1 in 2100: Bhavana Sirimalle
September 26, 2018
While some students spent their summers ridding themselves of the stress and responsibility of school, senior Bhavana Sirimalle began working on her fundraiser. After starting a GoFundMe earlier that year, Sirimalle tarted spreading the word through social media. By the middle of July, she was able to raise around $420 to bring basic medical care to almost 350 people in a rural village in India.
Ever since Sirimalle was young, she had hoped to be able to help others in her life. More recently, that broad idea has become more specific in some ways she can give back. “As a kid, I used to visit India frequently… it is a drastic change. People come up to you and just ask you for money,” Sirimalle explained. “They say, ‘I’m starving, can you give me some money?’ And that is so heartbreaking.” As she got older, she came to the realization that just handing out money was not good enough. She began to focus on how to bring the Indian people what they truly needed. “A lot of them are thinking about their next meal, but a lot of them don’t think about the basic medical care they are being deprived of.” Many people suffer from common illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma; and are not even aware they are ill.
The plan started while Sirimalle was in her medical bioscience research APEX class in Waukee. After peaking with her advisor, Dr. Holly Showalter, she was encouraged to set up her GoFundMe account and begin raising money. Sirimalle used her family connections to get in contact with local government hospitals. Her uncle, a lab technician at a government hospital in Andra Pradesh, India was able to get a couple doctors to volunteer their time for the cause. Sirimalle also had aunts who were able to supply medication through their jobs as pharmacists. “A lot of family and friends made this happen because I wanted to make it happen,” She stated.
Once all the connections overseas were set the GoFundMe was created, Sirimalle and her father began spreading it around social media as much as they could. $420 after the tax cuts and currency changes came to just under 25,000 Indian rupees. This, along with a generous donation from Sirimalle’s dad, was able to pay for around 350 people’s basic medical care and supply around 480 with a large lunch.
The village that Sirimalle chose to help was none other than the one her own great grandparents were from. This village, with a population of only around 100 families, was two to three hours from any hospital, even general care. Once Sirimalle arrived in India, she headed into the town and spoke with the village chef to make sure that he approved of her plan. Things were set in motion, and the date the was set for one week later. Posters were created and hung around town, local television and newspapers reported on the upcoming event, and the word was spread among not only this village but other small ones nearby. Set up was at 11am in the village’s brand from now new school, which consisted of two small rooms. “All 25,000 rupees was spent on medication, and that wasn’t enough. My dad put in another 16,000 so we could treat as many people as we can,” Sirimalle explained. Another 20,000 rupees were also provided by her father for the food. Some people were pushing and shoving just to get a chance to see a doctor inside “They didn’t understand or listen to us when we told them that everyone will get a chance, everyone will get medication,” Sirimalle stated “My dad had to man the gates of the school.” In a place where fighting for basic resources was the norm, it was almost too good to be true for many of the visitors that they would get a fair chance.
Although it was a packed, stressful day, Sirimalle felt a joy she had never experienced before. “It was absolutely amazing,” she reminisced. “There’s no way to explain it… everyone came there for what they deserved.” But her work is nowhere close to being done. Sirimalle is currently working on morphing this project into a nonprofit organization, trying to file for a 5013C and to trademark the name “A Cure for the Poor.”
Once her organization is filed as a nonprofit, anyone can file their taxes to donate to the organization. “People were really sceptical about donating to us at first because they were not sure if we were actually going to do it or not.” Sirimalle explained “I feel like all those stereotypes have lifted now. [People] can see what we actually can do.” In the future she hopes to hold fundraiser nights and reach out to more people willing to donate.
As a freshman, Sirimalle saw herself creating a nonprofit much later in life, and expected it to take off quickly. “Now that I am seeing it, it’s a lot of work… but at the end of the day it is worth it because all those people are getting what they deserve.” She explained.
After high school, Sirimalle plans to put the organization on the sidelines while she studies medicine. “ I want to become a doctor so I can participate, I don’t want to be the person organizing it and not talking to the people,” Sirimalle stated “I wanna be there at every single camp I put on from now on.” Although unsure of what she plans to specialize in, Sirimalle has began to layout not only her career itself but how it will tie into her soon to be nonprofit, hoping to be able to take a trip a few times per year to a different country and give to the communities the help they are lacking.