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One Dublin High School Student’s Mission to Help the Bay Area’s Homeless

January 28, 2019

I am a junior at Dublin High School who has distributed over 1500 blankets to various homeless encampments in Stockton, Hayward, and Oakland. All of this was made possible by my nonprofit organization – TOUCH Lives.

I originally came up with the idea for my nonprofit organization while volunteering at my local Red Cross chapter. On the way to monthly meetings in Oakland, I would often find homeless people shivering in local parks.

I approached some local homeless shelters and learned about the urgent need for blankets for the homeless. I launched my own nonprofit organization – TOUCH Lives – to collect and distribute items such as blankets, socks, and hygiene kits.

I have reached out to numerous locations such as Salvation Army Hayward, Cityteam Oakland, and 3 Crosses Church. I estimate that I have helped a thousand homeless receive hygiene kits, socks, and blankets. Often times, I personally deliver essential goods to encampments.

Roland Ellingsen, one of the street team leaders I have worked with in 3 Crosses Church, said, “the main reasons Arshad was able to distribute these many blankets was his sincere desire to help people who are in real need, combined with focused persistence and undeniable tenacity to make it happen!”

It was this tenacity that led me to call up roughly one hundred hotels asking for bed sheet donations. Many hotels discard their bed sheets after they have slight blemishes or rips. I capitalize on this practice and estimate that I have collected over 1,000 used bed sheets. I stitch the ripped bed sheets in need of repair and personally delivers them to the homeless. Currently, I am looking for more locations for distribution of the refurbished sheets.

In addition to the sheets, I also finance the purchase of the socks and hygiene kits by tutoring students in my local community. The kits usually consist of wipes, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and hand sanitizer. In total, I have raised roughly $2,500 for TOUCH Lives.

I have spent 35 hours walking through squalid homeless encampments with men, women, and children living in unstable and temporary makeshift tents. I even knock on the car windows of the homeless to ask if they need any of the items I have brought along.

Sometimes, the homeless respond harshly to my efforts by cursing or yelling at me. Many times homeless persons have been subjected to physical abuse or have untreated mental illnesses that led them to their current situation. Because of their fear, they try to defend themselves by having heated outbursts. I handle such tense situations by apologizing and leaving a care package.

I truly believe that the impoverished deserve to live with basic necessities and be treated with empathy. I enjoy conversing with the recipients of my donations and I feel I have grown in understanding their issues. I feel grateful that I can create a positive impact on their difficult lives through TOUCH Lives.

I have already planning additional projects for the future. I hopes that I can distribute roughly 2,500 used bed sheets by the end of the year along with 800 socks and 800 hygiene kits. I want my story to inspire others to be active in community service and help out in any way they can.

To help TOUCH Lives contact Arshad at: touchlivesca@gmail.com.

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