When Harjeev Singh, a freshman at the University of Missouri, took a public health class in 2021, he learned to try to prevent health crises before they happen.
Singh, who plans to become a doctor, saw a connection between this public health mission and his other passion: community service.
Last year, Singh founded an organization, Helping Hands, to help prevent the financial situation of students and community members from negatively affecting their health and education. The organization’s biggest project has been collecting donations of textbooks and school supplies, and then distributing them to students at the Student Center.
At the end of the spring semester, Helping Hands received 200 textbooks and enough donations to make 300 school supply kits. The organization held a distribution event August 18-19 at the Student Center, where students picked up supply kits and any textbooks that were available.
Students can still pick up supplies year-round at the Student Engagement Center within the Student Center. The organization plans to hold more collection campaigns at the end of the fall and spring semesters.
“I don’t know what they’re going through,” Singh said, “but I want to help them any way I can.”
Singh hopes to expand his nonprofit to other college campuses in Missouri and the rest of the country. He expects that, over time, the cost of purchasing books and supplies — which can often cost students several hundred dollars a semester — will become a lower financial barrier for students.
Singh’s adviser to the club, Jenna Wintemberg, was his teacher in the public health class he took his freshman year. Wintemberg said that when Singh told her about his idea for Helping Hands, it connected with her views on financial security and public health.
“Often, (improving community health) is not like getting more medical buildings, more hospitals,” Wintemberg said. “What it looks like is addressing the underlying causes – poverty, homelessness, food insecurity. These are the best long-term and population-level ways to improve health outcomes.”
The organization held several volunteer events with the Rainbow House Children’s Emergency Shelter, Room at the Inn homeless shelter and food banks in the last school year. Singh said they will continue to volunteer in the community this year and look forward to collaborating on projects with other organizations on campus as well.
The distribution of Helping Hands textbooks and school supplies is part of the Tiger Education Initiative they created. Singh started the initiative after hearing colleagues complain about the high cost of college textbooks. He researched the question and read a 2017 survey that found that 13% of Mizzou students considered dropping out because of the cost of course materials. Singh said that when thinking about the entire university population of Mizzou, 13% is a big number and he wanted to help bring it down.
“I wanted to relate (public health) to trying to create an initiative to help prevent students from feeling this financial insecurity,” Singh said, “and trying to help them succeed so they can succeed in their future careers. .”
For the Helping Hands school supplies and textbook collection at the end of the Spring 2022 semester, Mizzou Store donated items such as binders, paper stuffing and bookmarks with minor defects that could not be sold in the store but were in perfect condition. conditions. Singh installed collection boxes at the Student Center and Memorial Union for students to donate supplies. He also obtained permission from Tyler Page, director of MU Residential Life, to install 15 collection boxes in the campus dormitories.
“This was a request from a resident that would directly and positively impact Mizzou’s students,” Page said, “so it was definitely in line with our mission.”
Students donated books and school supplies they didn’t need at the end of the year – from desk lamps to lab safety glasses.
Source : www.columbiamissourian.com