The COVID-19 outbreak has had severe impacts on lives all over the world, with the pandemic disproportionately effecting vulnerable populations. In response to the pandemic, two sisters from Markham joined forces to assemble and distribute 300 care packages to community members in need.
Athena Zhong, a third-year Medical Sciences student at Western University, and Briana Zhong, a Grade 10 Pre-IB student at St. Robert Catholic High School, are co-founders of the student-led initiative, Gifts That Smile.
“The past few months have been difficult for everyone, and we wanted to remind our community that we are here for each other,” said Athena Zhong. “We decided to assemble hygiene care packages to ensure that people can access essential items during these challenging times.”
Over the past few months, Athena and Briana — along with passionate friends, Jiawei Zhao, Fiona Zhao, and Maria Haque — worked hard from project initiation and planning, to project execution. The group spent numerous hours on product research online and phone calls and emails to organizations to seek gifts-in-kind.
“Now, more than ever, vulnerable populations need our support. We are grateful for the support that we have received, which has enabled us to make hundreds of packages,” said Briana Zhong.
“I would like to give a special thank you to Mr. Daniel Zaroski, our community advisor, who has provided us with tremendous advice and words of guidance throughout this process.”
The packages consist of full-size shampoos, conditioners, toothpaste, toothbrushes, interdental brushes and picks, deodorants, bars of soap, pads, face masks, denture bath and brush sets, tissue boxes, pencils, crayons, balloons, pins, stickers, activity sheets, and handmade cards.
Within the next few weeks, they will be delivering the packages to at-risk and homeless youth at 360°kids, seniors at Chartwell Retirement Residences, patients and front-line workers at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, and patients and front-line workers at Mount Sinai Hospital.
Their initiative has been sponsored by the RisingYouth grant, operated by TakingITGlobal and funded by the Government of Canada, Canada Service Corps, and supported by Procter & Gamble, GlobalMedic, and Plan International.