ICA Quarterly Newsletter - April 2020 | COVID-19 Pandemic

Letter from the President

Dear Friends,

The virus scourge is not going away in a hurry. And even after, rebuilding lives is going to be tough and the economy will not make it easy to rehabilitate those who have lost jobs much less those who have lost family members. This is the time for us all to come to the aid of those in need. Our frontline workers need help, the homeless and the displaced need help. We should all contribute as much as we can in cash or kind to help.

It has been an amazing experience for us at ICA to see how our network of India-based NGOs and Partners have come together to help people in need. We all know that without the invaluable help of our social sector this virus cannot be contained. The Government with all its resources is unable to reach remote villages and migrants stranded all over the country.
It is in times like these that one realizes how dependent society is on the work done by non-government agencies. Many of the NGOs are providing food, masks, health and hygiene products, many of them are monitoring Government efforts making sure the resources meant for interiors areas reach the people who are cut off from the supply chain and need basic essentials. Others are focused on serving the migrants who are stranded, cutoff from their homes in congested urban areas without employment and those who are on the road stranded in dire conditions.
We the members of Indians of Collective Action applaud the exemplary work the NGOs are doing for mankind. We are doing the best we can to raise awareness of the needs in India. This is an appeal to you all to contribute generously by going to icaonline.org and making your donation.
We hope you will keep the poor, the old and the little children who are going without food in your hearts and lend a helping hand.
Stay safe and stay home.
Reshma Nigam

ICA’s Response to COVID-19

In just a few months, the world seems to be a very different place. COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, has wreaked havoc with work, travel and just about every aspect of life. All of India is in the midst of a lockdown in an effort to contain the damage from this pandemic.  In the US, various states have instituted stay-at-home policies.

All over the world, ordinary citizens are coming together to help in whatever way they can so everyone can make it through this.

In this issue, we inform you of the humanitarian actions taken by ICA, the organizations it supports as well as those with which it is affiliated


ICA Forum

To facilitate the exchange of ideas and best practices for supporting vulnerable populations, ICA has initiated the "ICA Forum,” a webinar series to engage the ICA Community of ICA NGOs, its partners and members.

The goals of the ICA Forum are:
  1. Connect with the ICA Forum through webinars to inspire, learn and motivate each other.
  2. Learn from Subject Matter Experts about topics like funding, identifying and nurturing donors, legal aid, etc. and from ICA NGO Leaders about their projects, overcoming barriers and lessons learned.
  3. Share best practices amongst the ICA community.
The first webinar was launched successfully in March, followed by the second in April, during which leaders of ICA-supported Indian NGOs described how their organizations immediately pivoted to manage the pandemic.  The main goals of the webinars were to increase awareness and to inspire and motivate the ICA community, as well as to provide ways in which to contribute and DONATE to local Bay Area and Indian NGOs.

Hereafter, webinars will be held quarterly in 2020. Each webinar will be announced in advance with follow-up reminders, so you can mark your calendars and attend. ICA Forum has adopted a participatory approach with attendees having opportunities to participate by asking questions and sharing ideas. Recordings of all webinars are being posted on the ICA website.

First Webinar, March 28: Dr. Girish Kulkarni of Snehalaya

The first webinar was held on Saturday March 28 with attendees joining from India and the US, and focused on ways to help manage the COVID-19 pandemic in India. Precautionary measures are being taken by governments and individuals around the world, and our ICA NGO community can help in many ways delivering food and supplies to those in need. Dr. Girish Kulkarni of Snehalaya spoke about how his team quickly mobilized itself to distribute thousands of packets of food and supplies to needy slum dwellers and daily wage-earners and rapidly expanded to migratory workers who were returning to their home towns.  The webinar moderator was ICA executive team member Dr. Anju Sahay, implementation scientist for the federal government in California. The recording of the webinar is available here.

Here are some highlights of Dr. Kulkarni’s talk.
  • Face masks: After buying fabric at wholesale prices, 4000 face masks were made and distributed to slums.
  • Grain: Snehalaya is providing grain to approximately 1160 people, and is assisting people for using their ration cards to obtain grain provided by the government of India. 
  • Food packages: More than 3500 people have received food packages, which are dropped outside the door of a residence to maintain physical distancing. They plan to distribute food packages for 45,000 people.
  • Coordination of supply and distribution: The volunteers and staff communicate and coordinate through WhatsApp groups.
  • Given the sudden migration of the daily wage workers to their tribal and other villages, the project was immediately expanded to prevent spread of COVID-19 through the community. Tents are being erected to educate them about precautions as well as signs of illness. For sustenance during their journey back home, they are being given dry fruits and grains.   
  • How to help:  Food, grains, masks, clothes, soap and sanitizers are much needed. If such in-kind donations can be provided, they can be picked up.  Donations on the website are also welcome.  Rs. 1000 rupees can support one family for 15 days. Dr. Kulkarni stressed that Snehalaya is not the only NGO; there are several others and he encouraged those wishing to help to donate to whichever NGO they wished.
  • Abhay Bhushan, ICA’s Vice President and Sponsorship Chair, ended by saying that together, we will move forward and get through this crisis.  Contribute at www.icaonline.org 

Other NGOs in India and COVID-19 efforts

Lok Biradari Prakalp of Dr Amte, an ICA-supported NGO, has been working to educate tribal workers who began migrating home in their own language. Sick villagers are asked to immediately come to hospital for free treatment.  They have succeeded in controlling spread.  Here is a photo of Dr. Anagha Amte and team making masks at Lok Biradari Prakalp.

SEARCH: Drs. Abhay and Rani Bang, founded the Society for Education, Action and Research in Community Health (SEARCH) and developed a village health care program.  To address the needs of the community in this pandemic, they have developed multiple public announcements and broadcast them on television and in newspapers, and are treating patients affected by the novel coronavirus in their own hospitals.
Arpan Foundation, an ICA NGO, and Sukarma Foundation, an ICA partner, are increasing awareness about good practices for preventing infection, e.g. hand washing, social distancing, by printing banners and flyers in simple Hindi language to reach villagers.
Parivartan, an NGO in Kanpur, whose mission is inclusive and sustainable socioeconomic development of the deprived masses, is contributing by making packets of flour, pulses, sugar and soap.  Each packet is sufficient for 1 family for 2 weeks.  Parivartan members are distributing these packets all over Kanpur, and have received support from the local administration.
The COVID 19 Collaborative consists of a group of experts from multiple organizations across public, private, civil society, academia with expertise in fields like Public Health, Medicine, Technology, Sociology, Behavioral science, Finance, Humanitarian Emergencies, Supply Chain Management, Designers. It has developed an evidence-based Action framework which can be applied to coordinate response at various levels like District, State, Regional and National levels. This collaborative aims to rapidly and cost effectively: (i) Prevent new infections, (ii) Enable early diagnosis, (iii) Treat appropriately and provide care, and (iv) Mitigate any other impacts.

Efforts in the SF Bay Area

Spartan Food Pantry of San Jose State University, the first local charity sponsored by ICA which works to alleviate student hunger, has committed to remaining open to serve SJSU students in need of food assistance during the Stay at Home order and the university's shift to remote instruction. Any currently enrolled student in need of food assistance can continue to access pantry support on a weekly basis. The service model has changed from one where students entered and "shopped" the pantry, to one where social distancing recommendations are observed, students are greeted outside the pantry, and are provided pre-packed allotments of food that can still accommodate many of the students' dietary needs. 

Marko Mohlenhoff, Student Affairs Case Manager at SJSU, informed us that while the Food Pantry’s partnership with Second Harvest of Silicon Valley continues, the biggest needs of the pantry remain those items that we are unable to source through Second Harvest, namely full-size personal hygiene/toiletry items. As the pantry is currently not accepting item donations to minimize interpersonal contacts, individuals who wish to support these needs could donate to the Spartan Food Pantry Operating Fund, so the items may be purchased directly.
Indian Business and Professional Women (IBPW), an ICA partner organization, has stepped up to serve the community in this crisis which is compounded by the shortage of personal protective equipment.  IBPW members dedicated themselves to community service with Project Face Mask: In early April, executive director Deepka Lalwani was approached by a medical professional connected with the Stroke Awareness Foundation, asking for help to obtain face masks. IBPW members in collaboration with Fremont Bridge Rotary have been buying fabric, sewing masks and delivered over 300 masks in the first week of April.

Amita Shenoi, IBPW member, at her sewing machine for Project Face Mask.

IBPW members have also assisted the following organizations:
  • Community Seva: This non-profit organization requested support to purchase solar chargers for the homeless. Contributions can be made on their website.
  • American Leadership Forum (ALF) and Silicon Valley Council of Nonprofits(SVCN) are working together in coordination with the Emergency Operations Committee of the City and County to provide urgently needed essential  products. They are accepting deliveries in San Jose, please check their websites and consider helping them.
West Valley Community Service (WVCS) is a decades old non-profit serving the west valley communities of Cupertino, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Saratoga, and West San Jose whose mission is "Uniting the Community to fight hunger and homelessness." WVCS has seen a 600% increase in client needs this March, compared to March 2019. In addition to low income families, laid off or furloughed middle class workers are seeking help as well. Students, seniors, hospitality industry workers, childcare workers, teachers and small business owners are all facing food insecurity right now.

WVCS is providing food and emergency support to families so they can have food on their tables and are not evicted and forced to live on the streets. In addition to an onsite pantry and a mobile food pantry that takes food around town, they have added doorstep food deliveries to assist seniors, the disabled, and quarantined members of the community who are unable to go out and buy groceries.

Through strong partnerships built over 46 years with the county, cities, the local Chamber of Commerce offices, local restaurateurs and national organizations like Second Harvest, WVCS is working to support every hungry person coming to their doors in the crisis caused by the pandemic. Kohinoor Chakravarty, Director of Development and Communications, told us that their biggest need is fund donations to continue to meet the needs of the community in crisis.

Medical Professional Spotlight

Dr Jerina Kapoor a pediatrician at Stanford Children's Health and attached to Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose, and a former ICA executive team member, took the time to speak with us about how the COVID-19  pandemic took the world as well as the medical community by surprise. She detailed how adjustments in their hospital and outpatient office protocols needed to be made. She mentioned that Hospitals and Clinics have regular virtual meetings and training sessions on how to handle workflow as well as patients with likely COVID-19 illness.

Very little is known about this new novel COVID-19 virus and both physicians and scientists are learning new information on a daily basis, and how it can be incorporated into both diagnosis and management. COVID-19 testing has ramped up, and Antibody tests have recently become available. However, it is important that people understand that antibody tests have limitations, and it is currently not known if a person who has positive antibodies truly has protection against the virus, and if so, how long the immunity would last.

In her practice, Dr. Kapoor and others have switched to Virtual Video Telehealth visits as much as possible to continue to provide care as well as safety for patients. Patients have welcomed this new mode of receiving care, and this also keeps the community away from ERs as much as possible. However, some patients, including babies who need immunizations, still need to come in to the office and do so. New protocols are being followed in office clinics. It is recommended that only one parent come in with the baby, and all incoming patients have their temperatures taken, and masks are worn. Strict social distancing is maintained during the entire visit, with high levels of disinfection and sanitization in the clinic as recommended by the CDC. Physicians wear protective gear as needed depending on the nature of the patient visit and symptoms the patients are presenting with. Fortunately and for reasons not yet understood, it has been noted that the pediatric population is largely protected from severe disease, though they could be asymptomatic carriers and therefore play a part in spreading the virus.    

There is an understandably high level of anxiety in the community especially when there is limited information on how long this will last, and there being no vaccine or definitive treatment in sight. Being homebound for prolonged periods and the resulting isolation takes an emotional toll on people. People are increasingly turning to latest news and watching TV, indulging in comfort foods. On the positive side, people are connecting more with their families and friends via video calls, often connecting with neighbors while maintaining social distancing. Families with small children are also impacted as they balance their 'work from home' as well as homeschooling their children. Keeping children and teenagers engaged is another challenge.
There is definitely a change in Dr. Kapoor's daily routine and practices at home in order to keep herself and her loved ones safe. Coming back home after working in the clinic is time-consuming. She leaves her shoes outside, enters the home, washes her hands immediately, takes a shower and puts her clothes for wash. Daily living activities are more time-consuming with appropriately sanitizing groceries etc.

She emphasized the importance of maintaining social distance while still remaining connected with family and friends e.g. via video calls on an ongoing basis. It is very important to feel supported to maintain one's emotional health and immunity to fight infection effectively. Creating some kind of a structure and routine at home is also very helpful in keeping a positive outlook.

Dr. Kapoor founded a non-profit organization 10 years ago; Sukham is an all-volunteer local Bay Area organization that offers culturally sensitive resources and education to the South Asian community on issues of aging and advance preparation for life’s transitions. This is done via workshops and lectures on planning for the unexpected, eldercare, dementia, advance healthcare directives, palliative and hospice care. Sukham’s special focus is helping people navigate and overcome cultural and informational barriers and access resources that promote a dignified, healthy, happy life. Speaking of the origins of Sukham, Dr. Kapoor spoke of Pallium India, headquartered in Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, India, founded by Padma Shri Dr. M. R. Rajagopal.

About ICA, Dr. Kapoor mentioned that the organization has always been tuned in to the realities and needs of the South Asian community in the US as well as in India. ICA, she said, has a track record of identifying issues at an early stage and addressing them effectively, as in this current unexpected COVID-19 pandemic.


2018-19 Executive Committee
  • President: Reshma Nigam
  • Vice-President and Sponsorship Chair: Abhay Bhushan
  • Treasurer: Jayashree Desale
  • Secretary: Smita Patel
  • Project Committee Chair: Govind Desale
  • Partnership Chair: Bhupen Mehta
  • Golden Jubilee Chair: Kirit Shah
  • Content Chair: Mayuranki Almaula
  • Marketing Chair: Sharmila Kumar
  • Women's Leadership Chair: Lata Patil
  • Strategy and ICA 3.0: Prakash Agarwal
  • NGO Community Chair: Anju Sahay
  • Infrastructure: Padma Chari



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