The HALO Effect continues to spread as we honor teens who make a difference in a big way. Are you ready to be inspired? Join us in congratulating our HALO Effect honoree for the month of June, Neha Gupta!
Neha is a seventeen year-old Philadelphia student who founded Empower Orphans
, a non-profit organization aimed at addressing worldwide problems related to orphaned and abandoned children. The goal of the organization is to break the cycle of poverty by providing these children with fundamental education skills and basic healthcare. To date, the organization has impacted 25,000 children around the world. Check our our exclusive Q&A to learn more about Neha's remarkable accomplishments!
What inspired you to start Empower Orphans? What were the beginning stages of your organization like?
Empower Orphans was born as a result of my annual trips to visit my grandparents in India. As part of our visits, I would volunteer at the Baal Kunj Orphanage along with my parents. It was there that my entire perspective on life changed and matured. As I listened to the stories of the children and heard them weep, I was able to feel their pain in my heart. Placing myself in their shoes, I identified with them. I pictured myself living in rural India. I pictured myself being abandoned by the two people I love most. I pictured myself sleeping on a cold floor with my bones jutting out from malnutrition. These children of my age and ethnicity seemed so similar to me, and yet, we were living different lives. It was shocking to hear that they would likely never escape the clutches of poverty because they lacked access to fundamental education and basic healthcare. I felt as though it was my responsibility to take action to help them lead better lives. Through this experience Empower Orphans was created.
Empower Orphans has many areas of impact for orphaned and underprivileged children including food, healthcare and education. How do you identify which areas and/or children are in need of which kind of support?
On a geographical basis, we have concentrated our efforts mainly in Northern India and the Philadelphia region. The operating principle of Empower Orphans has always been not only to support children but also be able to verify and measure the impact. My father's extended family lives in Northern India and is regularly verifying that all donations and services are utilized by and for the children and there is no theft. Additionally, I visit India every year to identify new projects by talking directly to the children and then execute the projects. On a regular basis, we receive requests to support orphans and disadvantaged children in Africa and other parts of Asia. Once we have validated these organizations and have a verification process in place, we will expand our coverage.
What do you think is the key to successful fundraising?
Networking, passion and perseverance.
What has been one of your proudest accomplishments with Empower Orphans?
It has been heartwarming to see how the individuals helped by Empower Orphans are thriving. One example is Meena, a young woman living in a village in northern India. When she was 18, Meena's father lost his job and the family had no other income. Meena believed she had to step up to help the family, so she enrolled in the sewing center established by Empower Orphans. She used her new skills to start her own business and with the money earned, she not only provided for her family, but she also brought electricity to her house for the first time. This enabled her brother, Ram, to study at night and pass his electrician's exam. Now both support their entire family. On one of my recent trips to India, Meena invited me to her home, a small room shared among six people, as a way of thanking me for the opportunity she was given. As Meena cried tears of happiness, she said, "Neha didi, dhanyavaad" or "Neha, my sister, thank you." I started to cry as well, humbled to be considered as part of her family and share their hope.
If someone wanted to become involved in Empower Orphans, where should he or she begin?
There are multiple ways that someone can get involved with Empower Orphans:
1) Identify your cause and start your own fundraising team on our website
2) Volunteer for our projects in India and US
4) Spread the word about Empower Orphans through social media
To learn more about Neha and her organization, check out the clip below!