Over those seven years, the organization became a “true community hub,” according to founder Kashif Hussain, and has begun addressing social justice and environmental justice issues.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Hussain’s own mother contracted the virus and passed away in early April.
“As I was grieving,” he said, “my teammates said we’ve got to do something to turn your grief into purpose.”
The Brooklyn-based group went to work, organizing the distribution efforts of hot meals, masks, hand sanitizers, antibody testing kits, book bags, ice cream, toys and clothing.
PAYS also launched its “Hunger Truck,” a mobile food distribution vehicle that provides free food throughout New York City.
Finally, the group coordinated free COVID-19 diagnostic and antibody testing inside their headquarters in Flatbush.
“As people in the community were dying and losing jobs, initially we never thought about ourselves,” Hussain said. “We just did it purely because we felt we the people are going to take care of the people.”
The organization founder criticized the federal response to the pandemic as “so slow,” and blamed the federal government for spreading misinformation and causing many deaths.
“We couldn’t wait for properly translated COVID-19 literature or PPE or food insecurity to be addressed,” he added. “We took it upon ourselves.”
Hussain and the Pakistani American Youth Society was honored by Borough Eric Adams last week as one of several dozen “COVID heroes.”
Despite the honor, Hussain is keeping his focus on the communities his group has been serving since the pandemic began.
“We did it for the people,” he said.