Share & Care Foundation forges ahead with grassroots COVID relief in India

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Share & Care’s vaccination support program with Mijwan Welfare Society in Uttar Pradesh. Photo: courtesy Share & Care

The U.S.–based Share & Care Foundation (SCF), which has been working on the ground in India for decades, pivoted to COVID relief projects as the pandemic unfolded last year.

Now, in the second disastrous phase of the pandemic, it is reorienting and reinforcing efforts and targeting the most vulnerable where they live.

The SCF has consistently received a top rating from Charity Navigator, and organizers say its strength lies in its transparency and the fact that 100 percent of donations for Covid relief, go to that work.

Achieving much despite inadequate resources, SCF believes in showing results before appealing for even more financial support from a fundraising campaign, capped by a cultural program scheduled for July 17, 2021.

As of April 2021, the non-profit has undertaken a new $1 million pandemic relief package to help various states (including Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Gujarat), with immediate assistance going toward the items below, according to the latest SCF figures:

  • Vaccination assistance for 480,000-plus people
  • Healthcare kits for more than 12,000 families
  • Food assistance to more than 30,000 families

It’s previous COVID-19 disaster relief efforts included $300,000 (as of July 2020) in funding to reach tens of thousands of struggling people in the U.S. and India. Working with 16 NGOs, this initiative provided grocery kits and hot meals, medical equipment, and personal healthcare items such as soap and masks. In early 2021 we allocated an additional $300,000 for ongoing disaster relief efforts, which have been focused on relief and rehabilitation for those affected by this crisis.

In a Zoom call May 19, 2021, the members of SCF’s Disaster Relief Committee spoke to News India Times detailing some of the highlights of their efforts at this challenging time urging donors to open their hearts and wallets to expand the work through local reliable Indian non-governmental organizations.

The Disaster Relief Committee members included, SCF President Sharad Shah, Amar Shah, chairman and members Dr. Manoj Desai, Dr Shirish Patrawalla, Dr Bharati Palkhiwala, Dr Ketki Shah, Dr Amita Desai, Dilip Parikh. Dr. Patrawalla could not attend due to other commitments.

As news about the phase 2 Covid devastation surfaced, SCF Disaster Relief Committee, in an emergency meeting, decided to prioritize increasing awareness of the vaccination, preparing for specifics such as isolation, providing essential medicines in a kit, and health foods to help the immune system, Amar Shah told Desi Talk. Six NGOS on the ground began implementing these goals with an immediate transfer of $238,000 of SCF’s available funds. “We are happy to say the NGOs did excellent work,” said Amar Shah giving as an example, the NGO Pradan working in Jharkhand where 80 villages in 5 districts, was able to get more than 21,000 people vaccinated in three weeks.

Volunteers distributing ration kits in program supported by Share and Care USA. Photo courtesy Share & Care

Dr. Desai, who works with the Gravis Grameen Vidayan Samiti, a well-known NGO in Rajasthan, spoke about it’s stellar work in past years, now focused on raising awareness about Covid, providing transportation, helping with vaccination drives, health kits, meals etc. “We have been able to provide some monies, and hopefully in the next round of funding they will be able to do more. Right now, they have only a fraction of what they need,” Dr. Desai said.

The SCF is hoping Indian-Americans and others around the country will come forward to fill the massive financing gaps hobbling the fight against Covid in India.

Dr. Palkhiwala, who works on reaching “health to unreached’ gave the example of the NGO Sewa Rural functioning in the tribal areas of Gujarat covering 600 villages. “It is an amazing NGO always looking for how to use new technology,” to further the grassroots work.

“Since March, Sewa Rural immediately launched a home care program, helping people stay isolated, providing health kits, oxygen,” etc. Where cases increased, Sewa Rural opened a 30-bed hospital a few days ago.

Parikh, guided projects he was in charge of, especially Lokmitra or ‘Agent of Change’ – strategically placed in each village, deeply committed people who serve 30,000-40,000 people in 12 villages.

With the phase 2 devastation, these volunteers swung their focus to the coronavirus awareness, the importance of masking and social distancing. With SCF’s help, grocery kits with two-three weeks of food items, making of thousands of masks, etc. were so successful that people began donating more and more villages could be covered by Lokmitras.

Community kitchen in project supported by Share & Care USA and implemented with local NGO Pradan. Photo courtesy Share & Care

“In this more lethal 2nd phase, we are (doubling down) on that work. We have two vans and our Lokmitras are spreading awareness and serving some 40,000-50,000 people, helping them get vaccinated, even offering incentives like 1 Kilo of free grains for vaccine,” Parikh said. “We also are going to provide oxygenators,” and other essentials. So, the accelerated drive to raise more funds.

“The impact of the pandemic has been most felt by women and children,” said Dr. Ketki Shah, for so many socio-economic reasons including isolation at home, lack of space, husband at home, increased substance abuse, increase in domestic violence, all alongside the deadly virus.

“We feel all our programs should give equal or more importance to women,” Dr. Ketki Shah said.

Among the three major programs taken up by the Women Empowerment Committee that she chairs, Dr. Ketki Shah spoke of Mijwan Welfare Society in Uttar Pradesh founded by actress and social activist Shabana Azmi’s father Kaifi Azmi.

Mijwan and SCF have worked on women’s empowerment in rural areas, and migrant workers. In this 2nd phase of Covid resurgence, it has revised focus to coronavirus – helping with informing people, facilitating registration for vaccinations, local hospital openings, educating on the many myths surrounding the vaccines. “Like here in the United States, there is vaccine hesitancy in India as well,” which sometimes comes in the way of covering everyone in the village.

“The goal is to reach 300,000 people. Our NGOs have been sending reports back and they are doing very well. We are very confident of their reports because we have worked with them for many years,” Dr. Ketki Shah emphasized. She also pointed to two other NGOs working in Rajasthan using established self-help groups to raise awareness, provide health care kits and ration kits.

Dr. Manoj Desai is focused on providing oxymeters which measure the level of oxygen in the blood of a patient, and oxygen concentrators that make oxygen. The SCF, he said, has negotiated a lower price for oxygen concentrators and so far, 100 have been approved on the spot by the organization. Another $60,000 has been approved so that more can be purchased.

Other projects of note include LOLT – Light of Life Trust, serving Maharashtra, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh – which is enabling former school dropouts in villages, to switch from other grassroots work to doing purely Covid relief.

“Alongside these projects, we also want to work on the impact of major societal changes that are taking place as a result of Covid – the massive shift of millions of migrants moving back to their villages,” where resources are already thin, noted Sharad Shah.

Healthcare kits being assembled by local volunteers of Lokmitra NGO in Gujarat with support of Share & Care Foundation USA. Photo courtesy Share & Care

“Our million-dollar campaign welcomes donations from $5 to $5,000,” there is no limit, said Sharad Shah. The $5,000 donation is an innovative incentive that enables a donor to help a whole village.

Another incentive is ‘Save a Life’ where with a $2,500 donation, the name of the person who gives is inscribed on an oxygen concentrator.

Organizers at SCF were able to collect $140,000 without any fundraising campaign or advertising, they said. “Now our fundraising campaign is really taking off, and we hope it will continue that way, as the need is growing in India,” said Sharad Shah.

“SCF is a different kind of philanthropy – it is an ‘agent of change’ working directly with the people in the field,” said Parikh.

Dr. Bharati Palkhiwala emphasized looking into the future. “A lot of young people are dying, and Covid is also leaving behind many orphans. Organizations like SCF keep these issues in mind when we work on the ground.”

“This is a catastrophe and the needs are many, not just in the current moment, but also in the aftermath,” said Dr. Ketki Shah. “We need a lot more resources, and all of it will be used to take quick action. So red-tape needs to be reduced, and we can get the work done,” she added.

“At the end of the day, we depend on the generosity of the public so that donors can open up their wallets. Donors and NGOs are the critical factors. We have excellent NGOs,” those at the Zoom meeting emphasized.

“We are a catalyst of change because along with our grassroots work, we also assist donors to find other reliable institutions where they can donate depending on what they are interested in,” said Tejal Parekh, administrative and operations director of SCF.

“How is my money going to be used, is the first question a donor asks. The SCF comes out transparently with the answer. One hundred percent of donations go to disaster relief. We have a four-star rating with Charity Navigator,” Parekh added.

“No donation is ‘small’. Our efforts will not be compromised for any reasons,” said Sharad Shah. “This disaster will continue. Our efforts will continue. So please open up your resources and share with us. That will be lifesaving,” he added.

For information on specific projects and to donate visit shareandcare.org

 

 

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