Sid Kasi found his purpose a few years ago when his family was visiting relatives in Sholur, India. When he saw the poor conditions at a rural hospital, he knew he needed to help.
“They didn’t have a lot of funding, staffing, resources,” Kasi said. “When the pandemic took place, there were a lot of people to chip in for the COVID relief hospital, but the smaller ones didn’t have the support.”
In 2020, Kasi, a 17-year-old Windermere resident, started a nonprofit organization called Collaborative Healthcare Foundation, with a focus on rural communities in developing countries.
When he heard of a major fundraiser to construct a hospital in India, he and a few friends started calling anyone they thought might be able to make a donation toward the project.
“We called friends and family, and a majority came from social media,” Kasi said. “It was really just making contact with as many people as we can.”
They ultimately raised about $11,000, which was added to the contributions of other nonprofits also helping to build the hospital. The funds raised globally produced a 400-bed unit in 48 days.
“This project was what got me involved in the local health scene and really exposed me to health inequities internationally,” Kasi said. “When we work with these villages, we want to improve health on all aspects.”
This includes expanding hospitals and primary health care centers in rural communities, providing necessary equipment, and offering education.
To further the foundation’s mission and spread the work around the world, students who join CHF agree to adopt a primary health care center in rural areas of other countries — wherever they have connections. They serve as their own leaders on the projects.
So far, most of the work has been done in India, Kasi said, but the foundation has donated to hospitals in Ethiopia, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Guyana and Jamaica, with another project about to begin in Colombia.
“That’s what makes our foundation special,” Kasi said. “It’s not one group of people trying to manage all these regions. We provide the framework, guidance and support for them to manage their own.”
Members also can learn from one another and create their own successful projects. A byproduct of being a project leader is members gain confidence and speaking skills as they reach out to organizations for donations.
In August, Kasi is planning a global health care forum so students can share their experiences with each other. Most of the members are local high school and college students, including many from Lake Highland Preparatory School, where Kasi attends.
The nonprofit is a great way to obtain volunteer hours, but Kasi said it becomes so much more than a way to check off a school requirement.
“It’s a lot more demanding than any volunteer effort, but it’s really fulfilling,” he said. “Something we do is infrastructure projects for these hospitals, and one of the students is building a separate women’s ward in the hospital. So, when you visit that hospital, it wouldn’t have existed without you. … It’s these tangible changes.”
The idea behind the CHF is to collaborate with key members in the adopted rural community and to build a task force there before any funds are distributed or any work is done. They talk to residents, business leaders and doctors to discover the needs.
“What these collaborations create is community health that becomes a shared burden,” Kasi said. “They take on some of the responsibility to make sure the community is taken care of.”
One of Kasi’s projects is in his adopted village of Karadimadia, India, where he raised funds to build a multipurpose waiting area. He calls it an “unglamorous shed outside the hospital,” but without it, pregnant women, elderly patients and the critically ill would be waiting outside in the southern Indian heat for their appointment time.
“We were able to speak to the people there, and we were able to build the hall for them — and now they’re using it also for medical awareness sessions and medical camps,” Kasi said. “People come in from the village, and they’re incentivized to come because they’ll get a free screening or something and they’ll learn best health practices.”
Kasi said he is dedicated to helping people in India and feels a familial connection to the villages.
“Those are places I’ve been in, even well before I started this foundation, visiting families,” he said. “I’d go to these places and, I think as I grew older, seeing the stark contrasts between the urban areas that had so much … and compared to the rural areas. There’s an inequity, a gap between the rural areas, even within developing countries, and their urban counterparts.
Being exposed to that difference, coming from two different backgrounds, that’s what gave me that desire.”
Once he reaches college, his goal is to obtain other skills and meet people who can help the foundation.
“The ultimate goal of the foundation is for it to be a global movement because the structure is very scalable and everyone has their individual projects and there’s so much room for expansion,” he said “It has so much potential for growth. It’s bringing what we’ve done in these rural communities all over the world.”
CLOSE TO HOME
CHF has done work in Central Florida, too, by connecting with two homeless services — Matthew’s Hope and SALT Outreach. Kasi’s organization has donated medical equipment and sponsored Christmas events for the two nonprofits.
Kasi wants to bring health care projects to these local programs as well. He said he is creating software to predict the risk of heart disease that would benefit the homeless and their future health care needs through preventative care.
Because of his extensive work to better the lives of people around the world, Kasi is the recipient of the first Global Grant through Rotary International. This grant, worth close to $65,000, will benefit a CHF sub-foundation called Tiny Feet, an initiative that aims to improve maternal health and decrease maternal and infant mortality in rural communities of developing countries.
Kasi said CHF, with the help of the Indian health ministry, has identified 50 rural primary health care centers surrounding the Coimbatore, India, district that are in desperate need of equipment in the delivery rooms. The grant monies also will go toward creating preventative care programs for pregnant women.
The primary health care centers cater to several villages and receive the high-risk pregnancies, and even though they have more resources for delivering babies, they are overcrowded and ill-equipped.
The Tiny Feet initiative would provide industry-standard equipment, such as obstetrics tables, fetal dopplers, baby warmers, crash carts and power backup systems.
“This project really started when I visited one of the primary health care centers we were working with,” Kasi said. “If you go into their labor ward, the obstetrics table is just a metal table, sometimes rusted, just flat metal tables. … It’s below the par of the health standards you’d expect. It was really impactful, that visit. I went on a Tuesday, and on Tuesdays all the expecting mothers come to the hospital for their checkup, so you can see how many people depend on the hospital for their deliveries. So many mothers rely on these hospitals.”