For Sofia Babool, a 20-year-old sophomore studying neuroscience at the University of Texas at Dallas, conversation in recent weeks has centered around Covid-19. The world seems to be on pause; her school, favorite coffee shop, everything in her life has been turned upside down.

Usually, more time off from school means Sofia can prepare for the rest of her school assignments, or perhaps read the books languishing on her shelf that she never seems to find time to read. 

“This time, it’s different,” said Sofia. “Without Jamatkhana, without normal school life, with so much of my daily routine suddenly gone, I realize that the individual components of my life that had brought me so much happiness and stability have vanished suddenly.”

With online schooling now a norm, even commuting to the grocery store instills fear in Sofia.  

“Whether through the regular evening FaceTime with my Dada and Dadi, or perhaps the sibling binge sessions on Netflix, Covid-19 has forced a dramatic change in my life,” she said. 

Despite all the frustration, Sofia recognizes there is something she has gained from this crisis and being at home: time. 

“Time to reconnect, time to rebuild, and time to reassess,” she said. She knows how we all long for a day when we have no obligations to complete a task and can read or listen to music, watch a movie or meditate. However, she also knows that “this time of uncertainty isn’t meant to be wasted, but a time to prepare for a world where much will be different. The fact that the entire world is facing this together gives me comfort, but it gives me even more comfort to know that social distancing doesn’t mean a lack of action.”

 

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Sofia Babool is a student at the University of Texas.
Sofia Babool is a student at the University of Texas.

For the past several weeks, Sofia has taken action. She began an initiative to create face masks with the help of the Jamat in Dallas. While initially a simple service initiative, the volunteers realized their effort had to be a serious one, in an effort to stop the spread of the virus. 

 

After over 100 fabric face masks had been made by only two women alone, Sofia was suddenly bombarded with messages from other women asking to help out in sewing, families that wanted the masks for their own safety, as well as physicians from all over the Dallas region who picked up their own packages of supplies from her doorstep. The masks have been approved for use by hospitals.

Two women sewing suddenly turned into six, as Ismaili engineers and coders offered to help create 3D masks for the face shields. Moez Sayani and Karim Lalani, owners of 3D printers and knowledgeable on computer software design, opened new doors into the medical field Sofia thought wouldn’t be seen in hospitals for several years. By editing, designing, and researching the perfect file that could be printed in a cost-effective and timely manner, she used their expertise in advanced printing to design 15 3D printed face shields that went to two physicians in the Dallas area. 

Over 200 masks have been donated to physicians thus far and another 500 will be made and sent by the end of the month, along with 2,000 others that have been donated to the group. The team of Ismaili women and men have scaled their efforts and skills to produce masks that are handmade, attractive, and technology-driven. Their first national delivery will be to an Ismaili physician in California who is at the frontline fighting this virus.

“It’s at times like these when I forget that a virus actually exists and rather, moments when I remember what being an Ismaili means,” said Sofia. “It’s more than a faith, a religion or a practice; it’s a way of life. And service to others begins with each one of us.”