Calgary communities rally to aid India in COVID-19 crisis

According to the Dashmesh Culture Centre's website, it was created with the intention of running a Gurdwara "in accordance with the core principles of Sikhism". KIRSTEN PHILLIPS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Calgary’s south Asian community is providing supplies and financial aid to assist with the COVID-19 crisis in India. 

Last month, India began its struggle with a surge of COVID-19 cases, leading the country to run out of oxygen tanks – resulting in more deaths. According to the latest count (May 10), there have been more than 23.3 million cases of COVID-19 in India. The country is still logging more than 300,000 cases per day, but the numbers are dropping slightly.

Raj Sidhu, Director of Operations at Calgary’s Dashmesh Cultural Centre (DCC) – speaking on behalf of Amanpreet Singh Gill, the organization’s president – expressed concern.

“The pandemic has kind of blown up there again – a lot of people are suffering and it’s really difficult to watch,” Sidhu said.

DCC represents the Punjabi-Sikh community, with 16,000 members at the centre and over 60,000 in the Calgary area.

“So it’s really concerning for the people here as well, because a lot of them have relatives, family at home, so they’re keeping tabs and worried about their safety,” he said.

In response, DCC and other Calgary communities have began to collaborate in an effort to get financial assistance, supplies and oxygen to India.

“We’re trying our best to coordinate and get that over to India right away,” Sidhu said. 

“We’re just working away and we should be able to announce something soon, which we will be able to let the public know if they want to help and assist those in India.”

Red FM raising awareness

Rishi Nagar, the news director at Calgary radio station 106.7 Red FM, also acknowledged the dire situation.

106.7 Red FM studio is located on Westwinds Drive NE, Calgary. According to the radio stations website, ‘Red’ stands for “Reflecting Ethnic Diversity”. Photo: KIRSTEN PHILLIPS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

“We received so many calls from our listeners that we should do something towards the crisis that India is passing through,” Nagar said.

Those phone calls inspired Red FM to communicate the need for more help in India to their community, leading some doctors from Rockyview General Hospital to get involved in the cause.

“[They] started raising funds from the community. They have arranged to send more than 1,000 oxygen concentrators, and a few kits … to a hospital in New Delhi,” he said.

“I came in contact with the Minister of Infrastructure Alberta, Prasad Panda, who’s also going in this direction and a few other societies are joining hands with him. They are arranging to send PPE kits and some oxygen concentrators, through the Indian High Commission in Ottawa.”

Although Red FM does not have plans to directly raise funds on their own, they continue to connect people with the Calgary Foundation to donate.

International efforts with local connections

Many organizations are working towards providing emergency aid to India during this time.

Nagar highlighted three organizations in particular – the Indian High Commission, the Calgary Foundation and Khalsa Aid.

“These are the three major foundations that we can donate to and they are trying to do their best,” he said.

“Khalsa Aid, though they are United Kingdom-based, they have chapters in Alberta, in Vancouver, in other provinces. So the majority of the Sikh community is joining hands with this organization,” Nagar said.

“All these funds are being raised here, then the amount is being transferred to England, and then they are arranging things to dispatch to India and different parts of India where this problem is being seen as a hotspot.”

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