Using proceeds to fund healthcare for underprivileged rural communities in Bangladesh, doodles4change inc is a non-profit organization that sells its customized artwork for donations. Raeqa Mahmud, a junior biochemistry major with a minor in studio art, founded the organization.
“I always wanted to do something with my artwork,” Mahmud said. “And I always wanted to start my own non-profit. Then one day it just clicked.”
After years of selling her sketches and artwork to friends and people in her tight-knit South Asian community in Long Island, Mahmud decided to use the profits to make a perceptible change when she founded doodles4change in March 2017. Encouraged by the support of her family and friends, Mahmud discovered how even the small profit she was making – like $50 – from her freelance work could be a considerable amount of money for providing basic medical necessities in an underdeveloped country such as Bangladesh.
Mahmud visits her home country of Bangladesh twice each year, so she is able to directly decide who she will give the money to in the Dhaka Medical College Hospital. On her last trip to Bangladesh over the summer, Mahmud gave the proceeds from doodles4change to four patients from rural areas in need of the financial support.
One of the patients helped by doodles4change has an extremely rare illness called epidermodysplasia verruciformis, also known as treeman syndrome. Only three cases existing around the world are known by the medical community. The man in Bangladesh plagued by this disease has fungus on his hands and feet that resembles tree bark. The fungus caused him to lose the use of his fingers. By the time Mahmud arrived back in Bangladesh this past summer, he had already had multiple surgeries that reconstructed one of his hands. The donations provided by doodles4change went to pay for his medicine, surgeries and general medical costs.
For another patient, the non-profit was able to pay the entire cost of a leg procedure. With her observant eye, Mahmud discovered a man who was in the hospital with his father and had been told that he could not afford the surgery. Realizing how perfect the timing was, Mahmud offered to pay for the whole surgery with a portion of the doodles4change proceeds.
“That was what really touched because I knew exactly what the money was going towards versus just general medical expenses,” Mahmud said. The U.S. Dollar equivalent of that surgery was $325.
Doodles4change’s work with the community in the U.S. is just as extensive as the support for medical patients in Bangladesh. On Sept. 16, doodles4change won a raffle that allowed them to host an event at United Skates of America, a roller skating rink in Medford, New York. The skating rink provided the venue and allowed doodles4change to keep all the proceeds. Under the temporary name “skate4change,” they were allowed to choose a general admission price for people that came and fundraise in a new way, other than relying solely on selling art prints.
The event was coordinated by the non-profit’s programming chairs. One of whom, Sheryar Mirza, a junior biochemistry major, has been friends with Mahmud since the second grade.
“We make sure to hold events at places that are the cheapest source for us to maximize their profits as all the proceeds go to donations,” Mirza said. “We made over $700 at skates4change and that put into perspective for us that we could expand more into different types of events.”
They are also working on being approved as an official club by Stony Brook Student Engagement and Activities. On Oct. 2, doodles4change worked in association with Project Sunshine for the club’s first annual Fall Benefit. The fundraiser for the organization allowed the first 100 people that came and donated $5 to donate a Beanie Baby to a patient at Stony Brook University Hospital. Doodles4change brought desserts and henna tattoos for attendees.
The reason why Mahmud has dedicated so much time and effort into supporting less privileged people stems back to a family penchant for giving. Her mom is a primary inspiration. With inexplicable luck, her mother would go into convenience stores and play the small lotto machines, somehow winning constantly. Reaping $200-300 per win, her mother sent the money back to her own father who has a prosthetic leg. The chain of giving did not end with him; Raeqa’s grandfather would use the money and buy wheelchairs for those in need in his community.
When asked about their ambitious, long-term goals, Mahmud reminisced that this non-profit started out as an ambitious goal. But the setbacks and difficulties keep everyone in the team from getting ahead of themselves. “We know to work from small-term goal to small-term goal now,” she said.
As the board members are all studying to work in the medical field, they all agree that they want to start their own health care facility or at least renovate an existing one and provide its patients with the proper medical tools and affordable medicine.
The prospective success of their long-term plan is as imposing as creating a perfect face in a monotonous white space. But Mahmud is not concerned with where success begins or ends. She starts with a blank piece of paper.