PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- India remains the world's COVID-19 hot spot. The country's death toll crossed the 338,000 mark recently as the total number of cases surpassed 28 million.
There's a great need for masks, gloves, oxygen, sheets and other PPE. A local medical student couldn't watch her native home in crisis anymore and took a bold step to gather help and supplies.
The nation of India is dealing with one of its darkest moments in history. Help is needed.
"This is just something small that we started and it's grown so huge so quickly," Noor Shaik said.
Shaik, a medical student at Thomas Jefferson University, felt the need to do something for her homeland, where her grandmother, who's doing OK, and other family members still live.
"It's just staggering how quickly it grew from me genuinely thinking I'm just not going to eat out for a few months, save money and send what I can to people just opening up their hearts," Shaik said.
Shaik and her mother started an initiative called "Breath for Humanity" to help send life-saving PPE, oxygen concentrators, and financial aid to India during a COVID-19 crisis that's seeing thousands die every day. The community responded, but so much is needed.
Her mother urged her to email her advisor to inquire about any additional help.
He responded with ...
"He had a contact in the Jefferson supply chain who may be able to help and he'd get back to me," Shaik said.
The Bensalem High and Villanova graduate saw Jefferson donate some 900 pounds of PPE, including 20,000 N95 masks and 4,000 gowns.
"How on earth are we going to get these to the other side of the world?" Shaik said. "Within two weeks of that original email, we had collected more than 3,000 pounds of supplies and now, we had Dimerco that wants to send things for free."
The freight forward service learned of Shaik's mission and agreed to send the first shipment to India and subsequent trips at cost.
"This blew my mind," Shaik said.
And having a surefire way to get the supplies in the right hands touched her soul.
"Some people are selling things on the black market or misusing the supplies," Shaik said. "We want to send things directly to the people there. We don't want the money getting misused or supplies getting thrown away or held up. We want to get them to the people because they are the ones suffering."
Donors are being offered heart-shaped cutouts to affix to boxes as despair and anguish are receiving some much-needed love a world away.
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