University of Guelph student Kartikay Pabbi is making a difference in the lives of hundreds of homeless youths in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
Pabbi, who is a founding member and part of the executive team of the Toronto chapter of Hygiene for the Homeless, helped deliver 300 hygiene kits to youth shelters in the GTA – Youth Without Shelter and Covenant House – over the holidays. Now there are plans to organize an even larger donation drive in the spring.
The organization, which began in Vancouver in 2016, provides free hygiene kits to people experiencing homelessness and low-income residents in need. Pabbi helped form the Toronto branch last April.
The homeless are often forgotten in our society, said Pabbi, who is a second-year biomedical science student. Hygiene for the Homeless, a non-profit run solely by university students, is dedicated to bringing them hope for the future.
The personal hygiene kits include essential items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, body wash, deodorant and feminine hygiene products. Reusable COVID-19 masks and hand sanitizer are also included to provide safety during the pandemic.
“In the first drive last summer, we were able to assemble 50 of the kits,” said Pabbi. “In the second drive over the holidays, we received much more support and were able to do a lot more fundraising. We were able to outsource the making of the kits, saving a lot of time and money.”
He added that a new Nintendo Switch console was also donated to each of the shelters through the effort.
Gloved and masked, the five team members delivered the kits to the two shelters while observing COVID-19 protocols.
“In the winter season, especially with the pandemic, everyone is going through a difficult time,” Pabbi said. “To be able to do this amidst a global pandemic and impact hundreds of lives, to see their reactions and what it meant for them to receive just a simple kit, we were truly taken aback and humbled. It was a really gratifying feeling and very moving.”
Pabbi said he has learned a lot about what homeless youth go through in the GTA and he wants to do more to improve their lives. The success of the December project has inspired him and the entire team to be more ambitious in 2021.
“We’ve started working on a spring drive, something with a bigger impact,” he said. “We are thinking of giving it an Easter theme and contributing to different organizations across the city.”