Student Spotlight: Aly Jamal’s Relief Efforts for Tamil Nadu, India

Aly Jamal, senior management major

Making a difference with his affinity for food is Aly Jamal, a senior management major with a minor in marketing and entrepreneurship. He also credits an interest in media as the inspiration for recently securing an internship with a nationally syndicated television series. But for Aly, his talents serve a greater purpose: to help others. The COVID-19 crisis in his family’s home state of Tamil Nadu, India devastated the area and its citizens. His mission is to raise enough money to provide relief and give hope to the people of Tamil Nadu. Aly spoke with UIC Business about his latest GoFundMe and bake sale fundraisers.

Following reports of devastation to India’s citizens and healthcare systems, the country’s COVID-19 outbreak wrenched the hearts of many. Describe the moment that drove you to say, “I’ve got to do something about this.”

I understood how difficult the situation was in India after the first surge, but I decided that charity starts at home. This led me to volunteer at a Covid-19 testing site in Cicero. At the time, my mother was working on an assignment at a hospital in India and explained that everything changed. People in our community were struggling and cities were running out of essential medical resources and funds.

As the school year was ending and the second surge hit harder than the first, I decided to use my cooking and baking skills and the help of a GoFundMe page to raise money for my state, Tamil Nadu. I experienced the stress of close family members being sick, but I knew they were in safe hands. It was the thought of those who are less fortunate and don’t have the money to pay for basic medication and necessities like masks and cleaning supplies. That drove me to act fast and dedicate my time to this fundraiser.

Talk about turning your culinary talents into relief efforts for Tamil Nadu. What sparked your passion for food?

Growing up, I loved eating food cooked by my mom and aunt. They are identical twins but have completely different cooking styles. I’m sure some of that rubbed off on me. Sophomore year, I moved into my apartment with some close friends and was thrilled about having a kitchen.

We hosted UFC Fight Nights where our friends would come together and watch MMA and boxing fights on the weekend. I started making buffalo wings and banana bread to close out the show. Soon, it became a tradition. A few recipes, an air fryer, YouTube videos, my mom and aunt on speed dial, plus cooking and nutrition books helped me improve. I like to add the “wow” factor when I cook for someone new and that’s always a pleasure.

In what ways will the proceeds benefit the residents of Tamil Nadu?

The funds raised by GoFundMe and the bake sale will go directly to the Tamil Nadu Foundation, distributing general relief in rural parts of the state. This will cover doctor’s fees, provide masks, COVID-19 testing, medical equipment, and other resources or supplies that are required.

Describe the process of selecting the Tamil Nadu Foundation to help distribute this much-needed assistance.

Finding an organization to partner with was one of the early obstacles that I encountered. Most could not receive international funding due to tax purposes. The Tamil Nadu Foundation has an office in Chicago, and I was fortunate enough to speak with the vice president of projects.

The foundation provides relief through local institutions that are non-political and non-religious. They have supported Tamil Nadu through their various donors, chapters, and partners. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with them, especially since it is for a state that is very close to my heart.

What is your greatest hope for the outcome of the fundraiser?

My greatest hope is to raise as much money and bring as much awareness to this cause as possible. There is no ceiling when it comes to service. India still faces huge challenges caused by COVID-19. Through this fundraiser, I want to educate people on the circumstances that the country is facing and the importance of healthy eating and staying physically active when possible.

My treats consist of healthier options because even though sugar hits the spot, it’s absurd the number of cups that go into cakes and beef jerky. I will continue to advocate for different causes and be a catalyst for service within my community. My hope is to draw people to act on pressing issues because results take time. Why wait?

If you would like to support Aly’s relief efforts for Tamil Nadu, please visit GoFundMe to donate or inquire about placing a bake sale order.