Coronavirus kindness: Brother and sister team pays it forward, raising funds for foster youth in South Bay

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- A South Bay brother and sister team is sticking to a tight schedule as they shelter-in-place.

Between schoolwork and lesson plans, Neha and Eshan Rachapudi are paying it forward.

"Me and Neha have both been volunteering with our parents since we were like in 3rd, or 4th grade? Elementary school," Eshan, 13, told ABC7 News.

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Now teenagers, the Rachapudi's are raising funds for foster youth across the South Bay.

Their goal of $5,000 will make a difference during COVID-19.

"If it's been this hard for us," Neha, 16, shared, "That's why we were thinking so much about how much harder it must be foster children too."

She continued, "A lot of these foster youth are actually on the verge of becoming homeless right now because they've been displaced due to the loss of hourly jobs or campus housing."

Money raised would help 16 to 24-year-old's who are trying to navigate today's "normal," with help from nonprofits Together We Rise and Unity Care.

"Not having a place of stability impacts their ability to move on as a young adult," Unity Care CEO, Andre Chapman explained. "So, imagine now with COVID-19, it's like a boulder that fell on them."

Chapman said there are 120 foster youth in Unity Care's Bay Area housing program.

He said even a $500 donation can help support one young person for a month. A foster youth he said is likely now out of work because of the pandemic.

"That can help towards food, that can help towards other essential costs," he said. "Because we know every little penny helps."

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On Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced $42 million would go to protecting foster youth and families impacted by COVID-19.

Nearly $2 million is earmarked for the "age extension of foster youth."

Explained in a release by the Governor's office: "Approximately 200 young adults age out of the foster care system every month. Too many of them are at risk of homelessness and food insecurity. During this crisis, foster care payments and eligibility will be extended to help them maintain their living arrangements and to provide food security."

This is a major move, according to Chapman.

"We have a handful of those young adults who are in our housing program today that will turn 21 between now and over the next three months," he told ABC7 News.

"For most of our young folks, COVID-19, one, is getting them to understand the impact of this," Chapman added. "And really, this is about saving their lives."

He said the state's contribution is a start, but emphasized more money is needed.

"We are asking the governor for additional help to help augment the additional cost of COVID-19, coupled with just the cost of housing for a young adult. It's nearly impossible for them to survive," Chapman added.

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He said, "We commend the governor, and we're also challenging him to do more because we need more."

Chapman described COVID-19 as just "another huge boulder on their back, that really could crush them and really force them into homelessness."

He pleaded, "Let's ensure that we don't have young folks ending up homeless as a result of not only the cost of living, but as an added result of what's happening with COVID-19."

Chapman said beyond raising money, the Rachapudi's are role models.

"Most young folks their age are sitting around trying to increase their social media likes," Chapman said. "But for these two young folks, they are putting their hands in the soil and helping out and paying it forward."

The Rachapudi's have even partnered with the San Jose Public Library system in another effort. They're using 3D printers to make face shields for front line workers.

In three days, they've produced 65 shields.

"The way we've set it up is we'll just start a 3D print, and then we'll do some of our homework or we'll check out our fundraising website," Neha said about scheduling her days.

If you'd like to contribute to the team's fundraising effort, click here.
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