We recently introduced Good Security News, an outlet to share some of the good work being done in workplaces and communities during the coronavirus pandemic. Essam Choudhary, Director of Marketing and Education at RS2 Technologies, has been heavily involved in a number of coronavirus initiatives. Here is his Good Security News!
Security magazine: Tell us something good! What are some ways you’ve worked to help your community since the start of the coronavirus pandemic?
Choudhary: The saying “we’re all in this together” rings hollow unless you actually step up and make it true. I started helping connect resources that were available for the community to those who needed it, doing food deliveries and making phone calls to check up on neighbors and friends. Realizing the need was greater than I could ever imagine, I started connecting to more resources and organizations and am happy to be on a national pandemic response task force by the American Pakistan Foundation and a state of Illinois task force. I’ve also been actively involved in the Care Coalition, a task force that is a combination of these groups, along with more than 20 other organizations. Volunteers come together to connect those who need help with those that can give help. Finally, I am involved with the 4 Kids Sake Pantry in Bolingbrook, Ill. Together we’ve served thousands of families with meals, groceries and health check-ups, including mental health resources.
Security magazine: And the response?
Choudhary: The response has been shocking and saddening, but also beautiful. Faith, race, ethnicity and income level do not matter, as the virus does not discriminate. The amount of people who need help has been heartbreaking. These are folks from all over the nation struggling, unable to get groceries because they have COVID-19 or someone at home does. The response has also been hopeful and beautiful in that for everyone in need, there are 10 more individuals ready to serve.
Security magazine: Have you encountered any challenges? How do you overcome it?
Choudhary: Locating resources has been difficult, particularly PPE. However, we’ve found ways to communicate with people and businesses and have been able to overcome roadblocks. The great people of this nation have stepped up to provide resources in great numbers. Breweries and distilleries started making hand sanitizer and donating to organizations like ours to distribute to first responders and front line staff. Other community members stepped up to donate and buy PPE from overseas and joined our Sewing Guard, by making and donating masks.
Security magazine: How did you decide which areas of the community to focus on?
Choudhary: I serve on Census Complete Count Committees, and they identified hard-to-count communities, which also covered high-risk populations. Using that data, combined with information from health officials, I determined that we needed to focus on senior communities and communities where people lived in closer proximity, like apartments and condos. I anonymized analyzed data presented by school officials on free and reduced lunch programs, pointing to where kids were already in need of meals. Pre-COVID-19, one in four kids in America went to sleep hungry, and without access to schools and after-school programs, this number has increased. So a combination of data analytics and community connections has helped us determine where to host drive-up food giveaways and where to focus on other services.
Security magazine: Aside from providing resources like groceries and PPEs, what are other important areas of focus?
Choudhary: Giving people someone to talk to, especially for those who live alone, has been a key element. The pandemic is challenging enough. Pair this with social isolation, and it’s easy for individuals to feel alone or left behind. This level of one-on-one support, whether it is a five-minute check-in or a longer conversation, has proven to be especially worthwhile for elderly community members who live alone and for kids who love being out of school, but don’t understand why they can’t go to the park and see their friends.
Trying to help a mounting mental health pandemic has been just as vital as providing meals. Times are tough all around. There’s a lot of information and misinformation out there, and, as a result, a lot of fear that has unfortunately turned to violence in some scenarios. As a nation we must understand one simple concept: we are Americans. Now is not the time to let political parties, race or socioeconomic status divide us. Period. What makes America great is that the fabric of this nation is woven together by our rich diversity and our common bond. I encourage all to donate some time to a local charity, hospital, or just simply check on a neighbor. If we all do our part, we’ll not only survive this pandemic, but thrive.