At a time when the sheer devastation of COVID-19 is paralyzing swaths of Indian society, Riya is channeling empathy into action.
“My experience with Seeds has taught me that we, the young people, have the capacity to lead the change to help people, and that is what I intend to do,” she said.
The 2019 Indian Seed is working to raise funds and awareness for migrant workers who she describes as “the real backbone of India.”
It is estimated more than 140 million people from rural India migrate seasonally to bigger cities in search of work, but COVID has taken an especially deep toll on this community. Not only does the virus spread quickly among the cramped conditions in which day laborers often live, but has dried up much of the work opportunities and their ability to support themselves.
“I decided to help this section of society in whatever way I could, rather than just sitting at home and feeling helpless and sorry for them,” Riya said.
She has partnered with a volunteer-run community kitchen in Delhi that provides migrant workers and daily wage earners, including those affected by COVID, with free meals. It takes about ₹20,000 a day to run the kitchen, and she is currently about a third of the way to her goal of ₹2,00,000 (or $2,857.)
Riya said that the pandemic has deeply impacted her family and friends, on an emotional level and in terms of loss of life. She has been encouraged, however, by evidence that “the spirit of humanity is still alive and kicking,” especially in the form of people around her—including many fellow Seeds—reaching out and stepping up in times of crisis.
“It is an amazing feeling to see the community around me, rallying together to find beds, medicine, and hospitals for people who need it, and provide other areas of support to people from all walks of life,” she said. “Of the many things I learned as a Seed, the most important thing is that young people like me can help other people and make a difference in the world. It is because of my ‘Seeds of Peace’ community that I decided to start this fundraiser—so we could help people together.”