2020 has been an unprecedented year on many fronts. The world continues to grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic, economies worldwide are in turmoil and we have sadly lost many loved ones to this horrible virus. At the outset, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who we have lost and those who continue to fight the disease.
The year has been difficult for all of us in many different ways. For our student and alumni community in the UK, the unexpected knock-on impacts of the lockdowns have been manifold. Apart from the emotional turmoil due to not being able to travel home at the peak of the pandemic in the UK, many students lost their part time jobs that led to them struggling with their living and eating expenses. Being trapped, often alone, thousands of miles away from their families also had many effects on the mental wellbeing of the community.
I am incredibly proud of the role our team has been able to play during this international emergency. We set up a dedicated 25-member Covid-19 response team early in March which has been providing a 360-support system to not just students but also professionals, tourists and the elderly. We have been honoured to do Seva in this very tough time. Working in tandem with various stakeholders such as the Indian and British Governments, Universities-UK and charities such as Seva Trust, we have been able to support thousands of Indians with help ranging from food, accommodation, mental health support and with the Vande Bharat Mission - where we closely worked with the High Commission of India. We also launched a virtual community - ‘Home Away From Home’ that delivered various sessions touching upon skill-development, time-management during lockdown, personal-branding and even sessions with British Parliamentarians to help students relay their concerns directly to the authorities, and with leading stand-up comedians like Rohan Joshi to help students de-stress. At the same time, we were honoured also to be able to provide meals to some of the most underprivileged in India – in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, we were able to provide more than 45,000 meals to disadvantaged children and stranded migrants, and also provided over 1,500 grocery kits each of which would last for two weeks for a family of four.
What deeply struck me was the way in which our community came together to support each other. In the UK, from parliamentary support through the veteran member of British Parliament, Hon Virendra Sharma; to multiple charities such as Seva Trust UK, Khalsa Aid and the Akshaya Patra; the High Commission of India; and with the generosity of many of you, I was amazed with how quickly we were able to leverage our existing networks to create an impactful support structure.
At the NISAU, our team is made up completely of volunteers, for whom selflessly serving their community is the primary reason for their involvement. There have been days where our team dealt with more than 1300 queries in a single day and many days in a row where many of us hardly got any sleep. I want to take a moment to thank all our volunteers for their painstaking service; and for being able to think beyond the immediate…
We realized early on that Covid-19 might play havoc with the study abroad dreams of thousands of prospective students, and ultimately also impact British universities. In June, we undertook detailed research into the concerns faced by prospective Indian students, in order to both be able to help them better, and to provide stakeholders with data-backed insights in order to provide targeted information to assuage student concerns. This survey, the details of which our Head of Thought Leadership provides details in this newsletter, not only helped us provide valuable thought leadership to improve student experience; but has also played an important role into helping us posit a Winning Partnership between the UK and Indian students. Professor Kamini Gupta and I were also able to provide insights into the opportunities for global and Indian universities.
Every crisis brings forth an opportunity. Covid-19 has too. It has provided us with an opportunity to create not just a new, but a better normal. We were delighted to lead the India delegation at the British Parliament recently for the inaugural British South Asian Youth Summit, where a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by youth of India, UK and 8 South Asian nations to foster such a better normal, one that is more sustainable, inclusive, just and anti-racist. An opportunity also exists for India as a nation. The clarion call by the Hon Prime Minister of India, to be #VocalForLocal, is apt. For too long, India has been on the cusp of dramatic change, but we haven’t yet made the leap to our potential of becoming a global superpower. We must critically examine how India can leverage its unique resources and capabilities to claim its place as a global superpower, and how challenges to this transition can be overcome. To do this, we are delighted to today launch the India Series, in partnership with King’s Business School, King’s College London. Our first guest is Ms Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, who will speak to us on 9th September, exploring thoughts on how India can leverage its expertise in Science and Technology to emerge stronger in a post-Covid-19 world; the future of healthcare in India; and the role of sustainability in igniting India's growth engine. Spaces are limited, so we urge you to register at the earliest.
Finally, today we have also launched our updated website, taking into account some of the feedback we have received. Do have a look, and as always please keep your feedback, and love coming.