Right now is tough.
As students, the first thing we’ve been struggling with has been being apart. Here at SC Project RISHI, we not only pride ourselves on the sheer amount of work that we’ve accomplished this school year, in large part due to the amazing work from members across our many branches, but we also pride ourselves on fostering a vibrant community of like-minded people who come together to support each other and causes we are passionate about. Within the organization, we call this our RISHI Family.
The current global situation has thrown two major wrenches into the organization. First, we’ve had to reevaluate the feasibility and necessity of certain aspects of our work. Second, as people who really, enjoy spending time together, we’ve had to evaluate how we can keep our Family alive when COVID-19 has physically distanced us. Not just to keep the work we do active, but also to keep ourselves healthy and feel like we’re still experiencing some sense of normalcy through this tumultuous time.
We have persevered. Our members have problem-solved, and we are doing our best to continue whatever work we can and ensure that we are keeping our Family close and active.
As President of this organization for the 2019-2020 school year, this is never a situation I thought we’d encounter. And nothing could have really prepared me to be ready for it. But of all the proud moments I’ve had of this organization this year, this is perhaps the proudest I’ve been. I’ve been inspired by how adaptive and passionate our members are for their work and for our Family—so much so that they still want to keep things running when we’re spread out all over the world.
With that in mind, here’s a quick update on everything that we’re doing in response to the COVID-19 situation, broken down by the various branches and the work that we’re focusing on.
Our Initiatives branch has been working within a partnership with Ekal Vidyalaya, an education-based NGO, to directly serve our villages in India. Our members spent the better part of the year working on various projects, with the aim of implementing them during a Spring Break trip to India. Unfortunately, the trip had to be cancelled due to the unpredictability of the virus's spread as well as the challenges that presented in terms of travel and logistics. Given the circumstances, we have also discussed postponing all planning for a summer trip until further notice. However, we still want to engage with the partnerships we have created and work towards our central mission of sustainable change. In light of that, our Initiatives branch is currently in the process of drafting proposals for how we may be able to implement our projects remotely. We've only just started the conversations on how we're going to be doing this, but we're very optimistic about our ability to do so going forward.
Our Development branch, which conducts community and professional development projects on campus and in LA, is experiencing a different situation. As a branch whose work depends on serving the local community, the Development branch had to reevaluate the sustainability of the work we were doing when we heard that USC was going online for the rest of the semester. With regards to the projects that we had been working on at the time, we ultimately decided that we have no option but to not pursue the in-person events that we had upcoming.
But our Dev branch is passionate and intelligent, so we wouldn’t take “we can’t do any work this semester” for an answer. We’re hard at work currently discussing how we can still find ways to engage with the local LA community, especially by providing digital resources for vulnerable populations amidst COVID-19, without doing hands-on service events. We’re also working in conjunction with PR to find ways to represent our accomplishments as an organization on an online forum in place of our professional development events. Beyond trying to see what we can do to help in the current situation, we’ve also started trying to think ahead and look at work we might be able to do when we’re back on campus.
Our Operations branch, responsible for membership and fundraising, is in a similar position to our Development branch, given that a lot of our work is dedicated towards putting on fundraising events in LA and membership events to grow our RISHI Family. We celebrate the fantastic work put in by all our members, because of which we’ve already far exceeded our fundraising goals for the year. We’ve also had to accept that we won’t be able to focus on that for the rest of the semester—which is okay. However, our commitment to our members is still incredibly important to us, such as continuing our Big/Little Reveal and annual banquet over Zoom and holding other events such as game nights, Netflix party and chill nights, Guess Who’s Coming to Zoom, and others that will allow us to be continue having the RISHI community around us.
Our Public Relations branch is the branch perhaps best suited to adjust to the online shift. As the branch that spreads the story of RISHI through media content, the biggest drawback of the current situation is figuring out how to represent the RISHI community when we can’t get footage or photos of people very easily. But we’ve adapted a lot; we are working on projects that address COVID-19 and also on projects that continue to highlight the work our organization has done and is doing. We are using this time to showcase the resilience of our members while they adapt to the situation at hand and, while we’re at it, also continue to spread socially impactful messages where possible. Keep on the lookout for the projects that we have coming through Instagram, our Facebook page, and our website!
We hope to keep you all updated on our work as we move forward. For now, please make sure that you’re staying safe, staying healthy, and staying indoors to curb the transmission of this virus. There are people in genuine harm’s way, and it’s up to us as a collective to do whatever we can to ensure that our healthcare workers and individuals who are at particular risk get the support they need.