Nesa Shamdasani ’24 Forms Non-profit to Meet Hygiene Needs of the Homeless

In March of 2023, we reported on a cohort of students who had recently completed the Social Innovators Program — a partnership between Oak Knoll, University of Pennsylvania, and Schoolyard Ventures. One of those students, Nesa Shamdasani ’24, didn’t let the conclusion of the program slow her momentum. She has now formed a non-profit organization and is providing hygiene supplies to the homeless on an increasingly wider basis.

During the initial program, Shamdasani worked to prototype a solution to bridge hygiene gaps between nonprofit organizations and the homeless community. Through interviews with nonprofits, she created a set of questions for organizations to survey their general populations on different health care items, products, and conditions that would better meet their hygiene needs.

“At that time it was very difficult for me to explore this topic as well as handle schoolwork. It was time-consuming to schedule interviews with organizations and find opportunities to speak to people who might currently be facing this issue of health and hygiene as my school schedule often would not match up to their availability,” Shamdasani explained.

So for the duration of the program, she adjusted her focus toward theoretically improving homeless communities’ access to specialized health and hygiene products. Her project was based on the idea that organizations that already focus on supplying hygiene products to homeless communities could now give people a survey asking them about what products they use or need the most. This helped her and the organization she was working with grasp a better understanding of the community’s needs. 

“The results were so exciting to analyze and compile for the organization to then serve the people with products that best fit their needs,” she related. “After the program concluded, I found myself with a lot of free time and decided to dive back into the topic I had begun with. From the research and testing I had done during the program, I had a list of organizations I could contact, a list of health and hygiene products communities most needed, and a foundation to start up my own nonprofit, called URights, to actually start distributing the products myself,” she said. 

“As soon as I began reaching out to organizations again, I knew that this was something that interested me and something I wished to take to the practical level. The name URights comes from the idea of every person’s right to health and hygiene,” she explained. 

Shamdasani worked to create a logo and reached out to a multitude of organizations. She was able to connect with several on a more formal level and raised funds throughout the summer to purchase different items to be packed in brown paper bags and distributed. She is currently working on creating a website for URights and fundraising to raise enough money for a second distribution of hygiene products. 

“I personally believed that this was such an important topic to cover because as I take the train every morning to school I have to transfer to Newark Broad Street Station. Here, I have firsthand seen the homeless community struggle with the lack of hygiene,” she said. “It’s not that they don’t want to be clean, it’s that they don’t have direct enough access to it. Seeing this led me to research more about the lack of hygiene products given to communities and I was able to combine this with my passion for service engagement. I wish to expand my nonprofit to a larger scale helping communities all around NJ and involving more people in this cause of health and hygiene.”