Returning back to service with a Backpack Drive

I may have seemed MIA while I have been away at Phillips Exeter this summer,but I assure you my hard work and dedication for the community never took a rest. In between my studies, I was looking ahead and planning out my upcoming busy year as a Miss New Hampshire’s Outstanding Teen scholarship program local representative, but more importantly, a community member and leader.

Sitting in summer school could have made it easy to forget how many children and families would be struggling as the school shopping season was quickly creeping around the corner. I realized how fortunate I had always been to have the resources I need to thrive in any environment, academic or not. I needed to help those who weren’t so lucky. A family friend once stayed in New Generation Inc., a homeless shelter for pregnant women and women with children and babies, so I decided to reach out to the shelter and find out if they had any school age children who could benefit with some supplies. As soon as I came back home, I began collecting donations.

It is always so amazing to see just how easy it can be to make a difference. I love watching the community unite to help one another. I am so proud to say we gathered far more than requested by New Generation Inc. I truly thank each and every person who donated because alone I cannot change the world, but together we can make it a whole lot better.

People inspire People

Something I speak about quite frequently is the Butterfly Effect. When I was just starting Seeds of Hope, I found myself referring back to the ideal that every action, no matter how tiny, does indeed make a difference… even if it is hard to see. When tackling an issue as broad and truly severe as that of hunger, and at such a young age, there have always been times when I would question if what I was doing was ever going to be ‘enough’. One of the most important things I have learned in my years of service however, is that every effort makes an impact in one way or another. Donating some cans to a local food pantry will never end hunger. But, it may inspire someone else to donate a can, and the pattern goes on to create a ripple of awareness and compassion for the less fortunate citizens in our communities. Whether it is the flap of a butterfly’s wing or the planting of a Seed of Hope, alone we cannot do much, but together we can change the world.

Through the years, I’ve learned that other than serving, some of the best ways to reignite a spark of philanthropic inspiration can be as simple as talking to like minded citizens who care about making the world a better place.

Dylan Mahalingam, Co-Founder of Lil MDG’s

On the last day of school, my English teacher told me about one of her former students whom she claims I’ve always reminded her of. When she explained to me that he was ‘changing the world’, I was instantly flattered and of course excited to learn more. I asked her to connect us, and I am glad she did. After talking to Dylan, I have lots of new ideas for the bright future of Seeds of Hope.

When Dylan was just nine years old, he started a non-profit organization called Lil’ MDG’s. Similar to Seeds of Hope, This is also an international development and youth empowerment program, and his work with it really did improve our society. MDG stands for Millennium Development Goals, which were goals created by the United Nations to make the world a better place. The purpose of Lil’ MDGs is to not only raise awareness of these goals, but to utilize the power of our youth to play a driving force in the path to achieving these goals.

The goals were lofty, and set to be attained in the short period from 2000-2015. Although they weren’t all reached, very large strides were definitely made towards reaching them and the impact is visible. There were eight MDG’s, and they included:

  • to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger;
  • to achieve universal primary education;
  • to promote gender equality and empower women;
  • to reduce child mortality;
  • to improve maternal health;
  • to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases;
  • to ensure environmental sustainability; and
  • to develop a global partnership for development.

Dylan and the Lil’ MDG’s accomplished some pretty incredible things that brought us a lot closer to reaching the United Nation’s goals. Just to name a few, they raised $780,000 for tsunami relief and over 10 million for Gulf Coast hurricane relief, as well as funds to build a dormitory for a school in Tibet; a computer center, library, and a mobile hospital in India; school supplies for students; and a playground for a school serving AIDS orphans in Uganda.

I also was able to discuss things with Dylan like the public’s view on helping solve global and even local issues. He brought up a few points that really stuck out to me. One of the goals of Lil’ MDG’s was to educate people on the steps they can take to make a difference in the world and in their own communities. He explained to me that many people don’t know about the issues surrounding them, and those who do, often don’t know how they can help.

It was truly an honor to speak with such a determined, selfless leader like Dylan. Seeds of Hope is about not only feasibly ending the global hunger crisis, but also about empowering people of all ages to utilize their power for good… because just like a butterfly flapping it’s wings, each tiny effort adds up. This time around, I was the one being empowered and I cannot wait to see what this new palate of ideas Dylan shared with me can do for Seeds of Hope and for all of its beneficiaries.

Planting in Pakistan

The girls of the Abba Orphanage Home for Girls in Lahore, Pakistan are busy planting their seeds! These photos light up my day every time I see them. There is no greater feeling than that of knowing the initiative I started is impacting young girls in need 7,000 miles away. See my post, Seeds of Hope In Pakistan. To read what the seeds are all about!

Partying with a Purpose

Last night, I attended the Taste of the Nation event put on by the No Kid Hungry organization. Calling it a huge success is an understatement! All of the Seacoast’s greatest restaurants and breweries filled the thousands of vendor booths, the auction tables were lined with once in a lifetime vacation packages and priceless novelties, and the dance floor was quickly packed with community members eager to help us end food insecurity on the New Hampshire Seacoast! Volunteers and attendees alike had a great night and we definitely made a big impact in the fight against hunger.

Grow Where You Are Planted

Since I embarked on this amazing journey of service, I have seen things and places that I never knew existed, met people I never thought I’d meet, and experienced countless life changing moments that I take with me wherever I go. Last year, around this time, I was preparing to spread my wings and venture on to high school. Before I could do that, I first had to complete middle school. At the middle school graduation, I had the honor of saying the final speech, and I decided to use it to ask all of my peers and everyone in the audience to leave a mark on the world but always remember their roots. Nearly a year later, I return to the very same gymnasium but this time, not as a student. I attended on behalf of Seeds of Hope, to accept the check the graduates were donating for their class gift. Last year, when I was the one making the tough decision of where to give the proceeds from our many fundraisers, I never imagined I would one day be on the other side. I am more grateful for the growth I’ve experienced through Seeds of Hope than there could possibly be words to describe. Recognition is the very last thing I do this all for, but to know that I am inspiring other young people to give back to their community is one of the most rewarding feelings. Not too long ago I sat exactly where they do, and if my story planted a single seed into the mind of just one of those students, then my mission is accomplished.

NH State Reps supporting Seeds of Hope!!

Seeds of Hope in Pakistan

Dreams are the seeds of change. Nothing ever grows without a seed, just like nothing ever changes without a dream.

I am so overcome with joy as I await word that my most recent shipment of seeds has reached its destination, Pakistan! These seeds will provide a sustainable source of nutrition to the girls at Abba Orphanage Home for Girls. Seeds of Hope however, is about more than just ensuring these girls can go to bed with a full tummy. Its about inspiring them. My wish, is that every time these young girls see a seed sprouting from the ground, it reminds them of themselves. I hope to empower everyone at the orphanage to know that before a seed becomes a plant, its shell cracks, it hides in the darkness of the dirt, and finds the strength to finally reach the light. I believe these girls are the seeds of today and the flowers of tomorrow and my mission is not only to provide them the nutrients they need to blossom to their fullest selves, but to provide them with the hope that they too can change the world.

Walk Against Hunger

This weekend, I led my team in my 10th Hunger Walk! It’s hard to believe it has already been ten times. I always love walking for hunger, because it includes so many of my favorite things. Being outside, spending time with my friends and family, and of course, taking steps toward a solution to the hunger epidemic facing our country. Thank you so much to my team for always supporting me, and thank you to all the other teams who helped to make the event another success! Together, we are coming closer and closer to ending hunger!

No Excuse, End Abuse.

Saturday evening, I had the honor of attending and volunteering alongside some of my sister titleholders at the Granite State Children’s Alliance Gala! The generosity of the other attendees was something I will never forget, and the night was so eye opening to see just how severe the issue of abuse still is today. Hearing the stories of survival and strength was truly inspiring and I am absolutely walking away from the experience with a whole new outlook on serious issue that needs to have more discussion.

Fill The Truck Food Drive

I’ve always loved volunteering at the annual Stuff the Bus food drive, so it was definitely a pretty cool experience to run the Hampstead Fill the Truck Food Drive! We collected so much for the St Anne’s Food Pantry and the Sandown Food Pantry. This food drive is still going on, as we are working to stock up the shelves for the treacherous summer months which are especially challenging for the food insecure families of our community. Help us out!

Sending off the Derry Elementary Students to Middle School!

All year, I have had the pleasure of sharing many afternoons with the students at Derry’s elementary schools! I have been mentoring these kids about the importance of all things, whether it be school and academic involvement, extracurricular activities, or just being a good person! It has truly been a great experience to get to know each individual, and to be a role model for them so early on in their education journey. Hearing things like, “You are the reason I come to school everyday,” “I want to make people feel special one day just like you do to all of us,” and simple “Thank you for being my friend,” is what keeps me going!