Barrett senior Sahar Davoudi involved in student effort to help vulnerable people during COVID-19 pandemic

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January 4, 2021

Sahar Davoudi, a senior biology major in Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University, is doing her part to help others during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Davoudi is a volunteer with UA Stronger Together (UAST), an organization made up of ASU and University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix students that collects personal hygiene and nutritional items to donate to non-profit organizations that distribute them to people in need. 

UAST’s mission is to “help non-profits provide every Arizonan with nutrition, hygiene, and other basic defenses against COVID-19.”

“I got involved because I wanted to be part of an effort that helped minimize the impact that COVID-19 has had on our community, especially on our vulnerable populations who are at highest risk for COVID,” said Davoudi, who has been with the organization for about seven months. 

As social media chair of UAST, Davoudi manages the organization’s social media pages and website. She contacts local businesses and associations through social media to find potential donors with surplus stock – such as hand sanitizer, soap, razors, toothbrushes, toothpaste, feminine hygiene products, canned and non-perishable food items, and cleaning products – that can be donated to UAST, which is a 501(c) non-profit organization at the UA College of Medicine. 

Davoudi works directly with Vedanshi Bhargava, a third-year student in the MD/PhD program at the UA College of Medicine-Phoenix who founded the organization last spring. 

“Basic hygiene is and continues to be one of our primary defenses against COVID-19. Yet I remember thinking to myself, what about individuals experiencing homelessness? Do they have access to something as simple as a bar of soap?” Bhargava said.

The deepening effects of the pandemic, including an increase in domestic violence incidents and homelessness, as well as a high rate of spread of the virus on the Navajo Nation are also of major concern.  

“Our communities are constructed in such a way that certain populations are disproportionately affected during times of crisis. UA Stronger Together was, in my mind, a solution. What if we fought COVID-19 together as a community that is mindful of these disparities? What if we created a redistribution program for hygiene items, nutrition, and other needs?” she said.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic non-profits have struggled to support the vulnerable populations they serve due to strained resources, lack of funding, and a drop in employees and volunteers. UAST seeks to fill those gaps.

More than 25 UAST volunteers, including Davoudi, a few ASU alumni and members of ASU chapters of Gamma Alpha Omega and Gamma Zeta Alpha, have helped solicit contributions and pick up and drop off donations to non-profits.  

So far, nearly two dozen businesses and individuals have contributed to the cause, including Oakland Dental Health, Chandler Dental Health, Risas Chandler Dental, Diamond Dental, the Central Arizona Dental Hygienists Association, The Soap Gal, AZ Native Lotions and Soaps, Goats Make Soaps, AZ Soap Works, Trinity Soaps, Sierra Hair and Beauty, Armstrong McNeil, Corepower Yoga, the Foundry, House of Rice, AkoGrocery Store, Scottsdale Bedrooms, and the Village Gym at Ocotillo.

UAST has donated funds and goods to non-profits that assist domestic violence survivors, refugees, immigrants, individuals experiencing homelessness, and communities on the Navajo Nation. 

Davoudi and Bhargava said all donations to UAST, whether monetary or in-kind, directly benefit non-profits that need resources. 

UAST connects businesses and individuals to non-profits that are in need, transports donated items to the respective non-profits, and provides documentation of tax deductible contributions. All donations are made in the donor’s name and the donor is notified of which non-profit receives their contribution. All contributions to UAST are tax deductible. 

UAST is holding an online donation drive through January 8. For information and to make a contribution go to https://uastrongertogether.wixsite.com/mysite

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