Each month, we showcase kids who are accomplishing amazing things. We hope that by telling their special stories, we will inspire other kids to accomplish their own amazing achievements.
If you, or someone that you know, has a special skill, talent or ability, be sure to let Amazing Kids! know about it! Simply complete our Amazing Kids! of the Month online nomination form!
December, 2009: Amazing Neha Gupta, age 13, Founder of Empower Orphans
By Shamala Pulugurtha, A.K.O.M. Writer and Researcher
Neha with the orphans she helps
A smile brings a touch of happiness!
Quotes of the Month:
“Every individual can make a big difference. I would encourage other kids to join in the effort to improve the lives of orphaned and underprivileged children. The first step is the most difficult – making a commitment of your time and energy to the cause. Once you truly believe in the cause, then fund raising and caring for the children comes easily.”
“Instead of internalizing these feelings and merely showing empathy for the orphans and underprivileged children, I decided to take action by raising money. The money would help the children gain a better education, be able to stand on their own feet and ultimately become positive contributors to society.”
~ Neha Gupta, Age 13, Founder, Empower Orphans.
Each time we get out of our house, we see things around us that could have been better. We often feel bad about the trash in the neighborhoods or lack of facilities at the local school and empathize with the children in the inner cities. But most of us do not do anything about it. And, that is what makes Neha Gupta of Yardley, Pennsylvania special.
When Neha went to visit her grandparents in Northern India and saw the plight of the orphaned and the abandoned children there, she decided to do something about it and thus, started a non-profit called Empower Orphans to help the orphaned children in these communities.
Read more about Neha and be inspired to take action!
Don’t forget: If you, or a young person (or persons!) you know, has an amazing project you are involved in, or a special skill, talent or ability you want to tell the world about, be sure to let Amazing Kids! know about it! Simply complete our Amazing Kids! of the Month award online nomination form, visit our AKOM nomination form at (http://www.amazing-kids.kintera.org/nominations) or email us!
Empower Orphans – Its Mission and Work
According to the United Nations, there are an estimated 145 million orphans and/or abandoned children in the world and unless they are adopted or absorbed by an orphanage, these children are left to wander the streets, beg or steal food, and find shelter wherever they can. As a result, many of them are vulnerable to mistreatment on the street, or turn to illegal activities for survival.
Empower Orphans is a grassroots campaign aimed at improving the lives of orphaned and abandoned children in India. The goal of improving the lives of orphans is achieved by provision of educational material, better health care (vaccinations, vision care, dental care), and food and clothing.
“Our underlying philosophy is to get the most for our dollar,” says Neha Gupta, the founder of the non-profit, “We do this by leveraging our contacts in India to purchase products and services at the most economic price or in some cases, gratis. Additionally, as all individuals associated with Empower Orphans are volunteers, we have no overhead.”
As a policy, Empower Orphans tries to meet the needs of the orphans and underprivileged children by directly providing them with products and services, rather than providing money to administrators. This ensures that the money is used solely for the betterment of the children.
Neha and members of her organization understand the Indian culture and how systems work within the country.
Above all, this organization is powered by children. It is rare that children as young as nine appreciate the plight of orphaned and/or underprivileged children and take action to make a difference.
Neha helping out…
In one of the libraries she started!
Neha Gupta – The Founder
Empower Orphans was started by amazing young Neha Gupta in 2005 when she was only nine years old.
“As my grandparents live in India, I often visit the country. In keeping with family tradition, we volunteer at an orphanage each time we visit my grandparent’s hometown, located in northern India. When I was nine years old, I realized that the 200 children who live at the orphanage did not have adequate money to gain a proper education; I felt very sad when I heard this because I know the importance of education. Moreover, it was heartbreaking for me to think that these children had no mother or father to guide them, protect them, or love them,” explains Neha.
Instead of internalizing her feelings and merely showing empathy for the orphans and underprivileged children, Neha decided to take action by raising money. The plan was to help the children gain a better education, be able to stand on their own feet and ultimately become positive contributors to society.
Neha soon, started raising funds by making and selling wine charms, greeting cards and through direct donations. She sells wine charms and greeting cards by going door to door within her community, participating in craft shows and through a network of friends and family. “My efforts would have been of no use, were it not for my friends and family, the community (both in the US and in India), and the media. My friends accompany me in door to door to selling, manning tables during craft shows and garage sales, and by donating their allowance money. The community has been tremendously supportive by making generous donations,” Neha tells us.
To formalize her fundraising efforts, Neha created a 501(c)3 non-profit organization called Empower Orphans. The mission of Empower Orphans is “to address the problems associated with orphans/abandoned children and children born into homes living in poverty by motivating individuals to translate empathy into action.”
Awards and Achievements
To date, Neha and her organization members have raised $25,000 ($14000 in funds and $11000 in goods/services) and this money has been used to make significant differences in the lives of orphaned and underprivileged children in two places: the Bal Kunj Orphanage and Shree Geeta Public School for underprivileged children.
The funds have been used to start a new library and to provide nutritious food, warm clothes, blankets and footwear. Technical books and sewing machines have been provided to older children to help them earn a living.
Neha has been awarded Gold Level of President’s Volunteer Service Award. She was a finalist for Philadelphia Inquirer’s 2008 Citizen of the Year Award. She is the Vice President of the National Junior Honors Society and is an Ongoing volunteer at Arden Court – an Alzheimer’s assisted living center.
Neha is also a straight “A” student and loves to play tennis. She hopes to be on the tennis team when she goes to high school next year.
In 2008, Neha was awarded 2nd prize for Wachovia Corporation’s 2008 “Who Would You Thank” national award. “I am truly amazed at the efforts of such a young girl,” says Susanne Svizeny, Wachovia manager, “Neha has already touched the lives of hundreds of children, and will undoubtedly help many more orphans as she continues her work.”
Neha wins 2nd Place
In Wachovia’s Who Would You Thank? Award
Neha credits her parents and her family for her success. “My parents are my mentors and strongest supporters. Even though they are extremely busy at work (my mom is a Vice President at Information Resources Inc and dad is a Practice Director at Oracle Corporation), they find time to volunteer and help me with my cause. Additionally, my mother’s family worked with Mahatma Gandhi and my father’s family has always insisted on all children in the family helping the less fortunate. Probably, this has instilled in me the desire to help others.”
Over the next few years, Neha plans to increase her organization’s activities, both in terms of fundraising as well as increasing the number of children under its care. “Our goal for 2010 is to raise $20,000 through sales of greeting cards, wine charms, direct donations, grants, and through holding a 5K run. We intend to leverage our network to spread the word at high schools and colleges, with the intent for students to form their own fundraising teams.” she explains.
Neha is also planning to start a campaign called ‘Break the Cycle’ to address some of the evils associated with orphaned and underprivileged children. “The majority of the orphaned and underprivileged children have limited education and do not have the skills to make a living. Subsequently, the potential of their slipping into a life of crime [and other illegal street activity] is high. This sequence results in more orphans, abandonment of children and a continuation of the cycle of poverty. To break this cycle, we have outlined a multi-phase campaign,” says Neha.
So, how can you help? Its simple – anyone can get involved with Empower Orphans by purchasing items that they sell, making direct donations or actively participating in raising funds.
“I would encourage other kids to join in the effort to improve the lives of orphaned and underprivileged children. The first step is the most difficult – making a commitment of your time and energy to the cause. Once you truly believe in the cause, then fundraising and caring for the children comes easily.”
To learn more about Empower Orphans, visit www.empowerorphans.org.
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