One of things that I am truly passionate about is dedicating my time to benefit others. I feel as
though it is our generations' job to fix the corruption in today's world. When I was a child, my grandparents used to take me to an orphanage in India (each time we visited them) to interact with the kids and give them food/books. However, I did not exactly understand the plight of the children's' lives until I was nine years old.
I remember the moment that I was talking to a girl of the same age; she wore tattered clothes and her face was covered in a thin black layer of dirt. As she showed me around the orphanage, we first went to her room. It wasn't exactly her room though ... she shared it with 10 other girls. As I walked in, all I saw was an empty room with a single sheet on the ground. I asked in a confused manner, "This is where you sleep? Where is your bed?" She looked down as she spoke and said, "This is our bed ... We sleep on the ground. It does get very cold in the winter but we manage." I was absolutely shocked. I was used to sleeping on a big queen-sized bed with comforters and in warm sweaters. However, they did not have any of that and could easily fall sick. Later, as I was asking her about where she goes to school, she again looked down as she spoke and said, "I don't. I don't go to school because I'm not allowed to. We don't have the money to. I've heard about how amazing school is, though. I have always wanted to go, but I guess I will never be able to." At that moment, I just looked at her in utter shock. I could not say anything because I had no idea what to say.
In the U.S., I was used to waking up every morning, dreading going to school and saying, "Mom, I don't want to go to school today." But there I was, looking at an innocent young girl who woke up every morning, begging to go to school, but was denied it. She, along with millions of other children, had to grow up without parents, no money in her pocket, no proper education, and no proper health care. She was left to fend for herself. She was scared about what would happen to her when she turned 16 and would be kicked out of the orphanage. She was scared about where she would go and how she would support herself. I told my parents, "They need to be able to go to school to stand on their own feet, and need to be healthy enough to even stay in school!" It was then that it came to me that I was introduced to a vicious problem and knew that it had to be stopped. I needed to do something! When we went back to the U.S., I gathered some friends and began to raise money. In our first effort, we raised about $700! The success of one small fundraising event led me to keep going in my efforts.
Slowly throughout the years, our efforts expanded and three years later we registered ourselves as a non-profit 501(c)3 -- Empower Orphans, with a mission to give children the opportunity to live up to their full potential through a proper education and also health care to enable them to stay in school. In five years, we have raised $150,000 (through selling handmade crafts made by orphans in India, receiving grants, etc.) and have helped 10,000 destitute, abandoned, abused, and orphaned children:
- Established three libraries, with total of 12,500 books at an orphanage and at two schools for underprivileged children.
- Started a computer lab at an underprivileged school. The lab has seven computers, four printer, power supply backup and internet facilities.
- A science center was also set up with microscopes at a school for underprivileged children.
- Established a sewing institution with 30 sewing machines for the older siblings of children attending an underprivileged school. The graduating class were given these sewing machines, which enabled them to immediately start their own businesses and earn a living and assist their families.
- Sponsored the complete education of 50 underprivileged children.
- Conducted a four-day eye and dental clinic for 360 underprivileged children. The doctors evaluated the needs of each child and advanced treatment was provided to the children as appropriate. 56 children were provided additional eye care and 103 children with extensive dental treatment.
- Provided nutritious food, school books, school bags, footwear, warm clothes and blankets to thousands of orphaned children.
- Provided 5,000 children with diapers.
- Provided bicycles to an orphanage located in Bucks County, PA.
- Provided 200 CFL bulbs to an orphanage located in Bucks County, PA, to lower electricity bills.
- Provided 150 stuffed animals to Mission Kids (a center for abused children, located in Montgomery County, PA) to make it a more comfortable environment.
This summer in the U.S., we plan on opening a library in Philadelphia, PA and providing thousands of clothes and toys in Philadelphia as well. Recently, in India, we opened another computer lab, expanded the libraries, set up a motorized well for 20,000 villagers, and also provided a school with an AquaGuard for clean water.
I love helping these children so much! It is an amazing feeling to see the change that you can make in their lives as they grow. I am definitely very happy with how much my efforts have grown; of course I am hoping that we keep growing and that more people see how important it is to help these children.
We have many future plans that we aim to accomplish. This year and next year we would like to open two more libraries (in the U.S.), sponsor more children's education fees (in India), supply more girls with sewing machines (in India), provide clean bedding to underprivileged children (in the U.S.), and provide underprivileged children with toys (in the U.S.). In the future, we would like to continue to open more libraries, and also open a school for vocational training. If you would like to donate books, school fees, sewing machines, computers, toys, etc. we would really appreciate it. Check our mailing address on our website! If you would like to get involved in our cause, feel free to search our website for fundraising ideas and tools, host a fundraising event, open a club in school, include our crafts made by orphans in India for wedding gifts for the bride/groom or for the guests, or maybe if your birthday is coming up, host a party and ask your guests to donate to Empower Orphans. With your help, we will all be able to help children stand on their own feet. For your arduous efforts, we will send you a picture of the child you are helping, a thank-you note from him/her, and also Empower Orphans awards!