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Goenka sisters propel Wellesley Helps

Photo by Reshma Goenka

By Rama K. Ramaswamy

Wellesley residents Sanya Goenka (10th grade) and her sister, Sanah (6th grade), decided to "do their part" by organizing two projects called Help Educate and Help Thank Our Healthcare Heroes.

Help Educate is an initiative lead by a team of students who aim to provide virtual tutoring, free of charge, to any elementary or middle school student. According to the sisters, "the recent coronavirus outbreak has created a lot of uncertainties and disrupted education for several children nationwide. This campaign hopes to help all those students who are facing hardships due to school closures and COVID-19."

Help Thank Our Healthcare Heroes is their second initiative, showing gratitude by donating meals to Mass General Hospital (MGH), Boston Medical Center and other local hospital healthcare workers and staff. The sisters expressed the following sentiments, "our medical workers are working tirelessly and putting their lives at risk while taking care of patients infected by COVID-19," said the sisters. "At the same time, our local restaurants are suffering from layoffs and closures due to lockdown. We have contacted several local restaurants who are willing to provide a delicious meal to the healthcare workers at the above hospitals for $10. Whatever donation, big or small, would be greatly appreciated. You can contribute through our MightyCause page."

"After speaking with our friends and their siblings, we realized that a lot of children whose parents are essential workers or have lost their jobs are unable to cope up with their schoolwork and were falling behind," explained Sanya and Sanah about their inspiration for starting the projects. "That's when we thought we should come up with an easy way to help those in need and keep a sense of community going at a difficult time like this. Our free remote tutoring program called Help Educate aims to accomplish this goal. Additionally, many of our relatives are healthcare workers, so we have seen how many of them are putting their own lives at risk while working long hours to help others. The COVID pandemic is taking a mental and physical toll on healthcare workers, and by doing our part in spreading positivity and supporting local businesses we are currently collecting money to provide fresh and delicious meals to hospitals in the area. So far we have raised enough money to provide 280 meals, and we are so grateful to everyone who has contributed."

When asked which of their two initiatives are they more busy with, the young ladies said, "We have had a wonderful amount of support from the community for both our projects. We have raised around $2800 to provide 280 meals to the staff at MGH hospital and are scheduled to deliver them on May 14. Our second project, Help Educate (free remote tutoring), is more hands on, and is keeping us busy! The process includes signing up volunteers and students, then pairing them based on skill level and ability. We have been reaching out to parents to provide information about the program, and collect consent forms. It involves a lot of coordination and overseeing to make sure the lessons are going smoothly. Since we launched the Help Educate project we have built a team of 25 high school students and are in the process of pairing them up with elementary and middle schoolers. While the project is still in an initial phase everything is going better than we could’ve imagined."

"Both our parents and grandparents are really proud that we are giving back to our community and helping people during this crisis," the sisters said of their family's thoughts on their efforts. "They have always taught us to help those in need, and are always loving and supportive. We have been volunteering and helping raise funds since we were young for the American India Foundation’s Light a Lamp campaign (over $8000 raised to provide education for underprivileged children of Indian migrant workers), many cataract eye operations and limb surgeries for underprivileged people in India, and essential school supplies for girls studying at the Radhadevi Goenka School & College, founded by our great-grandmother in Akola, India. On weekends, I [Sanya] volunteer at the Newton Wellesley Hospital."

"Our favorite part of the Help Educate project is connecting with the kids, many of whom just want a friend in this isolating time," said Sanya of her favorite part of the project. "It’s a great way to make new friends and role models for each other. We also love seeing parents who are relieved that their children are happy and keeping busy during quarantine. As for the fundraiser for healthcare workers, we enjoy supporting our local restaurants who are facing closures due to the lockdown and hope our healthcare heroes find a moment of positivity in the meals we donate. The biggest challenge so far have been to create awareness about our Help Educate program so we can help more students who are in need of our services to sign up. Hopefully this article will help us do so!"

"The one thing we learned," Sanya added, "is that to never take things for granted, and we’ve also learned to appreciate how strong our community can be - even at a time when we cannot be physically together and are in isolation. It’s powerful how we can still work together to brighten each other’s days in the little ways we can."

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