Many in the Jamat around the country have been moved by the lack of adequate personal protective equipment available to healthcare workers and other frontline responders during this COVID-19 crisis. These dedicated professionals are risking their own lives to save others. Others have been concerned about the plight of those unable to work, and who are finding it difficult to provide food for their families at this time.

Some of these generous individuals are being recognized in this series for taking their own initiative to make a difference, and for illustrating the ethics of our faith by reaching out to those in need.

Watching “Breaking News” on CNN, holds few surprises for Sofia Babool, a 20-year-old sophomore studying neuroscience at the University of Texas at Dallas. The news seems to be about one topic, the number of COVID-19 patients spiraling upwards each day. 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 but never seems to find time to read. “But this time, it is different,” says Sofia, and “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 remarks.

Despite all the frustration, Sofia recognizes that 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 says. 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 after where much will be different. The fact that the entire country 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.”

For the past several weeks, Sofia did take 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 that 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 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 door. 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 3-D masks for the face shields. Moez Sayani and Karim Lalani, owners of 3-D printers and knowledgeable on computer software design, opened new doors into the medical field Sofia thought would not 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 3-D printed face shields that then went to two physicians in the Dallas area.

Over 200 masks have been donated thus far, to physicians and another 500 will be made and sent by the end of the month, including 2,000 others that have been donated to the group. With medical subscription packages, the team of Ismaili women and men have scaled their efforts and skills talents, to produce masks that are both handmade, attractive, and technology-driven. Their first national delivery will 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,” says 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.”

Sofia is studying neuroscience and hopes to combine the study of medicine and business in the future. In her free time, she enjoys running, playing tennis, giving TED talks, re-reading Harry Potter books, and watching Greys Anatomy.