Written by: Riddhi Jawle and Pallavi Badri
The COVID-19 crisis has changed the world immensely. According to the CDC, cases of infection are continuing to rise exponentially. As of July 6, the number of positive cases was at a peak of 2.9 million people infected. Unemployment rates are the worst they’ve been since the Great Depression at a whopping 11.1%. Not only has the way we live been drastically altered, but also the economy is greatly suffering as a result, and more specifically, small businesses are being impacted the most. According to a report done by the U.S. Chambers of Commerce, as of June 3, 82% of small businesses are worried about the impact coronavirus will have on their businesses.
After observing the tragic effects of the COVID-19 crisis on society, the Hindu Yuva Manhattan chapter felt motivated to help with relief efforts. The Hindu Yuva Manhattan chapter, otherwise known as HYM, is a weekly book club for young adults. With their set goals, HYM got to work and pushed out two projects to aid the people suffering from the lockdown and the crisis. One of their projects was connecting the local restaurants to the first responders by buying food from the restaurants, which was actually inspired by the media. HYM noticed that all over the United States, the media placed emphasis on two things: the lack of employment for local businesses and the deployment of first responders to the front line. The prominence of these two issues in the media caused the Hindu Manhattan Yuva chapter to put one and one together, eventually leading to the formation of the idea of their project.
Killing two birds with one stone, they decided to bridge the two issues. They worked to connect the local restaurants to the first responders by buying food from the restaurants. This provided them a form of revenue, while the hardworking first responders received their delivered goods. To execute this project, they organized four drives over the course of a six week period. They worked with two different local businesses, Patsy’s Pizzeria for the first three drives and another local business for the last drive. The drives consisted of three steps. First, the Hindu Yuva Manhattan group would collect money to pay for the food. Then, they would coordinate with the restaurants to buy food. Lastly, the restaurants would deliver the food to the first responders. In the first drive, the seven to eight participants paid for the food from their own pocket as a trial run. After gaining confidence that their project was going to be a success, they expanded it to their friends and the rest of the Hindu Yuva Manhattan chapter. About twenty to twenty-one people donated and they utilized the funds to place orders in the restaurants. The team then requested the businesses deliver the food to the first responders. The food made its way to members of the sanitation department, police officers, postal service personnel, and healthcare workers.
Although the food drives were very successful, the Hindu Yuva Manhattan faced some challenges along the way. The first obstacle they had was the lack of experience working with the first responders. None of HYM had ever talked to first responders prior to the project so it was difficult establishing contact with them. Another hurdle they encountered was that it was hard to reach out and contact the first responders due to their occupation with the COVID-19 crisis. However, HYM was eventually able to successfully communicate with the first responders.
The donations were well-received. The first responders were very grateful and appreciative, thanking them many times for their help. Some even posted about Hindu Yuva Manhattan on their social media. The publicity was very valued by HYM because they feel Sewa or selfless volunteer work is not typically associated with Hindus in the current society. They extremely appreciated being able to bring more positive exposure to the Hindu community overall due to this project. The restaurants themselves were extremely honored to be able to be a part of the cause, and they greatly valued the business it brought in. HYM noted that it was a unique and positive experience to be able to interact and connect with the first responders.
Now that they have wrapped up the food drive project, HYM wants to help international students in some way because they are receiving minimal help from the federal government. The majority of aid provided by the government is directed towards citizens or green cardholders. At the moment, they are trying to understand the scope of the international student communities in Manhattan. Since a lot of work is already being done to help the Indian international student communities, HYM wants to focus on students from countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. Some ways of aid they are considering are grocery drives and help with paying rent. Although the world is suffering due to the effects of COVID-19, with the help of kind individuals and groups like the Hindu Yuva Manhattan, we can alleviate the stress caused by the crisis and pave the way for a better future.
Interview with Sumedh Deshpande, Member of Hindu Yuva Manhattan Chapter
“Cases in the U.S.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4 July 2020, www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/cases-in-us.html.
THE EMPLOYMENT SITUATION — JUNE 2020. News Release Bureau of Labor Statistics U.S. Department of Labor, June 2020, www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf.
“Small Business Coronavirus Impact Poll.” U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 3 June 2020,