Nearly 25,000 people have contributed through Patelâ€™s Facebook fundraising page.
The death of over 45 Indian Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in Pulwama, in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, last week, triggered a massive outpouring of sympathy for the affected families from people around the world. While many organizations, celebs and individuals did their bit by offering condolences to the soldiersâ€™ families and, in some cases, making financial contributions, a young Indian American from Virginia set a stellar example.
Viveik Patel, a business analyst based in Richmond, Virginia, resolved to do something for his country of origin and the soldiers who laid their lives for it. The a 26-year-old floated a fundraiser on Facebook, after he tried donating on the Indian governmentâ€™s website â€œBharat Ke Veerâ€ but realized that it did not accept US credit or debit cards.
Patel, who immigrated from Vadodra, in Gujarat, started the fundraising drive, “Indian Army – Pulwama Attack,” the same day of the strike, on February 14, and initially set a goal of $500,000. He sent out the word to his network and also connected with Facebook managers for the effort.
The initiative struck the chord with a large number of Indian Americans, and in less than 24 hours, he was able to reach more than half of his goal money. Even after reaching the goal, donations have not subsided and money continued to pour in.
As of 2:30 pm EST on Friday, the initiative has raised $969,123 with donations from 24,933 people.
Patel told the American Bazaar that heâ€™s hopeful heâ€™ll be able to hit the million dollar mark by the end of the day.
â€œWhen I started I only had the intention to do something,â€ he said. â€œI am thankful to people who made it so big and especially the silent supporters who donated without a doubt.â€
Recognizing his exceptional efforts, on Thursday, Patel was invited by the Indian Consulate in New York, where he met with Consul General Sandeep Chakravorty and his deputy. They discussed with him how the funds can be transferred to India safely and swiftly distributed to the soldiers.
Chakravorty, after meeting with the Richmond resident, tweeted support to the initiative. The tweet read: â€œWe are delighted to support the initiative of Viveik Patel (center) & friends who have raised on @facebook almost U$ 1 million from about 24,000 donors to help the families of the martyrs of the #PulwamaTerrorAttack. We discussed the best way to transfer money to @BharatKeVeerâ€
Patel said he plans to keep the fundraiser going until the consulate finds a way to transfer the money to India. â€œWe plan to transfer the money to each of soldiersâ€™ families and for consulate to transfer the funds to India, they need to have an NGO in between,â€ he said. â€œThey are going to choose an NGO that has worked with them in the past and once things are final, the money will reach where it belongs.â€
Patel, who works at the business development company Conduent, explained how he built such a big momentum. â€œI am a part of a lot of Facebook groups across New Jersey and Virginia, and I also have a large number of Facebook friends,â€ he said. â€œWhile my friends knew me and trusted me, of course we had concerns where many people asked how I plan to transfer the funds. But when friends and their friends continued to donate, a chain was created and we were able to get everyone. I am glad that now with the consulate and their support everyone can be assured that the money is going to reach to the right hands.â€
Patelâ€™s initiative also brought to the notice of Indian authorities an important point. The website they launched for crowd funding, Bharat Ke Veer, does not accept international cards, so people outside India cannot rely on it. In situations like this, India needs to build have a website or a platform that can accept foreign donations, too.
Realizing that many Indian Americans were facing this problem, the Indian Consulate in New York posted on its Facebook page information for members of the diaspora that want to make donations.Â It wrote: [Those] â€œwho wish to contribute to the cause but are facing difficulty in contributing through the website bharatkeveer.gov.in as they do not have Indian credit cards can contribute through check drawn in favor of â€˜â€™Bharat Ke Veer,â€ which can be sent directly to the CRPF headquarters.â€