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Virginia Tech students help with COVID-19 relief in India

Thousands of miles away, students collect money and medical machines to save lives as deaths rise in India

Life is starting to get back to normal here in the U.S. while countries like India are a stark contrast in their fight against coronavirus.

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Life is starting to get back to normal here in the U.S. while countries like India are a stark contrast in their fight against coronavirus.

In the last 24 hours, the country had more than 260,000 new cases and a record of more than 4,300 deaths. Active cases are decreasing but deaths are still rising and hospitals are still swamped.

Somnath Mukherji got emotional just talking to 10 News about what’s happening in India. He is the development coordinator for a volunteer-driven U.S. organization known as AID, the Association for India’s Development. He’s there now, fighting to save lives during the second wave of COVID-19.

“In hindsight when we look at the peak (in 2020) it doesn’t even look like anything, it looks like a bump compared to today’s peak,” said Mukherji.

The crisis in India comes as no surprise to Ranit Mukherjee, a doctoral student at Virginia Tech and member of the Bengali Students’ Association.

“...Because all of us are coming from India and we have family and friends there so it’s like constant news to us like it’s happening in your neighborhood but the global media only notices when it goes really bad,” said Mukherjee.

From the start of the pandemic the association has raised relief funds and in the last few months started collecting oxygen concentrators and machines used for sleep disorders like CPAPs or BiPAPs to send to India.

India is going through a devastating surge in Covid-19 infections. The continuous efforts of health care personnel are...

Posted by Bengali Students' Association at Virginia Tech on Monday, May 10, 2021

“Even though we cannot be with our family and friends these small steps can actually help some people. It feels like we are actually with them,” said Mukherjee.

AID’s Blackburg Chapter has collected monetary donations since the beginning of the pandemic too. Chapter president and Virginia Tech graduate student, Esha Dwibedi said the second wave is no different.

“This is the least we can do because we can’t physically be there on grounds. I have a lot of friends in India currently working on grounds and a lot of them have taken leave from their jobs they are now working full time at their organizations so they’re just helping out people,” said Dwibedi.

The money sent to AID goes to the projects with their grassroots partners that include pop-up rural COVID centers to treat people who have the virus, helplines to give people battling the virus at home information on how to recover, buying more medical equipment and spreading awareness on mask-wearing, social distancing and vaccinations.

“It might sound like a big number, $20,000 to run a rural COVID center is not much if you’re able to save let’s say 100 lives,” said Mukherji.

Those COVID centers are temporary so he said that they would only need to run them for the next few weeks or months until numbers drop significantly.

Mukherji said the support people are giving isn’t just saving lives.

“When people show support in the U.S. or outside and especially when they’re students it brings hope for the next generation also it means a huge deal. It’s very healing like I said, it’s strengthening, it gives you conviction, it gives you the energy to fight,” Mukherji said.

The hope he is referring to is the same hope Dwibedi is holding on to thousands of miles away in Blacksburg.

“It’s really bad, there’s just hope. That’s the only thing we’re clinging to, all of us who are here and have family back at home that’s the only thing we’re clinging to at this point.”

AID gives updates on their COVID-19 response regularly. To take a look, click here.

If you want to give to AID Blacksburg click here.

Contact Ranit Mukherjee to donate oxygen concentrators, CPAP or BiPAP machines to help with the oxygen supply in India. His email is

About the Author:

Megan Woods is thrilled to be back home and reporting at Local 4. She joined the team in September 2021. Before returning to Michigan, Megan reported at stations across the country including Northern Michigan, Southwest Louisiana and a sister station in Southwest Virginia.