In the wake of the devastating earthquake that ravaged Turkey and Syria, claiming over 40,000 lives, there is a shining light of hope that comes from East Meadow High School, in the form of the Red Cross Club.
The club was founded at the beginning of this school year by juniors Kiran Maharaj and Mahira Ahmed. The club’s relief efforts for the earthquake victims are just the most recent for the students who focus on helping others in need.
“Kiran and I both wanted to contribute to our East Meadow community in some way through community service and assisting others,” Ahmed, the club’s vice president, said. “After we both did research, we found out that our school did not have a Red Cross Club.”
They created the club for East Meadow after researching and modeling it after the humanitarian organization the International Committee of the Red Cross. Founded in 1863 in Geneva, Switzerland, the effort was started by those helping the wounded in the battle of Solferino in Italy. The Red Cross is seen as the international core for humanitarian action.
“Our goal is to help out our community in any way we can,” Maharaj, the club’s president, said. “We like to do anything we can to brighten the days of the people around us and, if possible, provide aid and support to people around the world, which we got to do very recently.”
Even though the club is in its inaugural year, there are already over 20 dues-paying members. “I wanted to have a chance to grow and lead others, and it was a great opportunity for me,” said sophomore Rose Zaman, the club’s underclassmen representative.
“The Red Cross does important work, and I ultimately wanted to help support the organization as well as the school through the club.”
The relief effort exceeded anyone’s expectations, with hundreds of items donated by East Meadow students from Feb. 10 to 15 — ranging from coats and undergarments to toiletries. Everything filled a 15-foot U-Haul truck.
“When we were packing the truck with all the donations, it was the people who spontaneously pitched in who made it better,” Ahmed said. “Students who were waiting to be picked up would drop their backpacks to help with heavy boxes, and people coming out of other extracurriculars would help load a pile of blankets into the truck. Those instances of people who weren’t asked to help, and then did anyway, reveal genuine humanity that we tend to forget about.”
The donations were taken to the Turkish General Consulate in New York City and are expected to be delivered to the victims via Turkish Airlines on Feb. 17.
“The drive was kind of a family affair with me and my parents,” Maharaj said. “It was through my mom’s family friend that I learned the Turkish consulate was collecting donations and my parents helped me rent and drive the U-Haul.”
This isn’t the only project that the club has dedicated its time to. During the winter, they held a fundraiser for the victims of Hurricane Ian. The club partnered with the Kiwanis Club of Bellmore Charitable Foundation Inc., and raised $180. The funds were used to purchase gift cards and send them down to the Sanibel Captiva Island Kiwanis Club in Florida. They’ve also made Valentine’s Day cards for those in the Bristal Assisted Living in East Meadow.
The club’s leaders don’t have any intentions of stopping. They want to continue their efforts to help people out, no matter how big or small the effort is. They’re already planning a blood drive for sometime in the spring through the New York Blood Center.
“I appreciate seeing the work and care that went into the donation box,” freshman Caroline Smith said. “It was really a comforting thing to see in the community.”