March 13th 2020. Friday the 13th. That date holds so much significance. A date already looming with superstition of bad fate. It’s the date my school, and others around the country, officially shut down due to COVID-19.
Technically, it was “extended spring break.” A time of excitement and laughter because nobody knew what was to come from the news of a new coronavirus in China. That “extended spring break” lasted from March to May, and the school year was over. People had just started taking quarantine seriously – hoarding toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and face masks.
Seeing the exhaustion of healthcare workers, the lack of resources, and mostly people scrambling to find something that covered their mouths and noses, I used the free time of quarantine and my hobby of sewing to help make masks. Rather than selling them, I donated masks to anyone who needed it, and if they chose to, they could give me a couple dollars that I would send to a COVID-19 relief fund. With my mom spreading the word about my new initiative through Facebook, and word of mouth taking it from there, my mask-making adventure began.
My nani (grandmother) was here from India at the time, she came to visit, planning for March-June, but ended up staying due to COVID-19, away from her husband for the longest time since they were married, till the end of August. From April through June, along with the help of her and my mother, I sewed 170 masks for my community- neighbors, healthcare workers, women’s shelters- and raised $620 for the University of Florida Shands COVID-19 Relief Fund.
A little over a year later, the COVID-19 situation in the US is easing up, but the second wave of COVID-19 in India is overwhelming. Two people per bed in hospitals, mass cremations with no funeral rites, crowds fighting to get healthcare. Tanks of oxygen are being sold on the black market. The right to breathe is being sold. On May 16th 2021, the highest death toll during this pandemic in India was reached – 4,106 dead. That number is not counting the washed up bodies on the shore of the Ganges River, or those dying in rural villages, or all of the complications of misinformation.
This country is my birthplace, my home, a part of me. It’s where my traditions and culture stems from, where my family lives, where my childhood memories are. I learned to speak and write and dance there. My home was fighting to survive, and I was in a position of privilege to do something about it.
Naturally, the idea to raise money came about. The solution was going to be a little more complicated than before, requiring a few more connections. At 16 years old, my network didn’t extend too far, but it was time for youth to act. I had a little over $500 saved from my baking business, had convinced my dad to match up to $1000 of whatever I raised, and had my mom help me find some way to liquidate this money into resources. My mom reached out to an old college friend, whose husband, Ashish Shah, is the Senior Director of Philanthropy & Community Engagement at Indiaspora. I researched all the work Indiaspora was already doing to raise money and help citizens of India, and knew that this was a non-profit I wanted to work with to help in any way I could. Mr. Shah and I spoke about a matching program, and my GoFundMe fundraiser was live.
Starting with a goal of $5000, and being able to raise that to $7500, the support and generosity I have received from the members of my community is incredible. As of May 17th 2021, I have raised $5,683 dollars, and reached 75% of my goal. Just a little bit of your help, even if it’s a couple dollars, and I can raise all $7500. With Indiaspora matching my efforts 100% that would mean we have helped give 15,000 dollars to COVID-19 aid. It’s a movement to come together and help humanity as a whole, use our privilege for good, and Help India Breathe.
Mokshvi Shah is a 16 year old junior in high school that immigrated from India to the U.S. with her parents. She currently resides in Florida, with hopes to become a psychiatrist to be able to reduce the stigma of mental health while helping others become stronger, healthier versions of themselves. She owes a lot of her giving mindset to her parents, who donated money to organizations in her name as a child and taught her about it, which nurtured her into giving back as she got older.