Edmontonians grieving, fearful for family in India amid COVID-19 surge


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Edmonton’s Indian communities are grieving and feel helpless watching from afar as a devastating wave of COVID-19 hits India with more than 300,000 new cases every day for more than week, killing thousands every day.

Many of those hospitalized and dying are people Edmontonians know and love. Renu Narang, president of the Hindu Society of Alberta, says it seems everyone she speaks to recently has lost someone.

“Every single person I would say in Edmonton is affected one way or the other with extended family in India,” she says.

Her own family hasn’t been spared.

On Monday, Narang’s uncle died from a heart attack when the hospital ran out of oxygen after he was admitted for COVID-19.

On Wednesday, one of her dad’s sisters died.

Her nephew is in the hospital, and so is the wife of her husband’s cousin.

“It’s very depressing,” she says. “We have extended families in India … each family we call, seven or eight people, they all have COVID. Everybody has COVID.”

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Narang said she and other community members want to help but it’s difficult to know where to direct any fundraising as hospitals are privately run. She said some have thought about buying and sending oxygen machines.

Narang said she would like to see Alberta and Canada send PPE and oxygen machines to India, and would be happy to help raise funds for that cause.

‘We all feel pretty helpless’

Daman Kaur Grewal, co-president of Sangat Youth YEG (SYY), says she also feels overwhelmed and wants to help, but doesn’t know where to start.

“We all feel pretty helpless because there’s not a whole lot we can do back home,” she says. “It’s really difficult to watch from so far away.”

Gurpreet Kaur Bolina, VP outreach for SYY, says it’s been difficult for those in the Sikh community who lost loved ones because even the grieving process is impacted.

“We’re very much used to praying together, meeting together, talking together, sharing food together … but COVID has put a stop to all of that, so I think we all do feel the situation very, very much in our hearts.”

Bolina said for any other Edmontonians who want to help, the best thing they can give is compassion and respect.

“Reach out to your friends and family  … (if) they mentioned they are struggling with this,” she says.

“Just asking how you are, not really asking us to do the emotional labour of explaining everything that is happening, and donating to organizations that are on the ground doing the work.”