Ballarat Health Services said Sanjay and Deepika have been extraordinary supporters of BHS over the years through the Friends of India Network in Ballarat.
“Deepika and Sanjay have done so much for our Ballarat and Grampians community and they’re now asking for our help,” Ms Masters said.
Dr Sharma is calling on the Indian diaspora to contribute and to link with the community to rally around this cause with meaningful contributions.
“I lost my mum two months ago from a Covid unrelated cause,” he said.
“I couldn’t even get there for last rites because of all the travel restrictions.
“Now my motherland is in trouble and I feel it’s our moral responsibility to do the best we can to help.
“I have heard so many friends, colleagues and teachers dying in the last couple of weeks, and authorities are being forced to create makeshift crematoriums, this is absolutely gut wrenching.”
FIN, and many small groups just like it across Australia, have been involved in fundraising for local causes and helping local communities.
Dr Sharma said he and his wife and the FIN members, would like to request the friends made over the last 20 years help in this time of crisis.
“I’m proud of my heritage and my roots but equally proud of my adopted home,” Dr Sharma said when interviewed during Ballarat’s Harmony Fest in 2021.
“Please come and stand with us to support this grave crisis that has hit our motherland.”
FIN is collaborating with SEWA International a registered entirely volunteer-run charity based in Australia who will purchase and handle the shipping of the concentrators.
SEWA International will work with the Indian military to ensure the equipment reaches the right people in the area of most need.
Donations can be made at https://tinyurl.com/fin-ballarat