August 2009: Malvi Hemani
Taking a LEAP for India's Children
When August Activist of the Month Malvi Hemani visited her family in India two years ago, the sight of so many children without access to good education affected her so much that she decided to do something about it. After researching international foundations that help children, Malvi started her own: LEAP. Through LEAP (Learn, Encourage and Promote), Malvi raises money for children in China and India whose parents cannot afford to send them to school and donates money to charities who do similar work. We talked to Malvi about her inspirations and where she'd like to see her charity go in the future.
Why did you decide to start LEAP?
I went to India in 2007 with my family; it was my first time being there, so I didn't really know what to expect. When I was there, I went on a rickshaw with my family around the cities and I saw children in the streets and I felt the need to reach out and give them the education they deserve.
Was your dad born in India?
Both my parents were born in India[my dad] says it's hard to get into school there and some of his friends weren't able to get an education because their parents weren't able to afford it. It gave me the whole idea of how kids around the world deserve and want an education but they can't because their parents are too poor or they are being raised in an area that doesn't have good educational opportunities.
How did you start LEAP and what are its goals?
We started in 2008 and we focus on helping to educate children. We started out with India because that's where I saw the problem most prominently. We find organizations that provide education for children whose parents can't afford it .For instance, we found an organization in India called Share and Care. They have a project that provides education to poor families. There is also an organization in China called Half the Sky, which provides education to children with disabilities. LEAP donates money to both organizations as a part of our main work.
What is your relationship like with Share and Care?
The Share and Care organization was the first organization I found [in India]. I met with the board members and they helped me start LEAP. I send all the money and all the donations to them. I have two contacts there that I speak to almost every day; they're my mentors. They come to all the events that I hold and help me get contacts at different organizations around the world.
Why does education stand out to you as the most pressing need?
I've been in private school my whole life;I know the difference a good education can make. .When I came home from India, I thought about what I could do for the children and what I realized was that probably the most important thing I can give them is education rather than money. Education gives [people] a future and a chance to be someone later on. Most of the children don't go to school because they have to stay home to help their parents to raise money and get food during the day, but if the kids are going to school and the parents don't have pay for food at the same time, it's beneficial in two different ways. .
We hear you are becoming a nonprofit. How did that come about?
The main reason I wanted to make LEAP a nonprofit was because I wanted to have a strong base and I wanted to show when I go to talk to people or corporations about donations that I am actually really serious and not just another teenager trying to advocate another cause. We decided to change the name to something that is more all encompassing, not just education and children. We are leaning toward making the name "Eye the Future." Eye would stand for "empowering youth education." We are creating a youth board consisting of six or seven volunteers working with me and we are going to be the main root of the nonprofit. There will also be four or five adult board members, one of which will be my father, and they will help me with organizing events. With a nonprofit it's easier to apply for grants and awards. I want to do this throughout my life so becoming a nonprofit now will probably help in the future.
How did you get your classmates involved?
Our school has a club fair at the beginning of the year, and that's when everyone can look at the clubs and see what they are interested in. There is a whole section of charity clubs and every year they see the same ones, so I think when they saw a club about education they were really curious. There were a great deal of kids who wanted to make a difference, but a lot of the club members are my friends and kids I already knew.
It says on your website that you have a goal of raising $20,000 by 2011. How did you decide on that number?
The first year, we made about $3,000, and I really wanted to push myself more. We set the goal for $5,000 a year, which calculated out to $20,000 by 2011. We have already made about $11,300 which is more than I'm supposed to [have raised by now], so I'm pretty proud of myself.
Do you have any personal contact with the kids you are raising money for?
In December I'm going to visit the schools that I donate to in India and I've already spoken to the head of the organization there and they sent me photographs. I'll be there for three weeks over my winter break.
What part of running LEAP has been most rewarding to you?
Receiving the pictures of little children. It feels great to see pictures of these kids getting an education, smiling because of what you did. It makes a big difference. And I hope that when I get to go to India again it will make an even bigger difference because I will be seeing them in person.
What is next for you in your activism career?
No matter what career I go into I intend to keep LEAP going on the side. I probably won't be a full-time member of the organization, but I'm sure my brother or my sister or my parents will be in charge; I hope it goes on for a great number of years. I'm trying to start a program for autism and I also want to involve other disabled children. Disabilities often prevent children from getting a great education or going to school because they feel ashamed of what they look like or how they act, so they home school. I found a really good organization here in New Jersey called Eden Autism Services, and I'm hoping to start working with them this year.
What do you want to say to other teens who are trying to change the world like you are?
Make a difference in the lives of the people you feel empathy for. I think it comes down to what you have learned in your life. I chose education because of my parents' stories and because of what I saw when I was in India. In the end, it comes down to what you want to do to help the world. If you are affected by something negative, I believe you should go and help people who will be hurt by it.
1 Responses »
Leave a Response