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'It’s at a different level' | Houston nonprofits, doctors fundraise to help India during COVID-19 crisis

BAPS Charities delivered 5 million food packages to help alleviate shortages and are providing medical equipment and covering treatment expenses in rural areas.

HOUSTON — Help is on the way to India from Houston to aid with the COVID-19 crisis that’s led to 20 million recorded cases.

“Everything that we hear, it’s very sad, and it’s very touching and emotional,” said Viral Desai.

Like thousands of people in the Houston area, Desai has family in India, including his 70-year-old aunt.

“She hasn’t left her house in days,” Desai said. “She is rationing her food.”

Desai says he and family have been video calling her constantly.

“Just comfort her and say, ‘Hey, just sit through this,’ ‘We have to go through this,’ and ‘We’re all here to help,’” he said.

Desai volunteers with BAPS Charities, which has raised money after disasters, including Harvey.

Now the nonprofit is in India where they’ve delivered more than 5 million food packages to help alleviate shortages.

They’re also providing critical medical equipment and covering treatment expenses in rural areas and for the uninsured.

BAPS Charities converted two assembly halls in India to hold more than 500 hospital beds.

“It’s at a different level,” Desai said. “Imagine when we have a hurricane. It goes, and it’s done, and then we’re cleaning up the aftermath and fixing up things. But this is like an ongoing thing: you clear out 10 patients, another 20 come in. You clear out 20 patients, another 50 come in.”

It’s a battle Desai says other nonprofits and other countries are fighting hand in hand.

“That’s the key thing,” he said. “One world, all of us, working together.”

Desai says the new U.S.-India travel ban should not impact relief efforts.

People wanting to help can donate through the BAPS Charities website.

The Indian Doctors Association of Houston and the Richmond-based Dr. Ambedkar International Mission Inc. both set up GoFundMe pages to raise money for critical medical supplies.