"Absolutely nothing compares to the fulfillment one receives in helping others; the smiles, hugs, and goodwill one gets are the best feelings you can experience. "
Neha Gupta, 13, of Yardley, PA, USA, started Empower Orphans, a nonprofit organization that helps orphans and underprivileged children in India.
What kind of philanthropic or volunteer work did/do you do?
Neha: The mission of my organization (Empower Orphans - a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization) is to address the problems associated with orphans and abandoned/underprivileged children by motivating individuals to translate empathy into action. The organizationís goal is to help create self sufficiency by supplying the children with the tools to gain a basic education and technical skills to enable a sustainable livelihood. In addition to education, Empower Orphans provides food, clothing, healthcare and medical supplies to establish an effective learning environment.
What is the name and location of the organization?
Neha: Empower Orphans in Yardley, PA
Tell us about the project, especially who benefits from this work.
Neha: Empower Orphans has already made significant strides towards making a difference in the lives of orphaned and underprivileged children.
In 2006, a library was started at the Bal Kunj orphanage. Over the years, we have expanded upon the library and have continued to provide stationery to each of the 200 children who live there. In addition, we have provided technical books for 20 older children, enabling them to enter a trade and earn a living. Furthermore, steps have been taken to improve health care. Each child is provided with nutritious food, warm clothes, footwear and blankets to combat the severe winters in northern India.
During the summer of 2009, we expanded our efforts to provide education and improve wellness among 360 underprivileged children who attend the Shree Geeta Public School. A four-day eye and dental clinic was held at the school, during which doctors evaluated the vision and oral care needs of the 360 children. 56 children received more advanced eye care, while 103 children received further dental treatment. Moreover, sewing machines were given to 10 older girls, who can now take on seamstress jobs and stand on their own feet.
My efforts would have been to no avail, had it not been for my friends, the community (both in the US and in India) and the media. My friends accompany me in door to door-to-door selling, manning tables during craft shows and garage sales, and by donating their allowance money. The community has been tremendously supportive, purchasing wine charms and greeting cards, and by making generous donations. The media has also been instrumental in facilitating my efforts by including articles about my mission.
What inspired you to get involved?
Neha: The idea for helping orphaned and underprivileged children was conceptualized by me in 2005, when I was nine years old. It is a tradition within my family to celebrate family birthdays by taking food and gifts for these children in my grandparentís Indian hometown. Since an early age, I have participated in this tradition during my trips to India from the United States. It saddened me to comprehend that these children did not have the means to gain a proper education.
Given that education is critical, I decided to take action to raise funds for their education. I started off with conducting a garage sale by selling my toys. Next, I started making and selling wine charms during the holiday season. One success led to another. Recently, I formally created Empower Orphans and had it registered as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.
What is/was the best thing about your experience?
Neha: The experience and fulfillment that I have received, by making a difference in the lives of orphaned and underprivileged children, is incomparable to any other experiences I have had or any accolade or gift that I have received.
What is/was the hardest part?
Neha: The orphaned and underprivileged children face numerous problems. It is sometimes difficult to choose which problem to tackle first.
What was the biggest surprise?
Neha: The generosity of people that donated money, goods or services.
What new things have you learned as a result of your experience and how have you changed as a result?
Neha: In terms of experience, I have gained confidence, marketing, and communication skills. It is also critical for me to be organized and manage my time — I have to juggle selling and making wine charms and greeting cards, preparing presentations, etc., with school work, sports, and as well as social activities.
Working with the orphans and underprivileged children has opened my eyes to just how fortunate I am.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of getting involved in philanthropy or volunteering?
Neha: The message that I communicate to young people is that absolutely nothing compares to the fulfillment one receives in helping others; the smiles, hugs, and goodwill one gets are the best feelings you can experience.
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