The COVID-19 Crisis in India & How It’s Affecting Our Team

Photos Courtesy of The New York Times


Since starting WORK+SHELTER nearly 10 years ago I’ve never gone more than about 6 months between trips to Delhi. So you can bet that I was both nervous but very, very eager to return after getting vaccinated earlier this summer, ending a 1.5 year long pandemic related hiatus.

Here are updates from what I personally saw on the ground:

+ When I arrived to Delhi in early July only one of our employees had received their first vaccine dose. By the time I left nearly 80% had received theirs.

+ Your donations (over $33,000!) are still being put to work, covering wages for those recovering from vaccines or sickness.

+ We moved production into our third space, allowing the women more space to socially distance, and streamlining production so we’re able to more efficiently produce orders.

+ We visited new suppliers to scout out more eco-friendly textiles for both our designer and promotional products clients.

+ The team is learning. It was especially incredible for me to see one of our seamstresses, Seema Devi, acting as a junior level manager. She started working with us cutting threads off of sewn goods, but is now managing complex cutting orders on her own.

Witnessing the progress at our center was a deeply affirmative experience for me. We show up to the bigger goal of making our industry a more ethical place every day – but seeing the tens of thousands of pieces of organic, ethically sewn goods is another matter – the impact was, and is, visible.




MAY 2021

As COVID-19 continues to be a global concern, we felt it was important to provide some updates on how it continues to affect our team and our operations, especially our center located in Delhi, India.


The first call Theresa (our CEO & Founder) got from India on Friday April, 30th began with heartbroken crying.

“People are dying everywhere!” Nitu, one of our two India head managers, shared.

As you may have seen by now, India is currently in the midst of another HUGE wave of COVID outbreaks resulting in country-wide lockdowns and a palpable death toll, with close to 18 million casesThere is a widespread shortage of medical oxygen, hospital beds, and other lifesaving supplies. 

Nitu shared with Theresa that she had spent hours tracking down an ambulance for a friend’s sick parent, only to have them turned away at the door of the hospital. The high death rate is causing crematoriums to run out of space, so cremations are happening in nearby parks, parking lots, and other public spaces.

One of our W+S Queens, Anju.


Despite weeks of lockdown there are multiple deaths in our neighborhood every single day including our downstairs neighbor of the company apartment, as well as our go-to doctor, Dr. Modi. Our landlord is sick -even Nitu herself was sick, but luckily was hit with a mild case and is now recovering.

Bottom line, everyone is scared.

Our center is closed in accordance with the lockdown. Some of the women are able to work from home. Those without machines will make masks by hand for donation to local folks in-need. We have a small handful of employees who are currently residing at our center and will be able to make some progress on sampling.

Please note, the health and well-being of our employees in India is our top priority during this time. All employees will continue to be paid in full during lockdown time.

Taking temperatures at our facility before being tested for COVID.

Nitu told us that people are trying their best to help one another, but are totally overwhelmed. But we are doing our best to help, to be of service.

What a beautiful opportunity we have – to even have resources in the first place, to be connected to the need, to be capable of sharing this information with one another. 

“We know the US team is there for us – it helps,” our other manager, Ritu shared.

99% of our organizational funds at WORK+SHELTER come from sales, and that’s been true for years. But at this time, with our production fully on hold, and the chance to help not just our colleagues, but also their communities, We’d like to ask you personally – please make a donation or set up a complimentary campaign immediately. Every single dollar will be spent to support the women and their communities directly.

Food donations being distributed at Matri COVID Kitchen in Noida, a neighboring town of Delhi where many of our vendors including our screen printer operate.


+ Paying the women their full wages to make masks for donation from home, or to rest at home if they are sick

+ Providing COVID tests now and regularly until the surge dies down

+ Medical expenses for vulnerable, sick families in our community

+ Direct gifts of food and cash payments of 500 rupees, or $6.66 USD to individuals in our region of Delhi who are food insecure

+ Vaccines when they become available


+ Our non-profit EIN # is 90-0896007

+ Gifts from Donor Advised Funds are welcome

+ Email [email protected] for any queries related to giving


A huge THANK YOU goes out to everyone who has donated this far. Your donations are making a difference.

Pictured here you see Ritu, our Production Manager at WORK+SHELTER distributing food in our neighborhood in New Delhi. If you have ever touched one of our products, know that it was likely Ritu’s hands who conducted quality control, Ritu’s eyes who reviewed the tech pack. This photo was taken last week just before she received word that her mother was sick. By nightfall the same day, her mother had passed away.

Watching this can be a deeply disempowering experience, but what your donations have done is incredible. They have provided a platform for our leaders in India – Ritu, Nitu, Kavita, Sakshi, Suman – to make direct impact. These are women who care deeply about our mission, and knowing that they are resourced to distribute funds, food, medical support, masks, and more has given them increased agency during this hard time. It’s incredibly powerful.

For that we thank you – we are grateful. This is only the beginning of our outreach plan.

As more donations come in, we will be using them to:

+ Work with our neighborhood pharmacist to cover costs for those who cannot afford medication

+ Provide free, healthy food to COVID patients

+ Provide extra rental supplement for ladies who have to support entire joint families on their salary alone

+ Buy electricity-free sewing machines so that the women can scale production of making masks at home for donation within India

We ask that you please continue to show your support by sharing our campaign (below) or donating to the cause.