In fall of 2018, Ava Zarifpour, 21, raised over $700 for socks, sanitary products, and hygiene kits for the homeless with the help of her friend, Adina Jalali.
Zarifpour, a sociology student at Santa Monica College, said she first thought about donating while she was studying in the library.
“There’s an older homeless student that I see around campus sometimes. This one rainy day, he was sleeping on the floor in the library and I happened to be studying a few feet away from him. I noticed that he was cold and that he didn’t have any socks on,” said Zarifpour.
After this encounter, Zarifpour went to a drug store and noticed fuzzy socks on sale for one dollar. She bought ten pairs and passed them out on her way to school. Zarifpour said she then realized how easy it was to help people and posted on her Instagram story, informing people about the sale and how they could help homeless people by buying them a pair of socks or sanitary pads, which her friend Jalali said are the two most needed items at homeless shelters. She mentioned that people who did not have the time to buy the socks themselves could Venmo her the price of the socks and she would do the work for them. Within a few minutes, Zarifpour said, the donations were rolling in.
Zarifpour and her friend saved money by finding sales for the socks and sanitary pads, and so decided to also purchase hygiene products such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, tissues, and deodorant with the leftover funds.
When asked why she decided to use Instagram, Zarifpour said that she had used her Instagram account before as a platform to start discussions about social issues that aren’t talked about enough. “[This fundraiser] made me realize how much power social media could have… It’s a place where everyone can have a voice.”
After the success of her first fundraiser, Zarifpour said she’s considering doing it next winter and wants to encourage other people to do the same. “One thing that I learned from this is that people are really willing to help people, as long as it’s in an easy way.” Zarifpour said that making an Instagram post is a great way to raise awareness because it’s easily visible for people scrolling through their feeds.
She also encourages people to use Venmo to accept donations because it’s such a popular way to transfer money, and it doesn’t create the inconvenience of having to input credit card numbers if an account is already set up.
Zarifpour also hopes to persuade people to take a small percentage of every paycheck to help a homeless person.
She said she hopes to continue her studies by transferring to a university so that she can keep helping people in need.
You can visit Zarifpour’s social media by searching @lalovesfood on Instagram.