Manish Jhunjhunwala is among many in Lancaster County worried about their relatives in India as the country continues to be ravaged by COVID-19.

“I’m far from them, and I can’t see them with everything going on,” he said of his parents. “It’s hard, but that’s why we’re working to do what we can to help.”

Jhunjhunwala, 46, is president of the South Asian Association of Lancaster, which is collecting donations to purchase oxygen concentrators to send to India.

The campaign has raised nearly half of its goal of $30,000, which Jhunjhunwala said will be used to purchase 30 of the machines, which remove nitrogen from the ambient air to deliver pure oxygen to people. 

India is dealing with a severe shortage of medical oxygen, which has led to several deaths, according to a New York Times report. 

“The number of units that we’re looking to provide is not huge but will still be helpful,” Jhunjhunwala said. “The more donations, the more we can help.”

On Tuesday, Johns Hopkins University reported more than 20 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country of 1.4 billion people. More than 222,000 have died from the virus there. Daily deaths related to the virus have nearly tripled in the past three weeks, according to an Associated Press report.

“India’s health care system is overwhelmed and needs help from the world’s community, from the Central PA community, to get the much-needed medical materials,” said Jenni Leister, a South Asian Association of Lancaster board member.

The organization has run a vaccination clinic at the Wyndham Lancaster Resort and Convention Center at 2300 Lincoln Highway East in East Lampeter Township every Saturday since February. More than 18,000 doses have been given. The last day of the clinic is May 15.

On Thursday, it shifted its focus to help COVID-19 patients in India.

“Since the South Asian community in Lancaster has a majority of people whose roots go back to India or South Asia, we felt a strong need to support,” Jhunjhunwala said. “Rather than sending money to India, we’re sending oxygen concentrators, since that’s what's most needed.”

The organization is working to establish a partnership with other nonprofit organizations in the United States like Sewa International and American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin to help with their Indian COVID-19 relief efforts. It also hopes to partner with nongovernment organizations in India.

In the meantime, the South Asian Association of Lancaster is reaching out to the Lancaster County community for help.

“I cannot tell you how many times people were in tears of relief knowing that their vaccination, provided by us, was one step toward ending the pandemic,” Leister said. “Another step, now, is to help countries like India battle COVID-19 so that together, as a world, we can rebuild.”

Donations can be made at www.saal.us/a/ and www.facebook.com/saalpa, or by mailing a check made out and sent to the South Asian Association of Lancaster at 719 Farnum Road, Lititz, PA 17543. Write “India COVID Relief” in the memo line.

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