South Dakota State University graduate student Balawanth Jadhav is not only trying to figure out how to complete his coursework and research in light of the changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic but also how to help fellow students.
The native of Hyderabad, India, is pursuing a doctorate in chemistry and conducting research in the conversion of biomass into value-added chemicals using environmentally friendly techniques in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.
In addition, he has led an effort to raise funds to donate groceries to nearly 40 other Jackrabbits.
“The situation has changed everything in our lives, both here and back home,” Jadhav said. “Because a lot of students depend on part-time jobs, there is no opportunity to work, especially since international students have to work on campus.
“I contacted a few of my friends to ask how they’re doing, and several told me they’re struggling because they lost their job and it’s getting difficult to buy needed items,” he continued. “When I heard this, I knew I wanted to give back. A lot of friends helped me when I came here. I had nothing but they helped me. Now is a time I can help my fellow students and maybe others in the Brookings community.”
Jadhav contacted Vivek Patel, a family friend and owner of the Brookings’ Quality Inn.
“I shared my idea on how to help the other students,” Jadhav said. “He offered to help however he can and then asked a few others for donations. Five motel owners in Brookings donated funds, which were used to purchase groceries.”
Those funds were used to purchase various food staples such as rice, lentils, eggs, bread, noodles, onions and potatoes for 40 students. Jadhav and others delivered those items April 5. He hopes to purchase more items for another delivery.
“Everyone wants to help,” Jadhav said. “After we delivered these items, I got a few calls and emails offering to donate food or money. I couldn’t do it without the generosity of Vivek Patel, Dave Patel, Raju Patel, Raja Patel, Kam Patel and Rajesh Choudhari.”
Jadhav’s generosity shone through earlier this year when he raised money for friends who lost their home and belongings in a recent fire.
Jon Stauff, SDSU’s assistant vice president for international affairs, said some international students were able to fly home when SDSU went to online-only course delivery. However, some students do not have the means to do so or their home country’s borders are closed to limit the virus’ spread. And nearly 250 international students stay on campus all year for summer classes and part-time employment.
“We’re looking at creating virtual jobs on campus to allow them to make some money because they have bills like everyone else,” he said. “In many cases, these students’ parents are also in economies that have been impacted by COVID-19.”
Stauff is working with the SDSU Foundation to find ways to help the students. Based on student responses from a questionnaire from the Office of International Affairs, approximately $2,500 per student is needed for each one to spend the summer in Brookings.
“Jadhav’s effort is a great example of what people can do,” Stauff said. “From talking to others, I know there are members of the community who are willing to help. And if they choose to do so, please direct donations toward the SDSU Foundation.”
Interested individuals should type “International Student Support” after clicking the Give Now button to direct their funds toward international students. To donate, visit https://www.sdstatefoundation.org/give-now or https://rabbitraisers.org/p/StudentEmergencyFund/.