Chandler teen’s nonprofit addresses healthcare - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler teen’s nonprofit addresses healthcare

November 5th, 2020 SanTan Sun News
Chandler teen’s nonprofit addresses healthcare

By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

When cases of domestic violence started rising in Arizona during the pandemic, 16-year-old Viveka Chinnasamy felt she had to find a way to help the individuals who were forced to flee abusive households.

The Chandler student started raising money and quickly accumulated enough to buy more than 50 meals for the occupants of local domestic violence shelters, which have been burdened in recent months by an uptick in domestic abuse cases reported by local law enforcement agencies — including Chandler Police.

Viveka said it seemed like the victims in these cases probably weren’t getting all the resources they might get if the pandemic had not been straining local nonprofits.

It’s not too unusual for Viveka to be at the helm of a large-scale service project aiming to resolve a problem in the community.

The teenager has been on an ongoing mission to improve society’s access to medical care and she’s not letting a global pandemic interfere with her goal.

Viveka  is busily getting through her senior year at Hamilton High School and yet she’s a bit more preoccupied with trying to expand the reach and impact of her nonprofit.

Medical Minds, an organization Viveka founded last year, consists of more than 60 teenagers from across the Valley who wish to serve underrepresented communities in need of medical supplies, food, clothing, or a little companionship.     

“Our mission is to be a voice for those around the world who are marginalized from the health care system,” Viveka said.

The reach of their service extends far and wide. From Chandler’s nursing homes to rural villages in South America, Viveka said there’s no place in this world that Medical Minds won’t strive to make a footprint.

The scope of her group’s work is diverse and varied. They volunteer in local hospitals, put on mental health workshops for teenagers, and organize fundraisers for patients who can’t afford medical care.

Everything the club does is essentially tied to three main pillars: service, community, and education.

Viveka said it’s important the organization’s members not only serve the public through charitable acts but learn why their philanthropy is needed in the first place.

She was motivated to start the club a couple years ago after reading about the wide disparity of medical coverage between rich and poor communities.

Viveka, who aspires to become a surgeon someday, said she’s seen family members struggle to find affordable health care and wants to make sure no one else has to be caught up in such a predicament.

“My mission is to do whatever I can – no matter how small – to advocate for their concerns and to make sure they get the medicine they deserve,” she said.

One goal of Medical Minds is to educate young people about the complexities of paying for health care, Viveka added, and hopefully make them more passionate about the issue.

“This prominent universal lack of health care made me realize that the gaps in health care separate those who have money from those who don’t,” Viveka added.

One of the group’s most successful service projects involved sending 200 kits of medical supplies to families living in Peru, Nicaragua and Cambodia.

“Often the issue in these countries is that the availability of health care is really low,” Viveka said. “They have to walk miles to find the closest hospital.”

It’s a project Viveka is most proud of and hopes to replicate it again in the near future. But the COVID-19 pandemic has recently made the group’s operations a bit more challenging.

Medical Minds has been trying to adapt to the pandemic’s limitations, Viveka said, by conducting outreach events virtually and interacting with nursing home residents online rather than in-person.

“It’s been hard but I feel like having an adjustment and trying to switch to online is better than just waiting for the pandemic to go away,” she said.

The group already has a five-year plan in place and Viveka isn’t letting COVID-19 stop them from achieving their objectives.

Medical Minds is on the verge of an expansion with additional branches in other parts of the country, she said, so their international presence is destined to get bigger in the future.