Samaritans from Sweden: Here’s how they build a SETU of help & trust via Covid relief work in India

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Amid the ravaging second wave of the pandemic, aid from across the globe poured in for India. Support from the US, UK, Australia and Russia among other such nations made it to the headlines. Thousands of individual groups and organizations also extended their helping hands, which made a huge difference. One such initiative is SETU Sverige Foundation, which has been working for the past one-and-a-half years to combat India’s Covid-19 crisis.

The group has found its own niche to reach out to people and convey some important messages during the pandemic. Street-play, recitals, dance and musical performances have emerged as their main weapons to spread awareness about health and hygiene, Covid prevention, vaccination, female foeticide/infanticide among other such issues across the nooks and corners of Kolkata.

What is the SETU Sverige Foundation?

SETU Sverige Foundation is a registered charity foundation in Sweden that works for the underprivileged population of India. It the first non-profit in Sweden that is run and governed by individuals of Indian origin and its works focus only on India. The foundation aims to unite the diaspora based out of Europe for a common cause of uplifting the underprivileged sections of India living in dire situations.

What have been SETU’s services during the pandemic?

  • The non-profit has worked across 15 states in India during the Covid-19 first wave covering the length and breadth of the country, including Ladakh and the Sundarbans. The group expanded its pan-India network to cater to the oxygen needs of critical patients. Collaborating with Sweden India Help and “Oxygen Man” Shahnawaz Shaikh from Mumbai, the organisation took up the challenge to deliver oxygen cylinders and concentrators across hospitals in cities like Delhi, Bengaluru, Bhubaneswar and Kolkata.
  • During the pandemic’s first wave last year, SETU worked primarily on immigrant workers and helped their families with essentials across India. It also worked with frontline Covid-19 warriors like police and doctors and tried to ensure that they are well-equipped and safe to carry on with their day-to-day functions.
  • Under the goal of “Taming the Deadly Graph” in the second wave, the group worked with several NGOs to procure oxygen concentrators, oxygen cylinders and set up oxygen centres in Delhi and NCR. In Kolkata, besides extending similar help, SETU launched “Covid-19 Auto Seva” to provide medicine and other essential commodities to remotest areas. It also established a Covid relief centre with 8 beds and oxygen support. A blood and plasma donation camp was set up by the group in Bangalore during the second wave.
  • In the next half of 2021, SETU along with Daya India, aims to run a child development centre for a year to support 50 children in Odisha. Also, collaborating with Umang Foundation, the group is working in remote areas of Maharashtra to renovate schools and develop e-class rooms.

Sweden India Covid relief
Photo credit: SETU

How does SETU work?

SETU primarily works with organizations with FCRA. It has many ground partners as well. Besides, the group has worked with state ministries, police, student associations among others. The core team of SETU is extremely respected in the Indian diaspora in Europe. The group has always been receiving people’s support owing to its transparency and volume of work. SETU’s NEED Team scouts and talks to the local organizations in India to see where we can work and make an impact.

The group has two major deciding factors:

  • The need has to be real and authentic.
  • The transparency of the process. SETU works with the hard-earned money of the donors, and it makes sure that it reaches the right beneficiaries.

The donors are from Europe, USA, Middle East, India and the UK and a large portion of them is of Indian origin. It also has several donors who are local Europeans. SETU at present has around 600 donors and a big portion of them are recurring donors.

Another unique initiative of the group is Angel Guardian under which SETU maps brilliant yet financially challenged children from India to interested guardians in Europe. The Angel Guardians cover and sponsor their academic expenses. SETU has successfully adopted 10 such wonderful children.

Photo credit: SETU

How was SETU formed?

As its members describe, “The organization is a way to pay back to the roots.” Ayon Chakraborty, originally a Bengal native, whose brainchild is the SETU Sverige Foundation, said, “When I found some people in the Indian diaspora in Europe having a similar mindset, the core team was formed. The core team includes Raj Yadhav, Krishanu Roy, Dhaval Vithalani, Kaveri Ajwelkar, Jaita Bhattacharyya Chakraborty, Pramod Shandilya, Nikhil Bohra, Arijit Sardar, Pradeep Behra, Abhaye Mehta and Arun Mohan. All of these individuals are from across India and at present are settled in Sweden and the Netherlands. The organization is led and supported by the core team. But we always believe that the organization is owned by the donors and the beneficiaries of the SETU Sverige Foundation.” Setu is registered in Sweden and the head office is in Stockholm.

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