Dr. Rimona Sengupta had a humanitarian calling a few weeks ago when Indian & the international media were flashing the breaking news of India’s rising oxygen crisis & lack of hospital beds at the start of the second peak of COVID-19. She decided to do something about it in the third week of April and utilized her medical expertise and wide-ranging social network to start procuring portable oxygen concentrators and other home monitoring devices. She was overwhelmed with the evolving narrative of devastation and crisis and was determined to launch a fundraiser.
Rimona started with a modest target of £750 and got an incredible response. She was able to meet the target within the first 72 hours. Due to her current job role as a Primary Care medical practitioner in London, she wanted to utilize the experience of working as a GP in St.Stephen’s Health Centre in East London where she was actively involved in home monitoring stable patients during the first and second waves of COVID-19 in the UK. She was helped with initial fundraising efforts when staff members and colleagues generously donated, as well as organizing a baking week in the first week of May to raise money for oxygen concentrators. East London is well known for its diversity and this event amplified the cause for a country like India which is home to such an array of racial, linguistic and religious backgrounds. This enabled the procurement of larger orders of essential equipment such as oxygen concentrators (with oxygen tubing, masks), nebulizers, and pulse oximeters.
These are all valuable devices and can provide much-needed home-based care and monitoring and help free up beds in over-stretched hospitals. She also ordered home testing Rapid Antigen Testing kits online and shipped these to India. She created a WhatsApp group with Vandana Khurana, a London-based friend from Delhi, within 48 hours. They kept on adding a few more admin members over the next few days, and it soon became a group of about 260 Indians in the UK actively liaising and communicating with people who were seeking help.
Many people in this Whatsapp group were seeking help for friends and family in India. A special mention goes to Nidhi Tiwari, who is originally from Jaipur and has been doing a commendable job on the WhatsApp group UK COVID HELP. She was working 24/7 and actively verifying leads for hospital beds, ICU, Isolation wards, plasma/blood/drug procurement, oxygen concentrators/cylinders, etc. She is personally making phone calls and updating the latest information either on the group on social media or directly via telephone calls. All such volunteering work is being done at her own time for our very own India. She is a valuable contact in their WhatsApp group. As of now, they have reduced the number of members to 140 as they continue to provide aid to India.
Their administration member Anupma Dhawan has actively contributed to fundraising and taken great initiative in providing support to a Delhi-based NGO for securing concentrators. With regards to orders procured via the fundraising, most of these were ordered in the UK and delivered to Rimona’s address in London. What followed this was an intricate process of filling forms, arranging pick-ups, contacting offices, filling many declaration forms for customs, and making online payments. Mr. Nirav Khatadia from DND Exim Group constantly kept in touch with her and ensured the doctor’s aids reach their destinations in Delhi, Karnataka, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bengal, etc. via DHL. They kept their contributors updated regularly regarding the above formalities.
Several charities and NGOs were contacted for providing financial aid in procuring concentrators from vendors in India. They used Amazon India for ordering masks, PPE, manual sanitizer spray machines, fogging machine and even concentrators about a week ago. They contacted medical health professionals who showed interest in reaching out to the poor. A special mention must be given to Dr. Zubair Alam (works in Delhi), who has been running regular camps in his small village in Pichokra (Baghpat district in Uttar Pradesh), and was provided with financial aid and medical equipment. Dr. Sengupta has also communicated actively with Delhi-based lawyer & social worker Ms. Tanuja Sharma to make meaningful connections and provide aid to her home-town Aligarh (Uttar Pradesh).
Rimona also liaised with her contact Mr. Ajay Kumar in Delhi, who was volunteering and utilizing fundsraised from various sources to provide free meals to healthcare workers and COVID patients in South Delhi. He transformed his gym into a kitchen to deliver free food to the healthcare workers with the help of local chefs and volunteers. Mr. Kumar’s goodwill project has been instrumental in the distribution of equipment in Delhi.
As the fundraising appeal continued to roll out on social media, Rimona would like to add a few important names to acknowledge their contributions. Her cousin in Hyderabad, Mr. Archi Dasgupta, stepped in at an important point and helped her secure funds from his company Global Data PLC by personally emailing his colleagues & associates in various branches, notably the London office. Her partner David Weatherstone and his parents also stepped in very kindly to spread the word among their friends & relatives and helped her secure steady funding. Here, she would also like to express her gratitude toward Mr. Subhadeep Dutta Gupta (Norwich), who contacted her on the WhatsApp group about two weeks ago. Mr. Gupta took up an active role in fundraising through his friend circle as well as distribution of help all over Bengal.
Rimona feels that she is blessed to have received such generous contributions. She continues sharing her plea on various social media platforms. It has indeed been an extraordinary journey, and she has made everybody proud with her constant effort. The fundraiser is being kept open for another two weeks to support the victims or family members of COVID in such a crisis and she hopes to close this in the second week of June. With everyone coming forward to help in such a great cause, they have raised £8252 for today and are hoping to collect £9000 before the fundraiser is closed. It’s high time that more people join hands with her in this initiative. Every contribution makes a difference to somebody’s life, however small it may be and brings a smile back to their family. Spread the word and be a part of this fundraising event. Help people to live, breathe, and stay alive. Let’s be with one another and make it through this tough time. This too shall pass.
‘I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all my team members in UK, our volunteers and, networking social media contacts, healthcare & social workers on the ground as well as contributors from all over the world. Coordinating help is a mammoth task but we as a team, made clear strategic plans, discussed our goals and took small steps everyday which enabled help reaching out to India during these times of crisis. Thank you all. Stay strong and keep the faith in humanity & goodwill gestures’ added Dr. Rimona Sengupta.