Tradition of giving inspires teen to help families in Ukraine

After Russia invaded Ukraine, Claremont resident Ishaana Agarwal wanted to help the people caught in the crossfire of war, so she put together 146 emergency first aid kits. The 13-year-old raised money with the help of her parents and then recruited her sister and two friends to assemble the kits. COURIER photo/Steven Felschundneff

by Steven Felschundneff |

Last month 13-year-old Claremont resident Ishaana Agarwal was studying the escalating diplomatic crisis between Ukraine and Russia to prepare for an upcoming debate.

“By the time my tournament had started, the news came out about Russia invading Ukraine and that is how I got the idea that I wanted to help Ukraine people,” she said.

Her father, Karan Agarwal, discovered through the Ukrainian Cultural Center in Los Angeles that there was an urgent need for medical supplies, so he suggested that Ishaana focus her attention on putting together medical kits.

They attempted to start a GoFundMe page to help raise money, but were informed that the site did not allow any campaigns that involved Ukraine. They also approached local hospitals, but were again turned away, so they took the old fashioned approach and raised money by word of mouth.

With the financial help of friends and her parent’s co-workers, Ishaana raised enough money to build 146 medical kits. In early March, Ishaana, her sister Ahana, 7, and two friends, Amanda Moore, 12, and Eleanore Brayer, 13, assembled the first aid kits for delivery.

Claremont students Ahana Agarwal, left, Ishaana Agarwal, Eleanore Brayer and Amanda Moore assemble first aid kits for the people of Ukraine, recently at the Agarwal household. The relief campaign was championed by Ishaana who wanted to do something to help the Ukrainians after Russia invaded the country last month. Photo Karan Agarwal


When they drove to the Ukrainian Cultural Center with the medical supplies, they were excited to learn that other Angelenos’ similar donations had filled two airplanes, which were dispatched to Ukraine that same day.

Each first aid kit included large vinyl gloves, surgical dressings, butterfly closures, heavy duty bandages, large gauze pads, triple antibiotic ointment, self-adhering bandages and ace bandages.

“The people of Ukraine are really suffering right now, and its really not fair because of the situation they have been put into,” Ishaana said. She is particularly concerned about the safety of children.

Foothill Country Day School, where Ishaana attends seventh grade, wanted make some kits as well, but by that time the Ukrainian Cultural Center had plenty of supplies.

Dr. Manjusha Gupta, Ishaana’s mother, said they have tried to impart to their children the importance of helping others.

“My mom has taught me to lead a simple life and to give to others, so we have done that,” Dr. Gupta said. “It’s something we are doing toward the greater good, and I need to raise the kids like that so they understand. And we are going to continue to do it.”

Karan and Manjusha met in India, and he immigrated to the United States in 1996. At first, Dr. Gupta wanted to remain in India to help with the medical needs of people in her country, but she joined her husband in America in 2002.

She said they both come from good affluent families in India, which has a lot of poverty, and which has in part formed the family’s commitment toward philanthropy.

It seems to be working, because this is the second time that Ishaana and Ahana have labored to provide some small comfort to other people less fortunate. Last summer, the girls set up a lemonade stand in front of the family’s Claremont home, a tradition that survives the test of time.

“The lemonade stand was my sister’s idea and I thought it would be a good idea to donate the money to a charity, and we ended up donating to Foothill Family Shelter,” Ishaana said.

The girls ended up raising $186 for the shelter, which is “a nonprofit organization founded in 1984 which houses homeless adults and children for a period of up to 120 days, free of rent and utility charges.”

“Actually, people came in and paid more. So, if they were charging a dollar for the lemonade the [customer] would say ‘Here is a twenty dollar bill,’” Karan Agarwal said.

Ishaana enjoys reading, and her favorite subjects at school are English and science. She aspires to be a medical doctor like her mother because she likes to help people in need.

Oh, and Ishaana’s team from Foothill Country Day won that Inland Valley League debate on Ukraine.


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