What can two 17-year-old boys do to counter a raging pandemic while hunkered down for months at home?
Plenty, if they happen to be Jay Doshi and Jackie Ni.
The two teens don’t know each other — Doshi lives in Cerritos and Ni in Irvine; they attended different high schools. But they’ve been like minded of late, matching their considerable skills with a desire to help others as the coronavirus grips the nation.
Each came up with an idea for a website to connect people in need to the goods or services or money that can help them. With big assists from family and friends, each made his idea a reality and are reaching thousands of people. And both have done all this while finishing online classes and other tasks, like getting ready for the coming college year.
Doshi is the brains behind the California Social Resource Database, an online directory specific to each of the state’s 58 counties. His database includes information on community-based food banks, health care, emergency shelters, financial and legal aid, mental health services and other support. Just go to the website at caliresources.org, click on a county and select a listing. There’s also a button to suggest additions to the listings.
Ni built SupplyCrate.org, an online nexus for procuring and distributing PPE — masks, gloves, face shields, gowns. Donations can be tracked with a QR code to see who has benefited. More recently, Ni has been focusing on a related site, BLMsupplycrate.org, to facilitate requests and donations to organizers and activists involved in social justice protests.
Here’s a look at what each of them accomplished.
Doshi is way ahead of most young people his age. He graduated early from Whitney High, a top-rated school in Cerritos, and has finished two years of college at Cal State Los Angeles. He’ll be heading to Cornell University in New York on Aug. 18 to continue his bachelor’s degree in biology and society, a course of study that focuses on how societal and environmental factors affect individual and community health.
Doshi wants to be a doctor. Medicine runs in the family: his mother is a rheumatologist and his father is a physician’s assistant. His older brother, Rushabh Doshi, also an aspiring physician, is pursuing a master’s degree in public health at Harvard.
His California Social Resource Database is right in keeping with the kind of health provider Doshi hopes to become. Like his brother, he is interested in public health.
“One of my big goals is to help with improving community health outcomes and working with lower-income communities to help those who are vulnerable,” Doshi said.
What Doshi saw unfolding in New York City earlier this year, when COVID-19 began to swamp hospitals and overwhelm communities, sparked his idea to create an easily accessible and comprehensive database. The minimal costs involved — $80 for the domain — came out of his own pocket.
As brilliant as Doshi is, he needed his brother’s help to build the first iteration of the database. He also enlisted more than 30 “interns” who are in high school or college to curate the resource lists and refresh the information. Students from around the country, including New York and New Jersey, responded to his social media blast; but most of his helpers are in California, up and down the state.
The team relies on Google searches and phone calls to confirm the information they gather. Their contact with each other is virtual.
“Although we have diverse interests, we all have one similar goal — to help out communities in whatever way possible,” said Doshi, who is listed as chief executive officer on a website that to date has received more than 9,000 hits, most from people in California.
He also singles out a student at Scripps College in Claremont, Richa Shah, for the work she’s done as chief operating officer to “keep everyone busy and up to date with their work.” Shah, a sophomore, also plans to become a physician.
His brother, credited as a founding member, said both personal and community concerns motivated him: “When I spoke with family back in California, who were having trouble accessing their medical care, I became increasingly concerned that individuals would suffer from a lack of medical and social services as community organizations closed.”
The database is updated every two weeks, Jay Doshi said. Plans call for keeping it going as long as possible — to continually add resources and provide more in-depth information. Even though everyone is heading back to school soon — either physically or virtually — Doshi figures they’ll be able to find the time to maintain the database.
“This summer was definitely the intensive part of this project,” he said. “Now it’s a little less hectic. We can balance school with this.”
Ni just graduated Sage Hill High in Newport Coast. He’s chosen to take a one-year break before starting his studies in public policy and computer science at Claremont McKenna College, where classes at this point remain virtual.
Ni plans to spend his gap year on expanding the work of his logistics initiative. The need for sources of PPE has waned since March, when he started his project. So, Ni and three friends — high school seniors Ryan He, Tyler Chen and Steven Zhou — are pivoting to online games, videos, and blogs to educate the public about COVID-19 and address pandemic-related issues. It’s called The Activist Fund Supply Crate.
Ni hopes that online ads on their sites can generate funds to send to struggling restaurants or other businesses.
SupplyCrate.org has so far resulted in getting nearly 375,000 pieces of PPE — mostly gloves and KN95-grade masks — that went to hospitals, hospices, senior living centers, government entities, and Native American tribes. The main donor, providing more than $110,000 worth of support, has been the US Zhejiang GCOC, a network of immigrant business owners from his hometown region in China. Ni’s family came to the United States when he was 5. His parents run a business selling USB ports and other receptacles.
Ni reached out to potential donors by email and cold calls, and through connections made via family and friends. Ni said SupplyCrate.org was getting PPE requests from up to 10 institutions a day during the weeks when government logistics weren’t effective and high demand made supplies scarce. Benefactors especially like that they can track where the donations go through a QR code, he said.
The PPE requests slowed in June, just as street protests mushroomed in the weeks following the May 25 death of unarmed black motorist George Floyd during a police stop. Ni transitioned to BLMsupplycrate.org, borrowing the initials for Black Lives Matter. Like his original site, the offshoot distributes needed supplies to people in need. To date, it has issued 2,650 masks to protest organizers, mostly in California and New York, but some in the Midwest and Southwest as well. He and his friends vet the gatherings and organizers before listing a request, sometimes for cash to pay permit fees or buy water.
“These people aren’t just taking the money and using it for their own gain,” Ni said, recalling one organizer who received $60 but returned it when it turned out the group could cover the expense.
“They’re standing up to their own values.”
That’s a lesson for Ni, who is considering a career in politics.
“I’ll start small, as an intern,” he said, “And then work my way up.”
Source: Orange County Register