Spotlight :Teen Heroes
High schoolers around Atlanta are using the pandemic downtime to serve their communities.
Divya Vikram: Golden work helping those suffering from dementia
A rising Senior of Alpharetta High School, Divya Vikram recently won ‘The Gold Award,’ the highest honor granted by the Girl Scouts organization for her work in assisting patients with dementia.
The award requires scouts to take charge of a project designed to “drive lasting change in their communities and beyond.” Divya found inspiration for her Gold Award project after a volunteering opportunity at a dementia care facility.
“I continued volunteering at the medical care facility because I was really interested in helping them and it was heartbreaking to see all the residents that suffered from dementia,” Divya shared in an interview with Khabar. “On one side they were just normal people, but when their memories were lost or they fell into a lapse, they felt like, ‘Oh my family just left me in this home and I‘m all alone.’ You really sympathize with them and try to help by just playing games or playing music for them.”
Divya tackled the core causes of the patients’ discomfort, such as limited time with family members and the lack of knowledge caretakers had of patients’ backgrounds, by creating detailed picture collages of each patient’s life. These collages not only allowed caretakers to understand the lives of their patients and engage with them on a deeper level but also helped residents of the care facility preserve the memories that they held dear. Divya also created a book of activities as well as a book of music that future volunteers can use to entertain residents, and alleviate their confusion or pain.
She worked hard to make sure that her work extends beyond her and into the community. She connected school clubs with her local memory care facility to encourage students to reach out and volunteer. “I was shadowing one of the EMS workers at the Alpharetta fire department and was able to put the department
in contact with the memory care center so that the Alpharetta EMS team could directly respond to emergencies at the care center,” she adds. She created a training video to give volunteers a basic understanding of the care they are providing. She also created a website with resources in multiple languages about dementia, treatments, and ways for dementia patients and their caretakers to receive help.
Divya has a long history as an active member of her community. Even while being a member of her school’s Varsity Swim Team, Future Business Leaders of America, and Women in STEM, she still makes time to serve others and has also co-founded the nonprofit Splash of Care, which prompted primary care camps in rural areas of South India. She explained her motivation for community service saying, “I love volunteering. I love helping out and just seeing the impact even if it’s just a single person—one person that smiles because you made their day or you helped out—it makes a really big difference.”
Divya said that quarantine has given her the time to pursue her passions. “I started off quarantine by raising money for frontline workers, and I raised about $1300,” she says. She also started a digital marketing company with her friends while highlighting the voices of women as a marketing specialist in the core team of TedX Alpharetta Women.
Divya wished to share one final message with the Khabar community: “Go volunteer wherever you can and raise awareness about issues with other people. Try to make a community impact—I know we’re all busy with our own lives, but if we can just take some time out to go help out wherever we want like helping at an animal shelter or a blood drive or anything. Just take time to go help out in your community because you never know how much it means to the other person you’re helping out.”Aditi Mohan: Ear savers for frontline workers
After discovering that wearing masks for hours at a time caused irritation around the ears for many healthcare workers, Aditi Mohan, a junior at Chattahoochee High School began searching for ways to help those who dedicate their time protecting the public. She discovered ear savers, a product which pull the loops of the masks off the ears and onto buttons. Aditi, a Girl Scout Ambassador, and a member of Student Leadership at John’s Creek, saw an opportunity to bring relief to medical workers and got to work using her crocheting skills to create hundreds of ear savers.
In an interview with Khabar, Aditi shared her motivation saying, “Healthcare workers are truly heroes during this pandemic. They are working long shifts, are unable to spend time with their families, and in some cases are sacrificing their health to help the public during this crisis. I think it is crucial to honor and appreciate them, and being able to provide healthcare workers some comfort is a privilege. Ear savers allow healthcare workers to be able to fully focus on their work, rather than being distracted by irritated ears caused by the masks they must wear.”
Thus far, Aditi has donated more than 500 ear savers to Emory University Hospital, Northside Hospital, Georgia Clinic, University of Miami Hospital, Eastside Hospital, Jackson Memorial Hospital, and Ronald McDonald House; and is even working on a package for a hospital in the UK. She has also partnered with Raah, Inc., a nonprofit, to produce more ear savers. Aditi often includes heartfelt notes and care packages consisting of baked goods to express her gratitude. She mentioned that she loves receiving cards and pictures from health care workers who appreciate her work.
Kavita Kar: Donated over 3000 N95 masks for healthcare workers
As the Covid-19 pandemic ravages the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), teens have stepped up to protect local health care workers. When Kavita Kar, a sophomore at Wheeler High School, saw the dire situation of health care workers, she decided to tackle the PPE shortage herself.
In an interview with Khabar, Kavita explained her motivation saying, “It broke my heart to know that medical workers, who put their lives at risk to serve our community, did not have the right equipment to protect themselves, their families, and their patients. Covid-19 hit home when one of our family friends, a doctor, contracted it. I was upset because I knew it was likely that he contracted coronavirus at work, and did not have the resources he needed to protect himself. I wanted to ensure that other doctors and nurses do not have to live his experience.”
Kavita created a GoFundMe fundraiser and raised over $6,000 to buy and distribute thousands of masks to local medical workers. She expressed gratitude for those who funded her efforts saying, “The support I received was overwhelming—people I didn’t even know donated money for this cause...I would not have been able to do this without our community’s support.”
Kavita made the effort to ensure that the quality of the masks she was delivering met FDA standards. She personally checked the quality of the N95 masks by verifying the supplier’s documentation, checking to see if the product had legitimate CE certification or FDA registration, and cross-checking the company name with the FDA database.
The process of obtaining the masks was extremely difficult as changes in government regulations led to her first order of masks being blocked before it could even reach US Customs. Kavita also had to navigate price gougers, some of whom were reselling masks at 300% of their original cost. Then there were also a number of suppliers who attempted to sell her low-quality masks with false listings and photoshopped certificates. “One woman requested me to send her a 50% deposit before she would show me any paperwork and told me that this was the only way to buy,” Kavita revealed. “Another acquaintance reached out to me to see if I would buy masks from her...She sent me a list of certifications that checked out, and I couldn’t help but get excited. I then asked her to send a picture of the masks. My heart dropped. The company listed on the shipping box was different from the company listed on the certifications. I immediately called her to ask about it. She quickly demurred and said that the questions that I was asking were too complicated and that there were other people willing to buy without any questions. I was shocked.”
In the end, however, Kavita’s persistence paid off and she was able to donate the first shipment of 3,000 N95 masks to WellStar Kennestone, Emory, Grady Hospital, the GI Specialists of Georgia, and the Gwinnett clinic. She has also joined a group of volunteers trying to source PPE called the “Covid-19 Collaborative.”
“When I was able to drop the masks off at doctors’ offices, it broke my heart to know that doctors did not have any other PPE, and seeing their need brought tears to my eyes,” Kavita shared. “Healthcare workers are our heroes. They are doing their part, and it’s time that we do ours. I believe that we must all step up to support them, and this includes wearing a mask at all times when in public, maintaining social distance, and limiting outings”
Bhavana Kunnath, a rising senior at Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology, is the Editor-in-Chief of Infinitas, the school’s literary magazine. She is currently an intern with Khabar magazine, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To comment on this article, please write to email@example.com.
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