With more than 300,000 daily cases and 4,000 daily deaths, India has been rocked by a Coronavirus surge. Last winter, the situation seemed to be vastly improving. Cases had decreased by 80% after the first wave of daily cases had hit a peak of around 100,000.
With the nation believing that it had avoided the worst of the virus, a relaxation of COVID-19 safety measures such as mask wearing and social distancing took hold. Millions of Hindus gathered to bathe in the Ganga river for the Kumbh Mela religious festival. Large scale political rallies brought together masses of people around the country. As citizens and local officials believed the worst was behind them, new, highly contagious variants were beginning to circulate among the population.
The massive surge in Coronavirus cases has overwhelmed the chronically underfunded health care system and resulted in large-scale shortages of hospital beds, ventilators, and oxygen cylinders. While vaccination efforts are in progress, India’s large population (more than 1.3 Billion) and a shortage of raw materials has slowed progress. The situation is dire.
This crisis has had a deep impact on the Foster community. Indian students and people of Indian origin comprise more than 20% of the student body in the Full-Time MBA program. The majority of Indian students who have family and friends in India personally know someone who has passed away due to the Coronavirus. With Holi (a festival of colors celebrating the triumph of good over evil) celebrations banned in India, the celebrations at the University of Washington took on a deeper meaning this year. The Holi event at Foster emphasized the privileged position we hold as U.S. MBA students, thanks to a world-class healthcare system and widespread availability of vaccines. It was this celebration of light over darkness, in a tranquil park in Ravenna, that inspired an idea to reach across the ocean and help those mired in struggle.
Over the last few months, the Foster community has come together to support COVID relief efforts for India. The Foster Wine Club organized a wine tasting fundraiser at Volunteer park. Members of the Wine Club purchased wine growlers from a local minority owned business for this event. Via this event, the Foster community grew in strength as they used this safe space to share stories of how they were personally affected by the pandemic. Another event, ‘Foster Idol’ which was organized by Foster Creative, gave the Foster community a great amplifying platform to display their talents in music, sketches, and dance while raising money for India relief efforts. Karan Shah, the VP of international affairs for the Class of 2022 helped in organizing these events,
As an expatriate I felt simultaneously connected to all of the death and suffering in India while also removed in my ability to actually impact the response. Since going home to assist with the crisis in person was not an option, I wanted to do something to not only help people receive the medical support they needed, but also highlight their plight to those around me with more resources to make a difference in our collective global fight against COVID-19.
Thanks to the ingenuity and generosity of the Foster MBA program, over $4,000 was donated to GiveIndia, a group that works with hospitals and other stakeholders at the ground level to provide oxygen cylinders and arrange logistics for Coronavirus patients.
The rallying by his fellow students did not go unnoticed by Chaitanya Sonsale, Class of 2022.
As an international Indian student, it was heart warming to see the efforts which were put in and further exemplified the global nature of the Foster MBA program. It was a really good example of what community means at Foster.
This spring, as the program winds down a year spent largely in a virtual environment, the ties that bind our community are as strong as ever. This year of adversity has endeared the classes of 2021 and 2022 through a shared struggle. As the class of 2022 looks forward to a return to in-person instruction in the fall, there is plenty of reason for optimism. We as a Foster community will continue to do our part for India or any of our global neighbours, and we invite like-minded students to join our global community.