Finding Community in a Pandemic: How Students From IUPUI Are Helping Their City

April 07, 2020

Pledge to Take Action

Indianapolis, Indiana is known as the crossroads of America and, now, a growing hotspot for COVID-19. As we’re all understanding and experiencing, this international pandemic is putting many people at risk for food insecurity, housing instability, and more. Six college students in Indianapolis have decided to create a “hub of information” based on resource distribution in an effort to help others while distancing. With this, Indy Covid Relief was created.

What began as a Facebook page created in the spur of a moment has grown to a platform over three different social media spaces. The group has also started partnering with local community organizations and programs, such as the Immigrant Welcome Center and the Indiana Latino Expo. 

Nirupama Devanathan, one of the group’s founding members, shared that “as long as there are public health restrictions, Indy Covid Relief wants to be a resource. There is a huge need from our community of just figuring out what resources are available.”

The group started out with a focus on food assistance. As the community needs kept growing, however, they began to realize that there are many long-term needs to address for the welfare of Indianapolis, such as mental health resources, safety from domestic violence, internet access, and more. 

While working through the transition of meeting short-term needs to long-term needs, the group decided to distribute their resources in ten different categories: food assistance, children/childcare, income assistance, housing/rent assistance, health/safety/mental wellbeing, small business/freelancers, students/education, utilities/power/bills assistance, animal welfare, and volunteer opportunities. Daily posts from many categories are made in order to give each day a varied set of resources.

Indy Covid Relief’s resource distribution happens through a detailed process of idea concept, area research, resource scouting, draft approvals, and posting. The team has found that research and resource verification is an absolutely necessary component to this work. Team member Mari Luna shared that Indy Covid Relief “needs to vet the resources before sharing to do right by [their] audience.”

While Indy Covid Relief is always improving the way in which they disseminate information, such as creating multilingual posts for a wider audience, founding member Siva Nagappan shared with me how he is using his STEM background to assist the team’s social media outreach. His focus is in the data analytics from the social media platforms being used, helping the team plan which posts to make at certain times of the day and where to make them for efficient messaging.


When asked about advice they would share with other young people wanting to do this work, the team’s advice boiled down to a few encouraging messages.

  1. Find people who are passionate about this cause to help you in this process.
  2. Find a solution for varied peoples. Be conscious of the people who are taking your resources in.
  3. Prioritize team work. Delegate. Communicate.
  4. Know that you can’t fix all of this, but you can still do a lot.
  5. Go into this with an open heart and open mind. 
  6. Everyone is impacted by this, not just a certain group of people that need these resources.

To submit new resources for Indianapolis residents or learn more about the work done by Indy Covid Relief, check them out on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Pledge to Take Action