(November 11, 2022) It was a usual day for the then 13-year-old Ishika Binu and her younger sister, when both of them stepped out with their caretaker to attend their daily Bharatnatyam class. While they were on their way a vehicle rammed into their car, throwing it completely off-balance. “It was a horrible accident,” recounts now 17-year-old student, as she connects with Global Indian, from Washington. “When the car collided, I was shouting my sister’s name. She was very still and I feared that she was dead. She was shifted to the Harborview Hospital in Seattle, while I remained at Evergreen due to my concussion. She stayed in the Intensive Care Unit for several days with multiple spinal fractures, a sternum fracture, and internal spleen bleeding.”
While the accident left a lifelong scar on Ishika’s memory, it did force her to realise the importance of road safety measures. Her recovery period gave Ishika the time to do a lot of research about road accidents across the world. The high school student found that millions of people lose their lives – either on spot or waiting for medical assistance – after meeting with an accident. “We were lucky to be fully under my father’s insurance. However, several people cannot afford their medical bills, and that pains me,” shares the teenager.
Inspired by the tragedy that struck her family, Ishika decided to focus on safe driving for her Girl Scouts project. Earlier this year, the Washington-based student won the National Gold Scholarship Award for her Safe Drive project – which is the highest award in Girl Scouts. She is also the founder of an NGO, Arts4Assistance, which supports families who have any unexpected medical needs.
A passionate youngster
Born in Washington to two young computer engineers from Kerala, Ishika was always attracted to performing arts – especially Indian classical dance forms. “I am heavily invested in performing arts and dancing. I have been taking formal classes since I was just four years old, and have performed on various platforms as well.” Proud of her Indian roots, Ishika shares that her family celebrates Onam every year in a grand fashion.
For someone who finds silver linings even in the most tragic situations, she reminisces that it was the paramedic, who helped her and her sister, that played a catalyst in changing the way she thinks. “He told me that he had to be calm, to be able to help people. If he panicked, the people who are already scared might lose all hope. I was very inspired by that and today I completely base all my thought processes around that. Even when I was in the hospital, I was aware of the various issues the patients and their families were facing. Those small things motivated me to start the safe driving Girl Scouts project,” shares the student.
After years of rehab and therapy, both Ishika and her younger sister, Rithika, are not only fine now, but have also performed Bharatanatyam at various events. To be able to use her art form to help others, Ishika started the NGO, Arts4Assistance. “We loved performing on the stage, and it is a big part of our lives. I plan to become a doctor when I grow up but don’t want to stop doing things that make me happy due to work pressure. And I figured, many young people still like to pursue their hobbies despite having a tight work schedule. And what better than to use those performances to help other people. With that thought I started Arts4Assistance, a platform where artists can submit art pieces and performances to help raise funds for families who have any kind of unexpected medical needs,” says the student.
Giving back to the society
Around the same time that Ishika was working on her Girl Scouts project, another unfortunate incident shook her. Her grandfather, who lived in Kerala, suffered a heart attack and wasn’t able to make 911 call to get an ambulance like in the US. “Having been in an accident, I knew what important role ambulances play in the patient getting timely treatment. My father made me more aware of the healthcare situation in India.”
The youngster, with help from the Girl Scouts of Western Washington, worked remotely to implement ambulance services in the Kerala village, which was flagged off on April 2, 2022. “I realised that just spreading awareness on the prevention of road accidents is not enough. We must find a way to provide emergency medical services. I identified places that lacked proper medical transportation services in Kerala and contacted the Kallara panchayat to help improve their medical infrastructure. I raised funds for the ambulance service with the help of volunteers, and other art shows and performances in Washington,” shares the young student, who is currently working on a similar project in Africa.