'Our way of giving back': Students create hygiene kits for youth experiencing homelessness
TORONTO -- A small group of university students is working to ensure that youth experiencing homelessness have the essential hygiene and COVID-19 products they need during this pandemic.
Sameer Maden and Kartikay Pabbi are members of the Hygiene for the Homeless Canada’s Toronto branch, and have been preparing and delivering kits to shelters in the Greater Toronto Area that help young people.
“Our main objective is to spread awareness and help individuals see that we could do little things,” Maden, president of the Toronto branch, explained. “Little acts of kindness can go such a long way.”
Hygiene for the Homeless first began in Vancouver, but a Toronto branch was formed last August. Maden says the program is run by youth, for youth.
“It’s totally run by students,” he told CTV News Toronto. “It’s a student initiative. It’s our way of giving back to the community.”
“We were just a group of university students, five of us,” adds Pabbi. “And we just had a common vision in mind, which was to execute on this delivery and make an impact on society. Hygiene is really important from a health, and a social perspective.”
In their first round of donations, at the end of summer 2020, Hygiene for the Homeless was able to assemble and deliver 50 kits for GTA shelters. In December, they were able to donate about 300 kits filled with products.
“Our kits offer the essential items for hygiene such as toothpaste, toothbrush, body wash, deodorant, floss, and then for COVID measures we also included hand sanitizer and facemask,” Pabbi tells CTV News Toronto. “And some of our kits were made just for females, so female hygiene products, as well.”
Organizations like Covenant House and Youth Without Shelter have been the recipients of Hygiene for the Homeless’ kits.
“I was really excited when I heard from hygiene for the homeless,” says Anastasia Kemp, volunteer and engagement specialist at Youth Without Shelter in Etobicoke.
“What’s really great is that it was made with care and concern for the youth who come through our doors, and that way there are more people out there who care about them and their success. So it’s a really great item that they’re given.”
Maden and Pabbi says making their most recent deliveries to staff at the shelters was a heart-warming experience.
“They were really grateful and, you know humbled,” Pabbi recalls. “That in turn humbled us to do more in the future.”
Hygiene for the Homeless has plans to donate more hygiene kits this spring.
“In a time where there is such a divide between the upper and lower class due to this pandemic, this is the least that we could do,” Maden said.
“Over 50 per cent of all of our donations that come in are because of amazing community members like them,” Kemp adds. “We truly could not do what we do without the community support.
Pabbi says that young people are welcome to join the efforts of Hygiene for the Homeless, and he encourages youth to do their own community service, even if it means starting “small.”
“It doesn’t have to be such a grand gesture,” he said. “It’s just a matter of taking action and starting somewhere. It’s able to make a positive change on society, and overall help us with our end goal of enhancing hygiene for the less fortunate.”