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Meet Aria Zarifpour of GiveforLA in West LA

Today we’d like to introduce you to Aria Zarifpour.

Aria, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I am currently a student at UC Berkeley, GO BEARS! During the quarantine, after being bombarded every day with horrifying daily reports regarding COVID-19, I thought to myself who is the most vulnerable and at-risk population during the pandemic. The homeless community came to mind; due to their lack of supplies, sanitation, and money I knew they would be the most susceptible to get the virus, but also the most helpless to fight it. With this in mind, I knew I wanted to help. I started GiveforLA to provide hygiene kits to LA’s homeless community, hoping to provide safety and sanitation during this pandemic.

So for two weeks, I did a lot of research with two questions in mind: 1. What would be the most essential and available items to help the homeless community during this time? 2. What is the best price for each item so I would be able to produce the hygiene kits on a large scale? I decided on including a reusable mask, two bars of soap, and a pair of gloves. I purchased enough of each to make 50 hygiene kits, which I distributed to Santa Monica’s homeless population. Afterward, I made a video explaining what I had done, that I had a goal to make 400 $3 hygiene kits, and that I would appreciate any support for this mission. The response was electric. Through people sharing my video on social media, we were able to raise enough to make 1500 hygiene kits within a month. From there, ten of my friends volunteered to help me assemble all of the hygiene kits at my home (with masks on and social distanced).

Once we had all the kits made, my friend Alex, Stefano, and I then donated five hundred of them throughout Downtown homeless shelters and one thousand of them through 211 of LA County’s shelter program for the homeless.

While we had surpassed our initial goal, we have started a second campaign to hopefully help even more of those affected by homelessness during this pandemic.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
As rewarding as it has been, pursuing GiveforLA’s mission has definitely been a journey. Initially, the hardest part of this whole project was finding supplies. I had started this project when the supply chain of many items had been affected, including hand sanitizer, masks, and gloves. So during the two weeks of trying to figure out what I could put into a hygiene kit, I hit a lot of dead ends, price gouging, and frustration. Luckily, I was able to meet suppliers who wanted to help and believed in GiveforLA’s mission. I learned a lot while figuring out all of the project’s logistics and planning in a very small amount of time. This was exciting as it was challenging at times. Regardless of the project’s challenges, my belief and passion to help others allowed me to do all of it with joy and a big smile on my face.

GiveforLA – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
GiveforLA was a direct response for those affected by homelessness during the pandemic. We specialize in helping those who are most vulnerable in society who may not receive much support elsewhere. While we started as a response to the pandemic, we plan to eventually expand GiveforLA to other pursuits helping the homeless community. As an organization, we are most proud of the fact that we have helped more than 1500 of those affected by homelessness receive hygiene kits during this global pandemic. What sets us apart from other organizations is the fact that this was started by a college student who just wanted to help and took initiative to bring the community together for this purpose.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
While other pursuits during my academic career have given me working experience and something to put on my resume, nothing compares to the proud feeling of helping those who can’t give you anything in return. The pride in distributing kits and having peoples’ faces light up in joy because someone thought about them and care is priceless. I am proud of my friends, family, and strangers who cared enough about this cause to support it. I am proud we were able to be a vessel for those who wanted to help during the pandemic but did not know where to start. Overall, I am proud that empathy for others has translated into a meaningful difference during a time where it seems like everyone is against each other.

Pricing:

  • $2 per hygiene kit, which includes hand sanitizer, a reusable mask, and two bars of soap

Contact Info:

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