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Calgary engineers helping vulnerable groups get their hands on sanitizer

Deb Matejicka

A pair of chemical engineers from Calgary say they are convinced that a strong community effort will be what stops COVID-19 in its tracks.

“It’s like a collective fight against COVID-19, and we need to make sure that we win,” said Shahrukh Shamim, who helped co-found EnviCore — a sustainable wastewater treatment solutions company.

Along with his company’s chief innovation officer and fellow chemical engineer Aseem Pandey, the pair put their expertise to use to help out some of Calgary’s most vulnerable residents.

Taking 50 litres of isopropyl alcohol donated from the University of Calgary, the duo and their team turned it into nearly 52 litres of World Health Organization grade hand sanitizer.

The pair then donated half the sanitizer to the Calgary Drop-In Centre and half to a Facebook group called Parents of Alberta Children’s Hospital.

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“These communities, especially the Calgary Drop-In Centre and the Parents of Alberta Children’s Hospital, they are highly vulnerable,” said Shamim, “And just looking at them and doing something for them, means a lot for us.”

READ MORE: Alberta doctors warn against leaving hand sanitizer in hot cars due to fire risk

“We, actually, as hospital families need these supplies to literally survive,” said Heath Kai, whose son Sawyer is stronger now but not long ago was in a medically fragile state.

Kai calls himself a “medical dad,” is part of the Facebook group that provides support to other parents whose children are medically fragile. He connected with Shamim and Pandey to help distribute the hand sanitizer to other families from the group.

“We are working in conditions where we have to disinfect everyday and where we have to sanitize everyday,” Kai said.

“So when COVID hit, all of sudden supplies weren’t readily available because everybody wants them.”

How effective are hand sanitizers against coronavirus?
How effective are hand sanitizers against coronavirus?

Kai added that parents whose children have since left the hospital but are immunocompromised must buy their disinfecting or sanitizing supplies where everyone else does.

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“The Children’s Hospital needs the sanitizer there so they can’t give it out to every family that needs it every month, because then they wouldn’t have any there for the kids that really need it because they’re still in the hospital,” explained Kai’s nine year old daughter Amaya.

It’s why Shamim and Pandey chose the two groups they did.

“We wanted to approach the people who…it is kind of tough [for them] to get these things,” said Pandey.

READ MORE: Group of University of Alberta scientists steps up with hand sanitizer

Packaging and other materials were also donated to the pair, which is why they gave it to both groups free of charge.

They’re now hoping to collaborate with more companies, businesses and organizations in the community to create more free hand sanitizer to distribute to other groups in need.

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“We got Richardson Packaging to donate a lot of commercial grade bottles and spray caps actually to distribute the hand sanitizer,” said Shamim adding, “we are looking for that kind of support as well so that we can make it on our own and then just give it to the people who can actually go on to a bigger channel and distribute it.”

Kai is hoping the community in Calgary will once again respond.

“That’s what’s going to get this entire province and this entire world through these things [are] those compassionate acts,” he said.

Calgarians looking to help with the engineers’ efforts are encouraged to contact them via their website.