(L-R) Artie Rokkam, Meera Dharmalingam, Sadiqua Azad, Uma Subramanian, Anu Nayak and Amreen Badami (contributed)

In Wilton, pandemic life is starting to come to an end. However, across the world in India, COVID-19 continues to devastate families and communities at alarming rates. A group of Wilton women has come together to do something about it.

Sadiqua Azad, Artie Rokkam, Anu Nayak, Amreen Badami, Meera Dharmalingam, and Uma Subramanian all have familial ties to various parts of India and are seeking the help of the Wilton community to fundraise for COVID relief there.

The six women met when their children participated in Odyssey of the Mind CT in 2019. The program encourages kids to harness creativity and teamwork to accomplish a complicated goal. The women say their children have inspired them to collaborate on a humanitarian effort very close to their hearts.

“Our goal is to reach the small towns of India through volunteers we know and trust,” explained Azad.

The women have created a website, Covid Relief India, and set up a Facebook page, where they explain their mission and donation collection methods. The website reads:

“Although the medical emergencies are reported and are extremely distressing, the effects of the economic meltdown on daily wages workers are equally heartbreaking. People and kids are dying of hunger and other afflictions.”

The women are relying on their trusted personal connections in India to disperse funds to local charities.

“Our help is going to reach directly to the people who need it, to cover a medical, grocery, or utility bill. The towns that we are planning to reach are our hometowns and where our family and friends live, who are already helping in the community,” Azad said.

The group has posted on its website the efforts in India that will be the recipients of the financial support. Below, listed by city and state, are some of the activities the women intend to help, including:

  • Nashik, Maharashtra: An ex-military widow runs a shelter for people with disabilities. During COVID times she has extended her support and rations for neighboring communities.
  • Burhanpur, Madhya Pradesh: A retired engineer runs a free clinic and school in a poor neighborhood. During COVID times he is providing food rations and a basic COVID kit.

  • Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh: A retired academic and his family who financially helps people who need assistance.

  • Suburbs of Chennai, Tamil Nadu: A charitable trust distributing and serving food during the pandemic.

“We have zero overhead and none of these funds directly or indirectly help our own or extended families,” Azad noted.

Already, the group has been able to realize some success. The group sent $1,387 (about 102,980 Indian rupees) earlier this month, which was divided among a few causes. A shelter for women with special needs in Nashik, a hospital providing free COVID treatments and supplies in Sardarjung, and 20 families of poor hawkers in Burhanpur received the first funds raised in Wilton.

More recently, the first donation was followed by another $1,000 sent to Spoorthi, an organization that provides basic ration kits to people near Madanapalle.

In addition to collecting donations, the women created custom magnets that represent love and support from Wilton to India. Magnets are priced at $15 each and are delivered to people’s mailboxes by the fundraiser’s organizers. Supporters can purchase a magnet by emailing their name and address.

Fundraising has recently slowed, perhaps because life has almost returned to ‘normal’ here in Wilton. The group has not reached its fundraising goals and continues to seek the help of the Wilton community to speed up pandemic recovery in India. They hope that they can continue to find support from their neighbors and fellow residents here.

Donations can be made via Paypal or Venmo.