KITCHENER -- The COVID-19 crisis in India is resonating closer to home as many Waterloo Region residents are mourning the loss of their loved ones.

Uma Arya’s niece died two days ago from COVID-19 in India.

Arya spoke to her niece over video call last month while she was in the hospital.

“She sounded fine,” said Arya, who is a Waterloo resident. “She was coming out of it and she was improving.”

But that would be their last conversation.

“One of her brothers passed away and when she found that out, things got from bad to worse,” she said. “She had to be put on a ventilator.”

It’s an experience many residents in Waterloo Region have faced.

“It’s really devastating to hear the news when we open the WhatsApp or we get a phone call or a text message that this is happening,” said Chandrika Anjaria, the Vice-President of the Waterloo Region chapter of India Canada Association (ICA). “We are thinking how can we help them?” she added.

Anjaria is working to make a difference for the crisis by raising money through ICA to donate to SEWA Canada, a GTA-based charity.

The charity is shipping oxygen concentrators to India and also has volunteers on the ground helping COVID-19 patients.

“We assume we are going to get oxygen if we go to the hospital or we are going to get a bed if we go to the hospital, but a lot of people in that situation, they are not getting those basic needs in India,” said Venkat Ramachandran, director of ICA Waterloo Region.

The organization is hoping the supplies will prevent more deaths.

“I have extended family members who are affected and died during the last two to three weeks,” said Dhaval Barot of the Gujarati Cultural Association of the Golden Triangle. “People are in tremendous panic right now.”

Anjaria says international assistance is more important than ever as they try to make a difference with help on the way from Waterloo.