From supporting high school students applying to university, to generating awareness about the pandemic, to distributing personal protective equipment in remote communities, Ismaili youth from around the world have taken action to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

As the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of people around the world, there have been a number of individuals who have stepped up to support those impacted by the virus. 

Aleena Ismail (USA)

For many high school students, choosing which university to attend is one of the most difficult decisions they will have made in their lives. When the Covid-19 pandemic began to spread, this challenge was made even more difficult as universities stopped hosting campus tours and information sessions for prospective students.

Without these traditional avenues available, many students were forced to use unreliable online advice forums to learn more about their schools of interest. 

This issue sparked Aleena Ismail, a 22-year-old student at Cornell University, to co-found CollegeScope, a free online service that connects high school students with mentors currently attending university. By being connected with a university student mentor, high school students are able to ask questions directly to someone studying at the university they are hoping to attend. 

“The idea actually came to me because my own sister is going to start university next year,” said Aleena. “I found myself connecting her to various friends of mine who attended different schools and thought it would be great if I could expand and leverage this network to help even more students.”

As a result of her team’s efforts, over 300 university students from 60 universities have registered to serve as mentors, and to date, 100 mentor matches have already been made. Along with continuing to match high school students with university mentors, Aleena and her team also plan to expand their programming to address other complex areas of the university application process.

Current ideas in consideration include webinars for parents on how the process works as well as essay writing workshops for Grade 12 students. 

Once she graduates, Aleena plans to start a career in investment banking. In the future, she hopes to be able to use her skills to support economic empowerment for women in developing countries. 

“It is because of my faith that service to humanity has been an essential component of my extracurricular, academic, and career goals,” she said.

Ali Sher Rastari (Pakistan)

Volunteering has long been an integral part of 23-year-old Ali Sher Rastari’s life. 

“Since childhood, I have been engaged in volunteer work,” he said. “From being a part of shaheen scouts to doing voluntary work at Jamatkhana, my faith has inspired my desire to help others.”

For the past four years, Ali Sher has led Act of Kindness, an organisation focused on improving the quality of life of people living in Sialkot, Pakistan. When the coronavirus began to have an impact in Pakistan, he decided to pivot his organisation’s work to focus on supporting those affected by the pandemic in his community. 

As a first step, he organised awareness campaigns and food drives in Sialkot to ensure that local community members had the knowledge and supplies necessary to most effectively observe physical distancing measures. Together with his colleagues, Ali Sher was also able to collect mask and glove donations to distribute to vulnerable populations in the community.

“One of the ways we spread information about the pandemic was through an online interview with Dr Habiba Thawar from the Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi to answer common questions about the pandemic,” he said. 

After the conclusion of their initial awareness and fundraising efforts, Ali Sher and his colleagues realised there was a major shortage of blood and decided to mobilise their friends and families to donate.

“I was so excited and grateful to see the positive responses we received from our donors and community members,” he said. 

In the future, the team hopes to continue their work to help others through Iftar donation drives, education campaigns and fundraisers. Ali Sher is currently pursuing a degree in Media Science from the University of Sialkot. After completing his studies, he plans to pursue a career in journalism. 

Noah Chow (Canada)

In 2015, 21-year-old Noah Chow was invited to attend the ISTAR Leadership Conference, a national conference for Canadian Ismaili youth to learn more about leadership and community service. His experiences at the conference inspired Noah to start his own non-profit organisation. Having previously volunteered in rural Nepal, he had seen firsthand how a lack of available medical supplies can impact developing nations.

In response to this issue, Noah started Health Matters Worldwide, an organisation which collects unused medical equipment from Toronto-area hospitals and sends them to hospitals in developing countries. Since its inception, the organisation has sent supplies to six countries, including Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Nepal, and China. 

When the Covid-19 pandemic started to spread, it became more difficult to send items abroad due to the closure of many international distribution channels. Rather than seeing this as a barrier, Noah realised there was an opportunity to make a difference at home and decided to shift his organisation’s focus to addressing the shortages of medical supplies in Toronto-area hospitals. 

Through sourcing donations of unused supplies from facilities and individuals across his community, Noah was able to deliver over 50,000 pairs of gloves and 3,000 N95 masks to hospitals across his province. Along with being featured on various news channels across Canada, several celebrities, including actor Ryan Reynolds and hockey star Haley Wickenheiser, have recognised Health Matters Worldwide for their work and taken to social media to encourage others to donate.

When it becomes possible to do so, Noah plans to restart his work in ensuring that developing countries have access to critical medical supplies.

“Once the world re-opens, we plan to send more supplies abroad,” he said. “We currently have 500 pounds of unused medical supplies waiting to be sent to countries in Africa and Asia”

Noah is currently pursuing a degree in Health Sciences at Wilfred Laurier University. In the future, he hopes to pursue a career in orthopaedic spine surgery.