COVID-19 in New York: Indians turn out to be messiahs for corona affected and frontline warriors

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Shri Ram Shaw
New Delhi/New York, 28 May: ‘‘Messiah usi ko toh kahte hain hum/ Khushi baant le le jo auron ke ghum.’’ At a time when the whole of the World is grappling with the global pandemic COVID-19, the Indians, as is their culture and tradition to do humanitarian work wherever they are, are doing what many of their contemporaries can only think of in one of the severely affected states of United States of America i.e. New York. They are turning out to be messiahs for the Covid affected and frontline warriors who are risking their own lives every day to save others.
They are a small group of driven and entrepreneurial leaders stepped up to galvanize the community and deliver timely service to those impacted by Covid-19. The unending visuals on television, the barrage of news and conversations, and seeing people, close friends and family directly affected stirred something in them to act. And, thus they formed a small group called NYuplift which is currently providing meals to frontline workers. It started with one hospital - New York-Presbyterian at Columbia University. But it is now spreading to many others in the area. These include The New York Methodist Hospital and The Brooklyn Hospital. New dimensions are getting added to the initiative based on the needs out there. This includes providing meals to the homeless, donating masks to hospitals among other things.
Sonalika Ahuja, an entrepreneur and Dr Sunita Satwani, an MD in Pediatrics played a pivotal role in the service of humanity. “Being an action-oriented person I wanted to do something. I also knew deep within that those in my network and community will back me fully,” Sonalika told Organiser over the phone from New York about the motivation to launch NYuplift. An entrepreneur herself, galvanizing the community to rally around an issue is something that comes naturally to her.

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For Dr Sunita Satwani, it hit home directly as she and her husband Dr Prakash Satwani both contracted the virus in the course of their work. Sunita is an MD in Pediatrics, while Prakash is an Associate Professor at Columbia University Medical Center and a Pediatric Oncologist. “After catching Covid, I realized that I could have never done it without the support of family and friends. It made me realize the importance of giving and supporting each other in the community. Of course, being a physician I felt it was our frontline heroes who need our love and support the most as they are working day and night to fight Covid”, Sunita told Organiser. She also saw the burnout among the medical fraternity and realized that the appreciation and affection from the community goes a long way in keeping the spirits high.
Sonalika further said, “There is an additional positive impact here, not by chance but by design.” She is talking about generating revenues for restaurants so that restaurant workers can get paid. “This is a moment for our community to come together and join hands. People are hurting out there and those who have the opportunity to play to their strengths and provide support must rise now,” said Roni Mazumdar, Founder & CEO popular NYC restaurants Adda & Rahi. Roni believes that by being together the community can emerge stronger. NYuplift has teamed up with Roni’s restaurants to ensure hot meals. The revenue generated has helped keep some of the restaurant workers financially stable.
Dr Mukul Arya, the Director of Advanced Endoscopy in the department of Gastroenterology at New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital (NYPBM) and someone who has been at the forefront of the containment effort, said, “Food is amazing. Thank you Adda & NYuplift for remembering the ICU staff at NYPBM.”
Ana Furnari, at New York-Presbyterian, Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital was full of praise saying, “Thank you so much for arranging the delicious food! It even came earlier than expected! Our ICU staff appreciated it. Thank you for being awesome!” Similar sentiments were expressed by nurses at the other hospitals as well.
A Brooklyn Hospital Nurse, unwilling to be named said, “Thank you so much! So amazing what you are doing to support.” “It brought tears in my eyes! Wonderful! Thank You in nurses name!” said a Presbyterian Columbia NY Healthline staff member.
Successful entrepreneurs have joined hands with the effort. This includes Sam Jain, Founder of CheapOAir and FarePortal, who along with his wife Vera Jain, has lent his support to the cause. “The frontline health workers in New York area hospitals, elsewhere in the US and around the world are risking their own lives every day to save lives. A big salute to all of them. They are our heroes,” said Sam Jain, lauding the timely efforts of NYuplift. Sam being a New Yorker himself feels he owes it to his community and its frontline health workers.
“It is overwhelming to see the energy and positivity in the community,” said Sonalika adding, “It is also a reality that many in our community are on the frontline of battling COVID-19 and everyone is seeing how family members and friends are getting affected.” Sunita added, ‘‘It has been great to be connected with so many thoughtful people who are giving spontaneously.”
“We are in this together and together as a team, we can make things happen. Over the past few weeks,we have enthusiastically and successfully with the help of doctors, hospital staff, nurses, restaurant staff, delivery workers and each one of our donors ( big or small ) and supporters have fulfilled our mission to take care of our frontliners. This whole purpose is to ignite some spark so that the community can come together, because we are all in this together,” Sonalika concluded. Buoyed by the support and enthusiasm, Sonalika and Sunita are determined to keep the momentum going as long as the need is out there.