Merced County teen’s COVID-19 safety kits have gone statewide

Local News

ATWATER, California (KSEE) — A North Valley teen has made it his mission to protect the homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic. But with the current surge being seen across the country, he’s hoping for the community to come through for him again to help him help others.

We first met Rishi Vanga in April, the then Buhach Colony High School junior put together close to a hundred Kare Packages — a hygiene kit with supplies like a mask and hand sanitizer — to homeless people and shelters across the Central Valley.

Seven months later, the now senior high schooler has produced close to 1,000 Kare Packages around the state. Some of the places his Kare Packages have gone are Palo Alto, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

But Vanga knows the need is still strong in his home, Merced County.

“Just last week, we dropped off 50 Kare Packages with draw string bags to students experiencing homelessness at my very own high school in Atwater,” he said.

It doesn’t look like Vanga will be slowing down anytime soon, either. He plans to keep making Kare Packages for as long as he can.

“We’ll never stop because there’s always an ordinary flu that comes back year-to-year that still kills thousands of people. When we’re talking about people experiencing homelessness, they don’t necessarily have all the hygienic tools that they need that are basic necessities,” Vanga said.

In the last two weeks, California has had a COVID-19 test positivity rate of 5.5% on average — that equals out to nearly 10,000 new cases on average per day.

To even make one Kare Package relies heavily on community donations, Vanga said. He hopes the community’s help can keep up with the surge we’re seeing, so homeless folks can be protected from the virus.

“[The community] has been helping so much, whether it’s just donations or shooting me emails saying, ‘Hey Rishi, I got about 100 soaps here. Is it okay if you come pick them up? You can put them in the next Kare Packages,'” he said.

If you’d like to help Vanga out, click here for Kare Package’s website.

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