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The onset of the pandemic was followed by social distancing norms. The dining room inside the Chadha household in Peoria, Ariz, became unsuitable for hosting guests and this wasn’t much of a problem because of the physical distance regulations. No one was allowed to host public gatherings and get-togethers. This was to curb the coronavirus spread. Amid this wave of isolation, the dining table of Chadha’s used to be covered with crayons, markers, cardstock, construction paper, and other colours. It brightened the whole place. These vibrant jazzy tools belonged to 15-year-old Hurshneet and 12-year-old Pravneet. During the pandemic, the brothers initiated Project Smile AZ and delivered more than 1300 homemade cards to coronavirus patients. 

Spreading happiness 

The brothers' cards aimed to spread joy by drawing inspiration from a wide range of sources, including famous people, popular culture, and song lyrics. Some of them were, 

It ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. — Rocky Balboa

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Don’t worry, be happy. — Bobby McFerrin

In an interview with Zoom, Hurshneet said, 

“We’re giving back to the community that gave so much to us. If we were in the patients’ shoes, we would want someone to make a card and make us feel motivated to keep going in life. There’s going to be a positive light at the end of the tunnel.”

He added that they wanted to give people positivity of thoughts that they put into their cards. 

A warm smile in the dark loneliness 

Project Smile was inspired by a dinner-table conversation between the brothers and their parents. In the early stages of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the brothers' mother, Manpreet, an oncologist, and father, Krishdeep, a gastroenterologist, described the loneliness they had observed among patients after healthcare facilities implemented strict visitation policies to prevent the spread of the disease. This conversation sparked the idea for Project Smile.

Manpreet, their mother, said, “They were like, ‘Why don’t we make something to help cheer them up?'”. And the brothers planned to start making cards for patients. 

Their first initiative 

During the month of May, Project Smile made its very first delivery, which consisted of around 200 greeting cards to Banner Estrella Medical Center in Phoenix. Around the same time, the Chadhas established a post office box to which anybody who wished to contribute to the cause by sending hand-made cards may send their contributions. Students who had previously studied with the brothers' former Montessori teacher were among the first to lend a hand.

Hurshneet created a Facebook page as well as an Instagram account in order to track the development of Project Smile, interact with members of the community, and encourage others to contribute to the fight against the epidemic. 

He also created and manages a website, which, in addition to helping the operation "appear more real," provides a means for individuals who do not have Facebook or Instagram to participate in the activity. There is a section on the website devoted to frequently asked questions (FAQs), in which suggestions are offered regarding the types of messages that should be written in the cards as well as actions that should be taken, such as washing one's hands, to maintain the integrity of any donated cards.

The brothers work well together as a unit. Pravneet is a more talented artist while Hurshneet has the technological know-how. On some of his greeting cards, he illustrates Angel, a Goldendoodle who is one year old and belongs to the family, along with phrases such as "Puppy Pawsitive" and "Stay Pawsitive."

Other slogans that are frequently written on the front of the cards by the brothers are "Think Like a Proton, Be Positive," "Kick Covid-19," and "You Are One Tough Cookie."

Spreading love via handmade cards 

Hurshneet and Pravneet have said that they have made approximately 1,000 of the 1,300 cards that they have donated to the Navajo Nation and healthcare facilities in the area. These facilities include a non-profit organisation known as Circle the City, which offers care for homeless coronavirus patients. 

In preparation for their upcoming delivery, the brothers staged a Card-a-thon over the weekend, during which they produced a total of 100  cards in only two days. They have been driven to do even more because of the comments that hospital staff have relayed to them from patients who have expressed appreciation for their cards.

In recent weeks, the brothers have begun putting together dozens of Project Smile "Kits for Kids." These are boxes that contain stickers, markers, crayons, and other materials that can be used to make greeting cards. The brothers have received many of these supplies as donations from individuals who found out about Project Smile through social media.

Hurshneet said, “ Every single one of our supporters matter to us. They make us feel like we are actually contributing during the covid-19 pandemic.”

It was intended that the card-making kits will be given as a donation to Child Crisis Arizona organisation, which helps some of the most disadvantaged children in the Phoenix neighbourhood.

Pravneet said, “The kids can have some entertainment and also feel happy, and we’re also getting cards to give to hospitals, so it’s a positive on both ends. We want everyone to have an amazing day. We want to help and touch as many lives as possible. That’s our thing.”

When schools reopened, the brothers decided to continue Project Smile as long as needed. Hurshneet said, 

“We don’t want to leave any patients out. We don’t want to leave any patient behind. We want everyone to feel happy.”

These incredible young men are truly striving to make the world a better place! Their selflessness and generosity spells hope for the future.


*Based on an article by Scott Allen, published in Washington Post on 7th August 2020

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