Almost one year ago, The Times introduced its readers to Noor Shaik, a Bensalem High School alum whose mission to send supplies to her native country of India, which was being ravaged by the COVID-19 Delta variant, achieved unprecedented success.
Thanks to her efforts and the generosity of her community, thousands of N95 masks and face shields, hundreds of tracheostomy kits and dozens of oxygen concentrators were shipped overseas, all under the umbrella of the newly-created Breath for Humanity organization.
When COVID numbers declined, the 2010 BHS valedictorian and Thomas Jefferson University medical student didn’t stop her work. Instead, she led the charge in collecting items for Afghan refugees arriving in Philadelphia following the Taliban takeover.
Now, Shaik is collaborating with the National Honor Society of her alma mater on a new cause — aiding in the Ukrainian crisis.
In just over two weeks, she was able to drop off the first donation of medical supplies to the United Ukrainian American Relief Committee.
“The great thing about helping with the Ukraine initiative is that, as opposed to the India initiative, there’s already a lot of groups and places, especially in Philadelphia, that have supply chains sending things over to Poland, who are sending things over to the Ukraine,” said Shaik.
To spread awareness of her desire to help Ukraine, she reached out to Carrie Cramer, her former math teacher and current advisor of the National Honor Society, who Shaik thanked for always seeing potential in her.
“When I was putting out feelers, I knew that the National Honor Society is a group that loves to give back,” said Shaik.
It was the perfect partnership since, reflected Cramer, Ukrainian senior Leah Peragine had already expressed her wish to do something.
“Part of NHS is, they have to get leadership points and community service, so this was something she undertook. It started as a bake sale during lunch to raise some money. It went from a little bake sale to a Support Ukraine Day where we’re asking all students to wear blue or gold to show support,” said Cramer.
In addition to the NHS, the school’s ROTC and Student Government are assisting in selling ribbons and collecting donations. Funds raised will be given to a relief organization, which can utilize the money as needed.
For Cramer, it’s great to see a former student unite with her current class for such an important cause. In fact, one member of the NHS is Shaik’s little brother, who is upholding his sister’s strong BHS reputation.
“Noor has a name around here. We’re proud of her. It’s great seeing Noor and seeing my students now that have really stepped up to be a part of this and want to help,” said Cramer. “As the word’s been spreading, even students who are not in any of those organizations have said, ‘Hey, I’m Ukrainian, what can I do to help?’ It’s great to see the backgrounds of our students and just everybody wanting to step in and help however they can.”
When Shaik launched Breath for Humanity in 2021, she had no idea that it would acquire so many desperately-needed supplies for India, yet alone evolve to eventually help war-stricken individuals and families.
“Originally, when this began, I didn’t think it would be any more than a few boxes. And then from a few boxes we got to a few thousand pounds. Now, we’re already on our third initiative in less than a year thanks to an outpouring of support,” she said.
Hopefully, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will be the last major global event that requires the organization’s work. If and when things calm down, Shaik’s goal is to maintain a surplus of supplies that can be donated as needed.
“As things pop up, we’d be able to distribute them either around the world or at home because unfortunately, plenty of natural disasters happen here, as well,” she said.
More information and an option to make a monetary donation can be found at breathforhumanity.wordpress.com/blog.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org