Pandemic inspires charitable enterprise for York student and family in Jakarta

York University international student Ishan Gambhir and his family have been helping to fight the damage done by the pandemic on multiple fronts in their current hometown of Jakarta, Indonesia, where his father works in the garment industry.

When the pandemic closed businesses in Jakarta, the third-year student joined friends in distributing food packages to underprivileged families who were having a difficult time making ends meet. Simultaneously, Gambhir’s father was worrying about garment workers who had been laid off by clothing manufacturers. Together Gambhir and his father hit upon the idea of asking the workers to sew masks that could be included in each food package. In a win-win situation, the workers would be earning wages while the families would be protected during the COVID-19 outbreak. The Gambhir family provided the resources to make the idea a reality.

Gambhir and his friends get together weekly to assemble the packages, which include popular Indonesian noodles, some prepared food items, hand sanitizer, a water bottle and a mask. They started by offering the packages in areas where underprivileged families and families of labourers resided and have since expanded their efforts to include a local orphanage.

“I believe in these tough times humanity is our best weapon against this pandemic,” Gambhir said

Gambhir, who is working toward a degree in finance and business economics in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, has always given back to the community. As the child of someone in the garment industry, he had always been given more clothes than he needed and donated the excess to orphanages. During his high school years, he helped organize various charitable events, such as blood drives.

This latest unplanned charitable endeavour is a reflection of Gambhir’s belief that everyone can make a difference in the lives of others.

“I believe in these tough times humanity is our best weapon against this pandemic,” he said. “It is important for us as humans to make the best use out of our resources. I have been lucky enough to have these resources around me and I feel it is my responsibility to use them to make a good impact.

“Even though this is not happening on a large scale, it has created a better living situation for both the unemployed labours and the underprivileged, which is why it holds great importance.”

With classes being delivered remotely, Gambhir flew home to Jakarta with the help of a York University travel bursary, which “was a big help financially.” He is eager to return to Canada, where he hopes to work in the financial and investment sectors for a couple of years before attending graduate school.