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Covid 19 coronavirus: Whanganui residents band together to help families in Covid-ravaged India

Whanganui’s Riverside Christian Church Pastor Avish Petras has put together a campaign to help those in Covid-affected India.

A casual chat during a haircut at a Whanganui barbershop has led to a campaign where a group of local residents have banded together to help families in Covid-ravaged India.

Avish Petras, a pastor at Whanganui’s Riverside Christian Church, is the man behind a local campaign to support families doing it tough in India, helping them put food on the table and pay medical bills incurred as a result of Covid-19.

It all started late last year when Petras was getting his hair cut by City Barbers’ owner Malcolm Hutchins. The conversation turned to India, and Petras explained the current situation in the country.

“We were talking about India and how so many families just couldn’t survive because of lockdown. People on daily wages were talking about selling their home.”

When Petras went to pay, Hutchins handed him a $100 note as a contribution to put towards supporting people in his hometown of Nagpur.

“I couldn’t believe it. I said wow, okay.”


That sparked an idea to put together a wider campaign, and soon Petras was receiving donations from all corners of the city – in some cases having envelopes of cash appear at the church.

“Money just started flowing in, and when we mentioned it at the church, people wanted to contribute.”

Now about 40 organisations, families and individuals are contributing to the cause on a regular basis, supporting 25 families between them. Several other church groups in Whanganui are also helping.

The funds raised go to everyday expenses, with those in the affected areas not able to go out and make a living due to restrictions.

“We are supporting people mainly in the central part of India, and that has been hit very hard. The lockdown has meant people can’t earn to live,” said Petras.

“These people had no source of income. They started selling whatever they had. There’s no benefit provided by the Government.”

And when a second wave of the virus exploded across the country this year, the need for support became even greater.

“One couple we supported got very sick with Covid, and we had to support them with 90,000 rupees, or $2000, for medical bills. If it wasn’t for that, they would have died.”

While the situation was improving, Petras said it was still dire and there were families needing support – all of whom were “incredibly grateful”.

“I’ve been talking to all of the families on Zoom, and they are really impressed with how considerate people are.

“There is just such a heart in this town. There was no marketing for this. The moment Whanganui people got to know there was a need, they did not waste even a moment.”

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